Many college co-op or extensions offer soil sampling. Why bother paying to have your soil tested?
Now is the time, right before the summer garden season kicks off to get your soil tested. This can happen in the fall or the spring, as the mineral contents don't change over the winter. But as it's spring, sample now!
#1 Soil Sampling clears up the unknown
If you are living in a urban or semi-urban community where lead paint was used on homes, that lead pain falls in to the soil over time. This can result in your garden plants taking up that lead and transmitting it into you. Don't you want to know?
While this is specifically an urban problem, soil sampling can tell you what macro and micro nutrients you soil needs. Otherwise, there is little way of knowing what your soil contains. This is very important if it's your first few years of gardening and the land history is unknown.
For me, I have used the same community garden plot for the last 2 years. I did some crop rotation, but not very much. Before those 2 years, I have no idea what the soil was used for. It is right next to a soccer field, and behind some homes. My soil sample let me know the health of the soil. Consider it like an annual physical for your garden, get yourself tested!
#2 They recommend amendments
I got my soil tested through UMass Extension: Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory. In addition to telling me what was in my soil they also made recommendation with what my garden needed this year. As it turns out, my use of Miracle Grow was perhaps a bit excessive and now the soil has excessive Phosphorous. Without this soil test, I would have continued to use my Miracle Grow, and put the soil even more out of balance.
#3 Soil Sampling is pretty cheap
It was $15 for the soil test and approximately $6 for the post office to ship my dirt. I could have hand delivered the dirt and saved shipping if I was close enough to drive there. This $21 fee is a small price to pay for knowing how to make my garden the most productive it can be. I have limited space, I need it to be operating at peak performance as I don't have too much room for failure.
Ready to get your soil tested? Be sure to find a soil sampling place close to you. They can make specific recommendations for your region and growing conditions.