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Soil Sample questions  RSS feed

 
Tina Paxton
Posts: 283
Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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So, I'm about to take soil samples for testing by the Cooperative Extension folks. I picked up the boxes and form yesterday. The form includes columns for "First Crop" and "Second Crop" (second crop being the secession planting). The guy I spoke with said that I should not use the codes intended for commercial growers but the "home gardener" codes do not specify fruit trees...but do specify azaleas and pecans and general "vegetable garden". They don't even include muscadines under the home gardener list and they should realize that muscadines are as plentiful here as azaleas. ummm....so...my questions:

1. should I use the "commercial grower" codes for fruit trees or just the general "trees" code? OR
2. should I not use any codes and just add a note that I'm converting lawn and "conventional" garden to a no-till food forest (with some explanation of what a food forest is)?

and:

3. Any other tips for getting the most out of the testing?

(BTW, I have divided my 1/2 acre into 6 sections for the sampling.)
 
Neal Foley
Posts: 49
Location: union Maine
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Tina,

The codes are mainly there so they can recommend conventionally methods of liming and fertilizing.....so put down anything you want--"Vegetable Garden" will work fine.. What, I assume, your after is actually the PH and nutrient breakdowns, which will be independent of what you grow any way. I don't think you need to share too much about what your doing as the lab won't be looking at anything but the samples.

It's great to divide the 1/2 acre into 6, but within those 6, be sure to take 5-10 samples each.... The more the merrier. When I sampled my 20 acres of pastures, gardens, orchard and greenhouse I took 10 samples minimum, depending on field size, at each location and labeled it. Then mix the soil for each sample well. You don't want to dig down more than 6 inches either..... Be sure to label the samples well and make yourself a map so you can go back later if anything is wildly out of whack and correct a specific plot.

You should see if the extension office has a soil testing probe you can borrow....they make the process slick. You walk along and stab the probe in wherever, and then knock the plug out into your bucket. Also make sure you do it on a dry day, a couple of days after a rain if there has been any. You don't want the soil to be too wet. And try to do it during an average temperature....So if it's a really hot day or super sunny, do it in the cool of the evening. Soil temp and Moisture greatly effect soils tests even within one space.

Finally, choose areas of the test plot which don't have apparently high organic matter.... So not near any livestock deposits of any kind, or under trees where fruit drops or leaves get left. Or where the dog pees....or at a clover's roots.... these things really throw off tests, but are mitigated by the number of samples you take from within a given area.
 
Tina Paxton
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Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Neal Foley wrote:Tina,

The codes are mainly there so they can recommend conventionally methods of liming and fertilizing.....so put down anything you want--"Vegetable Garden" will work fine.. What, I assume, your after is actually the PH and nutrient breakdowns, which will be independent of what you grow any way. I don't think you need to share too much about what your doing as the lab won't be looking at anything but the samples.


Okay, I thought that might be the case -- I don't really need their recommendations for liming and fertilizing, just an analysis of my soil. pH and nutrients...exactly. How thorough are they with the nutrient info? just NPK or stuff like magnesium, zinc, and iron as well? When the county guy asked what I was growing and I said I was converting from conventional to permaculture his eyes got big...I think I'm the first permie in my county!

Neal Foley wrote:It's great to divide the 1/2 acre into 6, but within those 6, be sure to take 5-10 samples each.... The more the merrier. When I sampled my 20 acres of pastures, gardens, orchard and greenhouse I took 10 samples minimum, depending on field size, at each location and labeled it. Then mix the soil for each sample well. You don't want to dig down more than 6 inches either..... Be sure to label the samples well and make yourself a map so you can go back later if anything is wildly out of whack and correct a specific plot.


Map has been made. Haven't decided what to use to drill down for the samples yet.

Neal Foley wrote:You should see if the extension office has a soil testing probe you can borrow....they make the process slick. You walk along and stab the probe in wherever, and then knock the plug out into your bucket. Also make sure you do it on a dry day, a couple of days after a rain if there has been any. You don't want the soil to be too wet. And try to do it during an average temperature....So if it's a really hot day or super sunny, do it in the cool of the evening. Soil temp and Moisture greatly effect soils tests even within one space.


They were not making any offers of testing probes. I was lucky the guy mentioned that there were drop off locations closer to me rather than having to drive back to the government center (other side of the county from me) to drop them off. ...that is interesting...the instructions did mention collecting dry soil but I didn't know why that would be important. Now, between the time I collect the samples and close up the sample boxes and when I drop them off is there anything I should do to prevent deterioration of the samples?

Neal Foley wrote:Finally, choose areas of the test plot which don't have apparently high organic matter.... So not near any livestock deposits of any kind, or under trees where fruit drops or leaves get left. Or where the dog pees....or at a clover's roots.... these things really throw off tests, but are mitigated by the number of samples you take from within a given area.


Okay, I figured I shouldn't collect in the area the ducks hang out or under the rabbit hutches but the other can be a bit challenging...there is lots of clover...and leaf mulch that was left in place (other than running over it with the mulching mower)...ummm...okay...I'll do my best to keep those points in mind so I don't skew the results in the wrong direction.

Thanks for the help!
 
Neal Foley
Posts: 49
Location: union Maine
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Tina Paxton wrote:
How thorough are they with the nutrient info? just NPK or stuff like magnesium, zinc, and iron as well? When the county guy asked what I was growing and I said I was converting from conventional to permaculture his eyes got big...I think I'm the first permie in my county!


He probably thinks your going to hit him up for the nutrient requirements for Hemp...... The tests usually come back with a graph showing the range of results....depends on the lab. Around here they quote rates for all basic compounds and micronutrients and NPK and PH.


is there anything I should do to prevent deterioration of the samples?


Usually not necessary if they get boxed up right away.... I put my samples in baggies and then in the box. We can mail ours in, so I try not to do it over a weekend...but more like Sunday eve or Monday so I can post them right away. I don't think it matters, but I am usually impatient for the results.... In fact here in Maine we can get the results emailed to us weeks before the physical papers arrive, which is fantastic.
 
Tina Paxton
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Location: coastal southeast North Carolina
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Neal Foley wrote:
Tina Paxton wrote:
How thorough are they with the nutrient info? just NPK or stuff like magnesium, zinc, and iron as well? When the county guy asked what I was growing and I said I was converting from conventional to permaculture his eyes got big...I think I'm the first permie in my county!


He probably thinks your going to hit him up for the nutrient requirements for Hemp...... The tests usually come back with a graph showing the range of results....depends on the lab. Around here they quote rates for all basic compounds and micronutrients and NPK and PH.


is there anything I should do to prevent deterioration of the samples?


Usually not necessary if they get boxed up right away.... I put my samples in baggies and then in the box. We can mail ours in, so I try not to do it over a weekend...but more like Sunday eve or Monday so I can post them right away. I don't think it matters, but I am usually impatient for the results.... In fact here in Maine we can get the results emailed to us weeks before the physical papers arrive, which is fantastic.


hehehe...yeah, he had THAT kinda look in his eye...like I was the least likely looking hippie he'd ever met!

My instruction sheet says NO PLASTIC BAGGIES as if the plastic will affect the results...or is it that they just don't want to deal with all those baggies? Yeah, if I give them my email addy they will email me a link to the posted results when they are ready.
 
She still doesn't approve of my superhero lifestyle. Or this shameless plug:
2017 Homesteaders PDC (permaculture design course) & ATC (appropriate technology course) in Montana
https://permies.com/wiki/61764/Homesteaders-PDC-permaculture-design-ATC
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