Lane County Extension Service Master Gardener John Fischer here with KLCC’s Good Gardening.
We’re going to talk today about something your garden doesn’t need that you have already done. A soil test.
Virtually all soils in our area can grow good fruits and vegetables. And the proof is all around us. A lush cover of plants everywhere they are not removed, and weeds that spring up from freshly exposed soil almost overnight. If you have bare soil with nothing growing on it, you should investigate. Herbicides, creosote, or something may have poisoned the soil and killed the plants. But again bare soil in Western Oregon is extremely rare.
If you are worried about trace minerals, you’re probably spending too much time on the internet. Boron, manganese, iron, molybdenum and the like are available in the tiny amounts needed in our soils. It’s a waste of time and money to add a supplement as a home gardener.
Acidic soils are the norm here, and can be made worse by the application – over time – of synthetic fertilizers. Soil acidity is easy to test for with paper strips, or a $10 meter. But since compost, ground limestone, and leaving garden waste on the ground to decompose can all help decrease the acidity of your soil you really don’t need to test. If you’ve never limed your soil, you might consider it, but if you already get too many beans, squash, and tomatoes, the soil is fine.
If you really want to test your soil – just for fun – here’s included a link to the OSU Extension testing page.
Good amounts of organic matter make for happy vegetables, and an appropriate supply of nitrogen is essential whether delivered through organic fertilizer or cover crops. My neighbor did an experiment this year – accidentally. After the third year of planting corn in the same spot with no added nitrogen, the stalks were pale green, half as tall, and produced only a few ears on a hundred plants. No test necessary to get an answer to his problem.
I’m John Fischer with KLCC’s Good Gardening.