Friday, July 10, 2009

I love dirt!

My interest in gardening and plants is really a side shoot of my love of good soil, especially the dark crumbly stuff usually found in other peoples’ yards. The world of gardening has its share of controversies, but everyone agrees that good plants come from good soil. Pursuit of a good pile of dirt has led me down the path of composting and lawn reduction. I start digging and after a couple of years, the composted weeds and spent annuals have made up a good-textured soil for adding larger plants.

But how do you tell just what kind of dirt you have? Twice a year, in May and October, the Clackamas County Master Gardeners will test a small sample of your soil for pH levels. For more thorough testing, they recommend working with a commercial soil testing lab, such as A & L Western Agricultural Laboratories []. Note: Oregon State University does not analyze soil for the public any more.

You can do some fieldwork of your own with this handy guide developed by Willamette Valley farmers, in collaboration with local Soil and Water Conservation Districts, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service Soil Quality Institute, and Oregon State University. These simple tests help you assess the health of your soil, and are easy to do: push a wire flag into your soil, dig a hole, look at an uprooted plant, etc.

This card suggests a calendar soil assessment and relates to an associated pamphlet that describes what your test results mean.

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