We all know that tests can be hard, but you may not know soil tests are easy and important, especially in the fall. Testing now gives you time to make adjustments before next year’s growing season – problems you may not even know you have.
New Hampshire soils naturally have a low pH that makes them acidic, according to Extension field specialist Olivia Saunders. As a soil scientist, she can explain how rain in the Northeast continually washes away soil minerals (cations), and results in an accumulation of hydrogen ions, driving pH down. In our humid climate, soil pH declines every year. That is why soils need to be tested every 2-3 years to maintain optimal plant growth.
Some plants in low pH soil may grow smaller, be weaker and produce less fruit, as they are not able to access nutrients tied up in the soil minerals.
Adding too much is just as bad for some plants. You have to add the right amount.
Saunders offers gardeners some good news. “It is a relatively easy problem to fix. You can raise pH by adding lime or ash from your wood stove” but she warns, “Adding too much is just as bad for some plants. You have to add the right amount.”
The only way to add the right amount of lime or wood ash is to first test the soil and then follow New Hampshire-specific application recommendations. UNH Extension provides this service from scientists like Saunders who are backed by over 50 years of university research.
In the case of pH, Extension soil test results tell a home gardener their soil pH level, and how much lime or wood ash to add, based on their plot size and plants they want to grow.
Getting your soil tested is easy
Simply go to Extension’s soil testing services page and download a form for the test you want.
The standard home gardener test is $17 and results are emailed in three weeks.