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Gardening from the Ground Up

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Soil testing is very important for gardening.
I purchased this home soil test kit to monitor pH and nutrients, but you can also get a soil test done through your local Cooperative Extension office.

One of the highlights of writing this blog is that I get to write about the mistakes I make in gardening. I hope my sharing information on what I learn from my mistakes will help you make better choices, too. And remember, making a mistake isn’t that big of a deal. Actually, I probably end up learning more from my mistakes!

So, let me add to that by saying there are no “stupid questions” and it’s better to ask now before you put time and money into gardening so you can do it right the first time. Your local garden shops and stores are filled with people who can answer most any basic gardening question and then there’s always the experts through the Bonnie website when you need more help. Ok… So onto the reason for my words so far….

This weekend I got a text from my good friend, Paige. Here’s the text she sent:

“Need your expert advice. (Actually is probably a stupid question) want to plant garden down by the lake in backyard. How do I know soil is ok? And ok for stuff we will eat? Don’t know much about dirt.”

First, not a stupid question at all…In fact…it’s a great question to ask!! Before you run out and buy vegetables, herbs, packages of seeds, flowers and trees, or anything you are going to plant for that matter, you need to make sure you have good soil to plant it in. No matter how wonderful the quality of your plantings, if you don’t have good soil with the right pH and nutrients to feed and sustain it, you’re setting yourself (and your plant) up for failure. The reason the pH is important is because it signifies a plant’s ability to draw nutrients from the soil.

Soil’s pH is measured on a scale of 1-14. Most vegetable plants prefer soil with a pH ranging between 6.2 and 6.8, and most herbs like it at 7.0, also called neutral. Below 7.0, the soil is more acidic (sour…can remedy by adding lime) and above 7.0, it is more alkaline (sweet…can remedy by adding sulfur or peat). Of course, when adding anything to your soil, always follow instructions on the packaging.

One other essential soil test evaluates important nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, among other things. These are important because they affect the plant’s growth, blooming and color.

Today I was out in my veggie beds getting another reading of my soil’s PH with my soil tester. Even though, I admit, prepping my soil is my least favorite thing about gardening, I do acknowledge that soil prep is the foundation of any garden. My bed’s pH was 7.4 (a little high) so I added peat. My fertilizer/nutrient level was fine so I plan on using the Bonnie plant food for maintenance.

If you’re looking for a garden soil test kit, I purchased mine from my local hardware store. I bought two types of soil testers (see photo above). Depends on how much you want to spend but these in the photo range from $4-$20. You can also get an affordable professional soil test through your local Cooperative Extension office.

I grew up in the day when the mantra in school regarding nutrition was “You are what you eat”….remember that one? I believed it then and I whole-heartedly believe it now. Same goes for plants… the better nutrients, soil, sunlight, etc. they get, the greater opportunity they have of producing the best vegetable, fruit or herb!

From planting a garden to building a home or learning to read….  Every one of these depend on a good foundation for ultimate success. So I’ll tell you what I told Paige: Take the time to start from the ground up (literally) and start planting with balanced and nutritious soil, and you will give your plants the environment they need for success. It will be worth the time and money you are going to spend!