“Don’t Guess” and be a success with soil testing

Three southeast Michigan counties hold soil testing events that will save participants money. But every gardener in Michigan can benefit from soil testing.

Spring is coming and for many gardeners, soil testing is in the air. For over a decade, MSU Extension in several southeast Michigan counties has been involved each spring in a program called “Don’t Guess ...Soil Test.”  This year, April is the month.

The “Don’t Guess…Soil Test “event was designed to help Michigan gardeners in several ways. Over-application of fertilizers harms the environment, especially surface and ground water. Applying excess fertilizer damages or kills plants. Under-application does not correct soil deficiencies or help promote healthy plants. Both over or under applying wastes your time and money and gives bad results. During “Don’t Guess…,” a soil test is value-priced at less than the regular cost. That’s another saving for gardeners.

So how is a gardener to know how much or what kind of fertilizer to apply? When getting a soil test, gardeners receive information on what’s in their soil and a custom recommendation about how to correct any deficiencies.

There are a number of soil tests available. Home vegetable gardens and lawns are two that are most often requested. There are also tests for:

  • Perennial and annual flower gardens
  • Evergreens
  • Deciduous trees
  • Shrubs (Three shrub tests: one for deciduous shrubs which lose their leaves each fall; another for narrow leaf evergreens such as yew and juniper; and yet another for broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons.)

During “Don’t Guess…Soil Test,” anyone wanting a soil test can go to a local business which is hosting the program. In Livingston and Washtenaw Counties, Master Gardeners will be in selected stores every Saturday in April.

Participating MSU Extension county offices offer this once-a-year price break during “Don’t Guess” time. Contact these participating counties for details at their locations:

If your county is not involved in “Don’t Guess…Soil Test,” you can still get a soil test through your local county Extension Service at the regular price. Soil testing is available all year, with soil tested performed by the Michigan State University Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory in East Lansing. Your custom recommendation will give you information on the nutrients needed, soil pH and soil type.

If you would like see a video on how to take soil for a soil test, go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch and search for soil testing or v=norx9Tt4Wy0.

This presentation was created by Gary Heilig, MSU Extension Ingham County Horticulture Educator.

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