Once we had identified the site for the proposed garden a soil test was needed. Soil test kits can be purchased from your local PSU County Extension Office for $9.00. The test kit consists of a sample submission form, instructions on how to take a soil sample, a sample bag and a return envelope for mailing your sample back to the laboratory. It is a simple procedure as I discovered when I went out to Bournelyf.
The first step is to gather soil samples representative of the area in which you will be planting. You can learn how to do that here. The next step is to complete the appropriate section of the sample submission form. There are three sections to this form and I completed the one which is used when the planting area or existing garden will be planted with/already contains turf, a home garden, noncommercial fruit, flowers, woodlot, Christmas trees or landscape plants. You can view that form here.The other individual submission forms are for soil used for agronomic crops or for commercial fruit and vegetables.
The completed form and the plastic bag holding the soil sample are placed in the return envelope and mailed off to the Agricultural Analytical Services Lab at PSU. These tests are helpful to home gardeners who want to know the fertility of their soil and to assist in determining the optimum lime and fertilizer requirements of their crop. Each sample is analyzed for water pH, Mehlich buffer lime requirement, and for phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium by the Mehlich 3 (ICP) test. The final report includes the chemical analysis of the soil along with lime and fertilizer recommendations for the crop specified. Additional analyses can be done on your soil for an added cost and those can be viewed here.
Our soil test report was receive in a week from the date that it was mailed out. In our case, we were requesting the analysis in the off season, which could have accounted for the quick turn around.
The results of our test indicated that our Potash and Calcium levels were in the optimum range. The soil pH and Phosphate levels were slightly below optimum and the Magnesium level was above optimum. As a result it was recommended that Calcitic Limestone (0-3% Mg) be applied 7 lb/100square feet. Additionally we will need to apply 0.5 lbs per square feet of UREA and 0.5 lbs per square feet of 0-46-0.