How to test the soil in your garden
How to test the soil in your garden. If you want plants to thrive in your garden then you will need to work with the soil that you have in your space. You also need to think about other factors such as the sunshine that you get and the amount of protection that your garden offers. We will cover these in posts over the next few months so keep checking back for updates.
Test 1 – Ph Test
The acidity of your soil has a big impact on whether your plants will grow or not. Your soil will have a Ph value of between 0 to 14, 0 is very acidic and 14 is very alkaline. Very simply plants only really grow if they have a neutral Ph value of between 6 and 7, with some plants preferring a more alkaline 7 or 8 and others preferring a more acidic 5 or 6.
You can buy simple test kits from most garden centres or online. Make sure you follow the instructions carefully to get the most accurate results. Once you have the correct value you can start to take measures to correct it if you need to or choose an alternative location.
Test 2 – Worms
Worms are the gardener’s best friend! Not only do they make sure plenty of air is regularly put into the soil but they are great at telling you whether your soil has all the beneficial bacteria and microbes. If you have plenty of worms then your soil is in good shape.
To check your worms make sure that the soil is a reasonable temperature, around 130°F, and moist. Dig a hole that is 1 foot wide by 1 foot deep, putting the soil onto a piece of tarpaulin or sheet. Then check the soil for worms, if there are 10 or more then your soil is in great shape. If there are less then you might need to put some more organic matter into the soil. Or it might be because you need to adjust the acidity or alkalinity of the soil.
Test 3 – Soil type
Mostly soils are either clay, sandy or loamy and depending on the type of soil you have it will impact on how well your plants grow. Clay soil has lots of nutrients but drains slowly. Sandy soil drains quickly but struggles to retain nutrients and moisture. Loamy soil is the gardener’s dream as it retains moisture and nutrients but also drains well.
To work out what type of soil you have simply grab a handful of your soil and give it a good squeeze. When you open your hand if it holds it’s shape but crumbles when you poke it you have struck gold! You have loamy soil. If it holds it’s shape but doesn’t crumble then you have clay soil. If it falls apart straight away then you have sandy soil.
Test 4 – Drainage
It’s also a really good idea to understand how well your soil drains. Some plants will die if their roots are too wet. Dog a hole that is 1 foot wide and about 6 inches deep. Fill the hole with water and let it all drain out. Fill it with water again. Time how long it takes to drain. If it takes longer than 4 hours then you have poor drainage.
Cremation Ashes into the Soil
Now you know what type of soil you have you can either start planting or start taking steps to create the type of soil where your chosen plants will thrive. For many seasoned gardeners it’s a case of trial and error but when it’s a memorial garden you might want to create the best possible conditions for the plant or tree to grow. This is especially important if you are also considering adding your loved one’s or pet’s ashes into the soil. Cremation ashes will increase the alkaline levels of the soil so you will need to compensate for this. You can add elemental sulphur and peat moss to the soil, this is best done in Spring.
If you are not a keen gardener or need some reassurance it’s always worth speaking to your local garden centre. They will usually have plenty of knowledge about local soils and what you can use to ensure they perform to their best. They will also be helpful in aiding you select the best plants for your soil.