The following is a reminder to take soil samples this fall if you have not yet done so.
The 2009 growing season is wrapping up, and landscaping chores mostly involve “cleaning up”. While you’re raking leaves, begin thinking about what tasks you can do now that can help you prepare for next season. One job you can do before the ground freezes is to take soil samples for testing. The nutrient levels that are analyzed for a fertility test will not change substantially between now and next March, and so the results and recommendations will allow you to learn what soil amendments you need to optimize soil fertility, plan your work efforts, and make your purchases well in advance.
Testing now also provides the advantage of rapid response time from the soil testing lab, since the sample load is relatively low. Often, landscapers may not think of soil testing until the weather warms up next spring, and they’ll all send their samples at the same time, wanting results in a hurry. However, this is the busiest time for most soil testing labs and turnaround time can be slow. Make soil testing a part of your late fall/winter garden routine to be better prepared and make next spring less hectic. Remember: soil testing helps you use your hard-earned dollars wisely by providing recommendations for the most appropriate fertilizer or amendment. And in addition to providing optimum conditions for your plants, proper fertilization prevents mis-use of nutrients that can cause environmental degradation. Always practice good landscape hygiene, cleaning up fertilizer granules, soil, grass clippings, and other plant detritus from impervious surfaces. Only water should be going into those storm sewers! So get back to those fall clean-up chores. For information on submitting soil samples, contact your County Extension office (Newark, Dover, or Georgetown).
Adapted from "It’s a Good Time to Test Your Soil!" in the November 12, 2009 edition of the
Plant & Pest Advisory, Landscape, Nursery & Turf Edition, A Rutgers Cooperative Extension Publication http://njaes.rutgers.edu/pubs/plantandpestadvisory/2009/ln111209.pdf