Jim’s Garden Adventure 2018 Chapter 1 “Get Out The Soil Test Kit”

Where’s My Soil Test Kit?

Let’s Test That Garden Soil!  Here we are – in the middle of February.  That means it’s time to get out my soil test kit and gather up some soil samples to send off to my local county agricultural extension for testing.  I want to get the pH and nutrient levels of my garden dirt up to snuff before planting veggies in April.

I know it may seem a bit early to get the process started.  But, it takes 1 to 2 weeks to get the soil analysis.  Then, I have to get the necessary amounts of amendments and fertilizers into my garden.  And, it takes a month or two for the soil supplements to become one with the dirt.  So, now is the time to get off my keister and get crankin’!

I encourage you to take a quick look at “Soil Testing For The Home Gardener.  It’s Important!”  You will have a better understanding of the importance and intricacies of knowing how fertile your garden dirt is.


Soil Sampling Simplified

There are the steps I complete to prepare a quality soil sample for testing.

Take random samples for soil testing

  1. Shovel samples of dirt from random areas in my garden. The picture above details my randomness.  And, I don’t want surface soil.  I want the soil that is 4 to 6 inches deep because that’s where the roots will be searching for nutrients.

Random garden soil samples in my tote bin.

  1. Dump all the random samples into a tote bin and mix thoroughly. This will give an average representation of the overall soil condition of my garden.
  2. Dry out the dirt. This can take a long time if I just leave it alone – sitting in my garage and ignore it – sometimes 4 or 5 days.  But, I accelerate the process by running a fan overnight across the soil sample.  Then, by and large, it is dry enough for me to move to step 3 the next morning.
  3. Remove all large rocks, roots, and clumps. Step 4 will take care of the smaller ones.

My hand-me-down colander for straining soil.Straining soil into a bucket.









  1. Sift the remainder through a strainer to get a fine soil powder. I inherited a metal strainer that was banished from the kitchen and it works brilliantly!

Finely strained soil in a bucket.Zip-lock bag with fine strained soil.







  1. Bag the strained soil – any plastic zip-lock bag will do. Actually, I don’t need more than 2 or 3 cups of dirt.  But, as you can see, I ended up with a little extra.
  2. Lastly, it’s time to head off to the county agricultural extension office with my bag of dirt proudly in hand, pour the sample into a paper testing bag, pay the $8 fee, and wait for the results.


And, That’s All There Is To It!

Simple, huh?

It will be interesting to compare this year’s test results to last year’s soil test shown in Jim’s Garden Adventure 2017 Chapter 1 “Beginnings”

I hope I won’t have to lime and fertilize so heavily this year.  But, we will see…soon.


 Just The Other Day…

The other day, I saw a man jumping around in a vacant lot – on a pogo-stick.  Being understandably curious, I asked him what the heck he was doing?  And, he said, “Why…I’m testing the soil, of course!”A good soil test makes flowers happy!

It takes all kinds, I suppose.

Did you learn anything from this first chapter of Jim’s Garden Adventure 2018?  I would enjoy hearing your take on my sampling process in the comments below or by email: jim@perfect-vegetable-garden.com.


Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

2 thoughts on “Jim’s Garden Adventure 2018 Chapter 1 “Get Out The Soil Test Kit”

  1. Margaret Reply

    Well I never knew that it was important to test the soil before planting veges but it certainly makes a lot of sense! Your detailed explanation on how to go about collecting the soil is most helpful too – its clearly more than just collecting a shovel full of dirt. Thanks for the useful information that will hopefully lead to better veges!

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Margaret,

      Soil testing is truly necessary for anyone who wants to ensure growing healthy, great tasting veggies.  It’s so scientific and exact nowadays that the agricultural research folks can tell you exactly what type and how much amendments to add to your garden.

      Things have come a long way since the days when we used to just throw a little lime and fertilizer on the garden and hope for the best.

      For a more complete understanding, check out Soil Testing For The Home Gardener. It’s Important!

      Now, we don’t have to hope for a great harvest – we can ensure a great harvest!


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