October 19, 2007, Newsletter Issue #86: Soil Test Anxiety

Tip of the Week

Remember the SATs? Remember yearly exams? They weren't institutionalized torture, they were a way to measure your progress. Testing your soil in a raised bed garden has the same purpose.

If soils are always rich, well-drained and well-composted with good raised bed gardening technique, why test soils in raised bed gardening? After all, you have a more controlled environment.

School was a controlled environment too and yet you aced all your tests while the girl in front of you, the one voted Most Likely to Succeed, failed because of examination stress.

Here's a raised bed gardening tip or two for soil testing: Periodically squeeze your soil in a ball--if it forms easily, but crumbles, you have healthy soil. Have your local gardening center test the soil at the beginning of each growing season--you'll determine the acidity of the soil as well as the nutrient level. Check for earthworms--although raised gardens, especially tiered ones, usually are free from pests, earthworms help improve the aeration of the soil and represent healthy, friable black matter.

Your soil test may determine you need more organic matter in the soil--hot raised bed gardening tip: use leaves and roots from the end of the planting season. But you won't know where you are until you have a soil test. After all, you did get into the college of your dreams thanks to doing all those practice SATs.

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