What is a Soil Test – and Why is it So Important?

The quality of your lawn and your home’s curb appeal is important to you. You spend a lot of time worrying about how green your grass is, or how well your flowers are flourishing. You trim trees, fight pests, and eliminate fungus.

But for all of your efforts to keep the lawn and garden looking beautiful, you may be missing one of the fundamental ways to ensure that your trees and plants are at their healthiest – the quality of the soil.

The soil’s pH balance can drastically affect the success or failure of all the growth you are encouraging this spring.

The answer to this dilemma lies in a simple soil test.

What is a Soil Test?

The purpose of the soil test is to determine pH balance; that is, the relative alkalinity or salinity of the soil your plants are growing in.

Every plant requires a certain level of pH in order to thrive. The pH levels will indicate the ability of your soil to support the plants and to provide the right ratio of nutrients and water supply.

Therefore, a soil test measures the fertility and health of your soil.

The pH of soil ranges from 0 to 14, with most soils falling into the 5-to-9 range, with 7 being considered “Neutral”. Soils with a pH less than neutral are considered “acidic”, while those with a value higher than neutral are considered “alkaline”.

Why are Soil Tests Important?

Different plants require different pH balance to be at their peak growth, but most Florida plants do well with a pH between 6.0 and 6.5. Therefore, this is the optimum range for Tampa and Sarasota area gardeners and homeowners to shoot for.

The pH level resulting from a soil test is indicative of either a deficiency or surplus of a certain mineral or nutrient. These evaluations look for the levels of iron, magnesium, phosphorous, sulfur, zinc and boron. IT will also analyze the texture of your soil.

Did You Know?
 In the Sarasota and Tampa area, the majority of our soil is made up primarily of sand and silt. A mixture of clay soil is more prevalent in the Panhandle.  

The results of a soil test can often save you money, as you can determine that some soil additives are unnecessary – or worse, that you are adding things which are harming your plants and require later treatment.

How to Test Your Soil

Home testing kits and testing meters are available at most local gardening centers, and include everything you need to test your soil, as well as to interpret the results. With testing meters, you simply insert the meter probe into the soil and read the results.

Here’s How to Collect a Valid Soil Sample:

To collect soil for testing, dig several holes in your planting areas, each about 8 inches deep. Take a thin slice from the side of each hole with a clean trowel.

Mix all samples together in a bucket, then lie out on a newspaper to dry out. You can then take an accurate reading of your current soil makeup.

If you have any questions regarding soil testing, or would like an expert to help you through the process – simply call Big Earth Landscape Supply.

Remember, achieving a beautiful, thriving lawn and garden is easier than you think – you just need a little advice, and the right tools and products. You’ll find everything you need at one of our Tampa Bay Big Earth Landscape Supply locations.