The Kansas Healthy Yards and Communities recommendation is to have your soil tested every 3 to 5 years or prior to a new planting. This soil test would identify the soil pH and nutrient levels to determine if turf, shrubs, flowers, food crops and trees have what they need to grow. As a gardener, that makes sense to me and I have my soil tested.

I sent a sample of my soil to the lab last week. My soil pH is 7.5 and both the phosphorus and potassium are high. This site is a strawberry bed. Mixing Sulphur into the soil is recommended to bring the pH down to allow more available nutrients to the plants.

Many people don’t have their soil tested. I know many hobby gardeners that have never had their soil tested. Perhaps that is one of the gardening mysteries they prefer to remain. Gardening can be magical when you don’t understand how it works.

A routine soil test will cost $7. The Riley County Conservation Service passes grant funding to reduce that cost. Riley County residents can get their first two tests done for $2.50 each.

Soils in the Riley County area vary. Many of them do have adequate fertility and the soil test would prove it.

On these soils, fertilizing them is not necessary and if nutrients are added it is a waste. Too much and it can become toxic and a pollutant.

An elevated soil pH is the most common soil condition that shows up on the test results. A soil pH of 6.5 is preferred by many plants. Our most common pH is 7.8. Growing plants that tolerate that pH is best.

When you get motivated to soil test, bring a composite of your soil to the Extension office. This composite of two cups is made up of several soil samplings taken to a depth of 6 inches.

The more samplings taken results in a more accurate test.

I encourage you to soil test and not just guess what is in your soil. Your plants will thank you with good health. I will thank you for not using nutrients that aren’t needed and potential pollutants.

You can find out more information on this and other horticulture topics by going to the Riley County, K-State Research and Extension website at Gregg may be contacted by calling 785-537-6350, stopping by 110 Courthouse Plaza in Manhattan or emailing

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