Growing a Green Thumb; Vegetable Garden Soil Testing

I’ll be first to admit gardening is hard work. Over the years, the man of the mower has put in sweat and toiled to draw forth an edible bounty. Working the land has revealed a great deal about previous land use. Charred wood, metal farm implements and building debris have been unearthed in random areas. As a result, before major work is done, we test for pH and plant available nutrients. Soil testing is appropriate to determine if soil fertility levels (and pH) are adequate for vegetables.

The above is one example of “many hands make light work.” Swapping vegetables, plants and seeds is a side-benefit.

Avoid sampling –

Low-lying areas that hold water
Burn piles/ash dump site
‘Bad’ spots where “nothing seems to grow” should be sampled separately

Download and print UF’s Landscape and Vegetable Garden Test Form (revised 09/2019). Collect 10-15 sub-samples to develop a composite submission sample. For vegetable garden, collect soil from surface to a depth of six (6) inches. Ninety (90) is the vegetable crop code.

What’s the difference between Test A and Test B?

Test A ($3 per sample bag) only provides soil pH and lime, if needed. Test A will not indicate levels of phosphorous, potassium, calcium and magnesium present based on your sample. It will not provide recommendations for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Use generic fertilizer recommendations provided in UF’s landscape and vegetable garden publications.

Test B ($ 10 per sample bag) report provides;
> pH
> phosphorous
> potassium
> calcium
> magnesium
> sulfur
> manganese
> zinc available for growing plants.

Based on your composite sample and crop needs, Test B will list pounds of lime, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to apply, if needed. Tailor single-element fertilizers based on sample results from Test B.

“Application of lime when it is not needed may cause plant nutritional problems.” EDIS document SP 103, revised May 2018

Fertilizer will not make up for insufficient sun light. Contact the local extension office for interpretation of soil sample results. UF’s Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide offers resources and information for novice and experienced gardeners. Until next time I wish you Happy New Year and Happy Gardening!


Posted: March 4, 2022

Category: Fruits & Vegetables, Home Landscapes
Tags: Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Gardening, Growing A Green Thumb, Master Gardener, Vegetable, Water Quality

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