Garden Soil Testing – Follow These Steps Before Planting Your Garden

Some of you guys may know that I grew up working
on a small little nine hole pitch and put golf course that my parents owned. And I really did everything on that course
and I did it from when I was pretty young – like before I was a teenager. And then all throughout my teenage years and
through university and I learned a lot about lawn care and gardening. But, there were some things I didn’t know
or I didn’t learn until I started studying organic gardening. And one of the things was I used to, we would
get a disease on the greens called dollar spot which is a pretty common disease on golf
course greens anywhere I’ve ever lived. And, I’d spray a pesticide to get rid of
that dollar spot it didn’t work very well because it would come back within usually
a week or so, so I’d have to be spraying this things every of couple weeks at least. So I wished I had known then, I didn’t know
then that there was anything wrong with pesticides. Eventually, I started studying the organic
thing and I figured out that there was a lot of reasons why we shouldn’t do that and
I figured out how, now I’m at a point where I don’t have pests – hardly any pests,
at least none to cause me any kind of concern here in my organic garden because I figured
out how to do it. You could call it organic gardening but it’s
more than that. What often passes for organic gardening is kind of just neglect. Just ‘let
everything go wild’ and certainly that’s cool – I’m all for letting nature do its
thing but for my gardening goals that I talked about in the first video that’s not going
to work. And so, it’s more than that just letting
nature run its course. It’s also more than just composting which I love but a lot of
people think ‘oh just pile on the compost’ and that going make you organic. It’s a
lot more than that. So the next thing I want to do today is to
just go into digging in the soil and in the Smiling Gardner Academy, I obviously get into
some pretty major garden soil testing both through a lab and also just on your own learning
about your soil. Today I’m just trying to get this all done
in the afternoon here and I just want to tell you about basic soil testing in this one video. But I want to tell you a couple things you
can do. Everybody skips this basic step, but if you do this you just learn a little bit
about your soil and it helps with a lot of decisions. Some people just don’t want to
get out there and do the work but it’s really exciting to do this step so I hope you’ll
do it. So what I’m going to do here is point the
camera down. I’ll I’ve done so far is taken the sod off and my bed is going to be
going here so what I want to do here, is I want to learn a bit about my soil through
some simple soil tests. The first thing would be just to take a third
of a cup of soil and make sure it’s kind of moist. This is already fairly moist because
it has rained in the last couple days, and just start playing with it to see if you can
figure out a little bit about your soil texture. Your soil texture is how much sand, silt and
clay you have in your soil, sort of the proportion of those things, and the fact that I can do
this quite easily means to be that this is not a sandy soil because if you’ve been
on a beach you can’t do that with sand. There’s obviously some clay and/or some
silt in here because both clay and silt can do this. So then you can start doing kind
of a ribbon test where you try to roll this thing out and oh!…there’s a poor worm
in there! You roll that out, see how long of a ribbon
you can roll and if it kind of stops there – you have more of a silty soil, if it stops
at maybe a couple of inches. But if you can roll it out into something that’s a few
inches long its getting to be a few inches long its more clay. That’s what this looks like it is doing.
Another thing to look at is if it stains your fingers if you kind of rub it. Clay really
stains your fingers. And my fingers are definitely getting stained here. So, I know there’s
some clay in here. Whereas silt is more related to sand, it’s
a little grainier so there’s one thing. Let’s start with that. That’s texture.
Very useful to figure out just what you have for texture and I know here I have kind of
a clay soil. The next thing I might want to do is just
to start digging. I just want to know how easy it is to dig in here is. What do I have
going on in here? Count the earthworms, too. What you might
want to do is dig about a cubic foot of soil, count the earthworms in there and see how
many you have. See what you’re starting with because you want to usually get more. You want to have at least 10 earthworms in
that square foot. More lie 20 or 30 would be wonderful. I want to see how easy it is
to dig in here. I want to see maybe how deep does my topsoil
go? Is there a layer where is turns to be a different color? Because I want to know
what I’m starting with (because I want to improve that), what I start with to see if
I’m improving it. I also want to look at the roots in here and
see if the roots are healthy. See if they have some fine little root hairs, which means
there’s enough oxygen in the soil. I want to keep digging, this is the kind of
stuff people skip because it’s not that fun, I guess for most people. It’s a lot
of fun for me! I’ve already seen 10 earth worms so that’s a pretty good sign. It’s
fairly easy to dig. I want to kind of see if there’s organic
matter down in here. If it’s a nice, dark soil or is it more like concrete or is it
not a nice dark color? So, there are all kinds of things to look at and it’s hard to explain
in one video. I’ll get more into it in the Academy but
this is something that you just want to start digging and seeing. For example through texture,
now I know that I have a clay soil. It helps me to find what kind of plants to plant. It helps I know the clay soil is going to
hold more water and so I can apply more water really helps with my irrigation scheduling.
I can apply more water to this at one time, whereas if it was sandy the sandy soil doesn’t
hold much water so I have to apply less, but apply it more often. Also with this clay I know that it’s going
to hold more nutrients so that I can fertilize more. There’s a bunch of stuff that is helps to
figure out. Its helps me to figure out with water, with fertility, with what kind of plants
to plant, all that kind of stuff. So, I really encourage you before you do anything
in your vegetable garden is just get digging in there and like I said I’ll talk more
about this. But, that is a really good first step for garden soil testing.

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