With the fall planting season right around the corner, now is a good time to get your soil in the best condition to help ensure a successful growing season.
To fully gauge the condition of your soil, a soil test will tell you the good and the bad about your growing conditions.
"It's best to have a test done every couple of years," said Charles Phillips, the agriculture and natural resources agent for the Columbia County Extension Service.
"A soil test will tell you the pH of your soil and whether or not you need to add lime or any other nutrients," Phillips said.
According to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service, fall is the most desirable time to take a sample, because soils should be dry enough to till. The soil pH and nutrient levels will be at or near their lowest points during late summer and early fall. Therefore, samples collected in the fall are more representative of the actual fertility conditions during the growing season than samples collected in late winter or early spring.
When gathering a soil sample, remember to take a sample at the surface and at a 2- to 3-inch depth in several locations in the garden plot. If soil sticks to a shovel, or if it appears shiny and smooth, it is too wet. Working excessively wet soil can destroy its structure.
In Columbia County, it costs $8 to have a soil test done. A sample can be dropped off at the County Extension office, which is downstairs at Savannah Rapids Pavilion. A sample and fee can also be dropped off at any of the following locations: Harlem Farm Supply, Grovetown Farm and Garden, Southern Landscaping, Greenbrier Nursery, Brown Feed and Seed, and Green Thumb West Nursery.
It takes about one week for the results to be returned.
Understanding the science of soil is important and "good soil is vital for the overall health of a plant," Phillips said.
With the technical part behind, it's time to start digging.
"Remove any old plant materials from a planting area," he said. "This will keep any old diseases from coming back."
Old leaves and stems can harbor insects and disease spores. Destroy any obviously diseased or infested materials. Other material can be composted, but this does not always assure the destruction of pests it may harbor.
When you know all about your soil, you're ready to "plant the right plant in the right place," Phillips said.
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