Testing Your Garden Soil

Not having great soil is really a problem here in Northern New Mexico and makes growing anything a challenge. Having good soil where you want to plant veggies is the most important thing you can do. People ask me all the time how do I grow such great veggies and the secret is-it’s all about the soil!  So the more we learn about how to improve our soil the better our growing results will be. So read on.

Here is an excerpt from Payne’s Nurseries site here in Santa Fe on ‘How to Build Your Northern New Mexico Soil’ which is worth reading in it’s entirety.”We have three basic types of soil here in Northern New Mexico: caliche, adobe and sand. All are alkaline, with a pH often over 7.0, and tend to contain abundant quantities of sodium, calcium and potassium. Caliche, adobe, and sand all lack organic matter, the nutrients and organisms of which are essential for sustaining high quality plant growth and production. Caliche is made up of sand, gravel and clay. Adobe is essentially fine clay. Neither soil type is easily penetrated by water. Sand, on the other hand, allows water through but has a limited ability to hold nutrients or moisture.” Check out the article. Most of us have some combination of these 3 types.  Fertilitzers feed the plant but not the soil which also needs to be fertile and more and more people are just learning that.

One of the things I mentioned in an earlier post is I’m getting a soil test specifically for growing my giant pumpkins and I will get one for my veggie garden where I grow tomatoes also. I researched where other pumpkin growers are getting their soil analysis done and I will use A & L Western Laboratories in Modesto, Ca for mine as they can test for any crop I specify versus a general soil test. My fellow pumpkin nuts tell me to get the  S3C COMPLETE Analysis package from A & L and to get the recommendations as well. The soil sample collected should be a composite from 10 to 20 locations within a selected area; a sufficient number to “average out” variations. You can learn how to properly take soil samples from them here. Other soil testing companies may have other protocol so check with whoever you use as to how they want you to collect soil samples.

There is nothing wrong with getting a general soil test (instead of for a particular crop) and that is what I would get if I didn’t grow competitively but I want to get the most out of my soil for my pumpkins.

You can also get a general soil analysis from a NMSU laboratory here and you can go to NMSU Soil Test Interpretations site to learn what your test means. Reading the tests isn’t easy but once you get one done you’ll be better able to understand what needs to be added to your garden for next year’s growing season so you can have a wonderful lush, productive garden next year. I’ll post what the results are as soon as I get them back.

summer squash and cucumber seeds in

When I think of all the things I still need to do in the garden, I’m overwhelmed.  So I break all the things I need to do into bite size projects and surrender that it will get done when it gets done. Yesterday I was  down in the main garden preparing some holes and adding amendments with composted horse manure, fertilizer, rock phosphate and mycorrhizal in it. Today I planted the summer squash and cucumber seeds in them. Thirteen of my 35 tomatoes look pitiful. Luckily I have some more to replace them which I will do by the end of the weekend. They either froze or thrashed by the wind-tough winter and spring. Tomorrow I need to focus on a glassblowing workshop we are doing so looks like I wouldn’t get back to it till Saturday.