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Q: Can I still sample my soil?
• Greg from Boardman
A: Yes, it’s winter and for you and other gardeners who like to be outside, it seems like there isn’t very much to do this time of year.
Maybe look through seed catalogs and plan for next year. That’s good. I do those things too.
But I love that you are thinking of soil testing this time of year. Testing is another step you can take now that will really help your garden, lawn and flowerbeds next year. If you haven’t had your soil tested in the last two to three years, it’s time.
Although the best time to take a soil sample is in the fall, winter and spring are acceptable times for soil testing. The only thing to avoid is taking a sample when the soil is frozen due to challenges with getting a proper sample and mixing it to get a representative sample.
For your vegetables, lawns, flowers and shrubs to be their best next year, your soil must be able to support them. If the soil the plants are growing in doesn’t have the right nutrients, organic matter and acidity (pH), your plants won’t be able to produce their best flowers or vegetables.
If the soil conditions are significantly deficient, then the plant’s ability to fight diseases and pests will decline leading to plant decline and even death. This applies to turf grasses as well as flowers and vegetables.
The best way to tell the condition of your soil is with a laboratory soil test. A laboratory soil test, unlike a soil test kit from a big box store, provides a complete picture of the condition of your soil.
And winter is a good time to have a soil test done. Spring, summer and fall can be busy times for us gardeners as well as soil testing labs. If you do a soil test now, you’ll get your test results back sooner and be able to start making any connections recommended by the soil test report as soon as you can get out into the garden to work.
Also, prices for soil amendments (compost and fertilizer) are usually lower this time of the year. Again, any time the ground isn’t frozen, you can get soil samples for testing.
The next time the weather permits, go out and take some samples of your soil. You can send your soil samples to a laboratory of your choice — these soil testing laboratories can be found on the internet.
The OSU Extension Office in Canfield can also take soil samples for testing. If you get your soil tested via the OSU Extension Office, you will get a complete laboratory soil test and recommendations. If you have any questions, an OSU trained Master Gardener Volunteer can go over the test results with you.
For details on taking a soil sample, visit http://go.osu.edu/soiltest.
For details on submitting a soil sample through the Mahoning County office, visit http://go.osu.edu/soiltesting.
Sprague is an Ohio State University Extension Master Gardener Volunteer in Mahoning County. Call 330-533-5538 to submit questions to the Plant and Pest Clinic. During the off season, questions can be submitted at any time. More details can be found at go.osu.edu/mahoningclinic.
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