Three reasons to have your soil tested this spring

Did you know that one pound of phosphorus from excessive fertilization can produce anywhere from 300 to 500 pounds of algae if that phosphorus reaches a lake or river?

Reducing excessive fertilization is just one of the reasons to have your soil tested as the weather warms up this spring. Megan Lennon, soils specialist at the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, says there’s other benefits to having your soil tested, including knowing which fertilizer to buy and ensuring optimal soil fertility with proper fertilization use.

Many people think that soil testing is only important for farmers and commercial greenhouses. However, any Minnesotan can benefit from having their soil tested. A simple analysis will provide helpful information to gardeners, homeowners, golf course managers, specialty crop growers, composters and sod producers.

The University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab offers quick and inexpensive soil testing services. Soil test reports provide information on soil pH, soil texture, percent organic matter, macro nutrient levels, and fertilizer recommendations. Fertilizer recommendations are based on your particular land use, soil characteristics, crop nutrient requirements and are specific to Minnesota locations and conditions.

If gardeners had problems in the past with plants, testing the soil is an important first step in diagnosing problems. Based on the results, and types of plants you want to grow, your soil analysis will inform you on growing healthy plants, without adversely affecting the environment.

Additional analysis are available including soluble salt testing, agricultural liming materials testing, micronutrient level testing, lead, sulfur, boron, calcium and magnesium testing.

According to Lennon, soil testing at the University of Minnesota Laboratory or other commercial testing laboratories provide results superior to simple do-it-yourself kits available at garden centers or through gardening catalogues. While these kits are easy to use, the results are not very accurate. To ensure proper soil fertility and to protect local waterways from excess nutrients and algae blooms, gardeners should send samples to an analytical testing service.

More information on how to get soil tested can be obtained by visiting the University of Minnesota’s soil testing lab webpage at: or by calling 612-625-3101.

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