Soil Testing Essentials: What You Need to Know

Soil Testing Essentials: What You Need to Know

Posted by Elk Mound Seed on Jan 29th 2022

A healthy garden always starts by preparing the soil that plants can thrive on during the growing season. Rich, fertile solid provides the foundation for an abundant garden that produces grade-A crops when it’s time to harvest.

Before you plant the seeds, you’ll need to test the soil to ensure that all variables are present to stimulate root and plant development. Below is a brief guide for gardeners who want to improve their gardening skills and grow vibrant plants inside or outside.

What’s In Your Soil...Or What’s Not?

The first step to examining your soil is knowing its composition. What’s in the soil that doesn’t need to be there? Likewise, ask yourself, “what does the soil need added that it currently lacks?” The two most basic factors that influence plant growth are fertility and pH levels.

Typical garden soil needs three essential nutrients to enhance fertility:

Nitrogen: Leafy plant growth

Phosphorus: Root flower, and fruit development

Potassium: Overall plant health

The pH levels of both acidity and alkalinity found in the soil are what fuel the plant’s ability to pull nutrients from the soil and distribute it throughout the plant’s components. Once you assess the soil’s fertility and pH levels, you can determine what nutrients or fertilize your plant needs the most for optimal growth.

Soil Compost: Microbial Life Down Under

Once you test the basic levels in the soil, it’s time to analyze the microbial life in the soil. Microbes, such as bacteria and fungi, are vital to plant life. Tiny ecosystems made of millions of microbes form in the soil.

The simplest way to explain their role in plant development is this: Microbes consume nutrients from organic matter. They convert the organic matter into plant food such as nitrogen, carbon, oxygen, potassium, phosphorus, etc. The microbes then pass the nutrients on to the plants so they can grow and produce food or flowers.

Therefore, you’ll need to analyze the soil to explore the microbial life and nutrients it is providing for your plants. If you use compost as plant food, you’ll also want to test the nutrient levels in the compost.

Some indicators of how much and what type of nutrients is in the soil may include:

●Soil color

●How well the soil drains

●Soil texture

●Visible insects or worms that inhabit the soil

●Types of organic matter.

Testing the Biological Life in the Soil

Now that you understand how microbes work, you’ll need to test which microbes in the soil are beneficial for plant growth and overall garden health. You can do this by observing the activity of the organisms and how they utilize oxygen (breathe). The activity is measured by how much CO2 the organisms are releasing.

If you can determine the CO2 levels they are producing, then you can determine how much oxygen they are breathing in. You can conclude, then, that if there are low CO2 levels in the oxygen, then there are low levels of biological life in the soil.

The more abundant the microbial life, the more microbes will produce enzymes, proteins, hormones, and other compounds that stimulate plant growth or contribute to the plants’ immune system. Without the microbes, there is a severe imbalance in the soil.

If you have dead soil, you can rebuild the biological ecosystems using healthy compost, mycorrhizae, and compost teas. By the way, you can also perform the same test on your compost as you can in the soil to determine the vitality of the compost.

Contact Elk Mound Seed Company

If you are looking for organic seed products for your field, garden, or food plot, contact Elk Mound Seed Company. We offer a wide selection of seed products for farms and properties across the Midwest. To learn more about our products or to order your seeds, you can browse our website and order online.

You can also contact us at 800-401-7333, or you can message us at