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Reading a soil test - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Reading a soil test

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

Once you've done a soil test with a laboratory, such as the University of Vermont, you'll get the results a few weeks later. It's good to look at a number of the items, in particular. If your levels are optimum, there's little to change. If you're pH level is 7.2, it might be a little high for a vegetable or a flower garden. You really should have it between 6.5 and 7.2. To bring it down, you really don't have to do anything, because our soils tend to naturally go toward being acidic. Just don't add anymore lime to it. It will be fine.

When looking to add fertilizers based on your soil test, I like to recommend organic fertilizer. They are slow to break down, they don't leach out of the soil very quickly and they'll be available if you put them down now, for next spring.

So for potash or potassium, you can use an organic fertilizer such as green sand, which literally looks like green sand. It's mined in New Jersey and it's a great source of potassium. Of course, you can also add wood ashes, too.

For something with phosphorus in it, you can use bone meal or rock phosphate. If you have low pH and you want to raise it, you can use lime. It comes in pelleted or powdered form. You can also get a form that has magnesium in it called dolomitic lime, so you can add two of those nutrients at once.

Another thing you want to look at on your soil test on the second page is the percentage of organic matter.

For most vegetables and flowers that number should be between 5 and 10 percent. Adding more compost in your garden will help raise it to optimum and will help make all of these nutrients that you apply become more available next year. You can put down partially decomposed compost or manure now, or if it's a finished product, do it in the spring.

By Charlie Nardozzi

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