What Farmers and Gardeners Need to Know About Soil Testing (Part I-At Home Assessments and Soil pH)

Farmers and gardeners can improve production with regular at home and laboratory based soil testing.   Learn facts about soil color, texture, and aroma, and living creatures in and on your soil that can guide you to better production.   Learn how to choose a soil testing lab, why pH is one of the most common variables included on your lab report, and how to create a more optimal soil pH. Then come back next week to learn what other values on your soil test indicate.


Microbial Analysis for Growers Online Course (host’s website)  This course shows participants how to assess soil quality under the microscope.  Learn to determine the density and diversity of the microbial communities that are helping your crops grow.
USDA-NRCS Flow Chart to Determine Soil Texture by Feel (unaffiliated site).  Soil texture is important for determining how air, water, and nutrients move through your soil.  It can also help you make decisions about what to plant and how to fertilize.  Soil textures are defined by the percentage of sand, silt, and clay particles in the soil mixture.  Wondering if your soil is a sandy loam or a loamy sand?   Let this handy chart from USDA guide you to the right description of your soil texture.
NAPT Participating Laboratories (unaffiliated site).  Soil labs that participate in NAPT are held to standards that ensure excellence.


  • tips for farmers and gardeners who want to improve production with soil testing.
  • the use of microscopes to analyze soil microorganisms
  • analyzing soil texture by feel
  • the strengths and the limits of self-assessments
  • the rationale for professional soil laboratory analysis.

Factors about soil laboratory testing mentioned in the podcast include:

  • choosing a soil laboratory
  • parameters most growers will want to measure
  • soil pH as a universal factor included in most commercial soil tests

Additional soil testing parameters, including Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), base saturation, macronutrients, and micronutrients will be covered in Part II.

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