My Ugly Garden

My Ugly Garden

Monday, April 18, 2011

Bringing Out the Big Guns

I finally did it.  I bought a soil testing kit.

This is not an endorsement of a particular brand of kit, it's just the only one Ace Hardware had on hand.  After so many frustrating growing seasons I decided that it would be in my best interest to find out what the heck is going on with my soil.  There are two types of test kits one can purchase: the pH test alone, which is about five bucks and the deluxe package that tests pH, potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous which was about $18.  I was tempted to go the cheap route, but I am sure glad that I didn't.  Here is why:

The results of the pH test show acceptable pH levels. Had I gone with the single pH test I would have had to get back into my car, at this point, and drive back down to my Ace Hardware and buy the deluxe kit so I could test for other deficiencies. Now that we know that pH isn't an issue, Sophia helps me with the other tests.  Notice the intense concentration.....

Flashback to high school chemistry class....

And the winner is.......

Ok, no real winner, but super interesting results. According to the trusty color coded "comparator" (I wonder is that is trademarked by the kit maker), the potassium levels are sufficient, phosphorous is depleted and, the real kicker, zero levels of nitrogen.  I will admit to having a limited knowledge of soil composition, but I do know that nitrogen is pretty key if you want to grow anything.

We only tested one area of the garden, so we will need to pull some samples from a couple of other places, but my guess is that we will come up with similar results.  The two big lessons learned here are: Spring for the deluxe kit. Had I done this years ago, I would have saved a lot of money and frustration. And two: Compost isn't always enough.  We have composted for years and dug it deep into the veggie beds, but if the soil is poor to begin with it will need an extra boost.  So, it is off to get some nitrogen into the Ugly!


  1. Oh, good luck with your garden this year! Soil is always the issue, isn't it? This year, we tilled the soil, added bags of organic compost, and then bags of biodynamic compost and tilled again. So far, so good! The biodynamic stuff always works extremely well. If we compost enough, hopefully we'll make our own rich soil for next year! Looking forward to following your adventures. Lots of homeschoolings opportunities in the garden!

  2. See, staying home sick can be good for helping your mom test your soil to find out why nothing is growing in your garden! And next year, I get to do that and I don't even have to be sick!

  3. Yeah, that didn't work so well :) Memories!