Soil Testing

The Abundant Garden: Growing Quality Kids Through Gardening by

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Soil Testing: an activity for children of all ages. “Healthy soil leads to healthy plants” (Carl Grimm). If you have had trouble growing things in the past, or if you just want to get a baseline to work from, you may want to test your soil. In this activity, children will learn how to test soil.

  • Supplies:
  • There are basically two options for testing your soil. The first is to collect a soil sample and send it out to a testing facility. The advantages of this option include the option of getting tests for not only NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (potash), but also many of the trace elements that play into the health of your soil and plants. Here is a website to help you find a testing lab in your state. Make sure to read what each lab will deliver; a good testing service will offer suggestions for amending your soil to shore up any deficiencies. Here is a video showing how to prepare a soil sample to send away for testing.

  • The second option you have is to test the soil yourself. Unless you are willing to spend a large amount of money on a professional grade test, you will be limited to testing for basic NPK levels plus pH. While this is limited, it will give you quite a bit of important information to work with. I used a Lusterleaf soil testing kit and was pleased with the results. The test was simple to perform and was reasonably priced. Here are a couple of tips. For the NPK portion of the test you need to mix 5 parts water with one part soil, shake it up and let it sit for at least thirty minutes. From my research I would suggest letting it sit a little longer to make sure the soil nutrients are dissolved in the water before testing it. They also suggest using distilled water, but I got satisfactory results with tap water.
  • Once you have your results you will be better able to plan what amendments are necessary for the health of your plants.
  • Also consider rotating your crops to add soil fertility and prevent nutrient depletion.
  • For an older child: document the amendments needed to the tested soil. Record a younger child’s explanations/dictations or have them draw a picture as needed.
  • Place the page or pages in a protector when finished and include them in the garden notebook/journal.
  • Take pictures and tag #theabundantgarden on Instagram to share your fun and for an opportunity to be featured @theabundantgarden.
  • Happy Testing!