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How to Test Soil Using a Kit

In this how-to video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook discusses the benefits of testing soil.

In this video, This Old House landscape contractor Roger Cook explains how to test soil.

Steps for Testing Soil:

  1. Sandy soil drains too quickly; requires compost or cow manure to hold moisture.
  2. Clay soil compacts tightly and doesn't drain well; mix in sand.
  3. Quality topsoil contains proper proportions of sand, silt and clay.
  4. Buy soil test kit from garden shop or hardware store; select one that tests for nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and pH.
  5. Dig small amount of soil from garden, yard or flowerbed using a garden trowel.
  6. Add measured amounts of soil, water and reactive agent to plastic test chamber; shake well.
  7. Wait 2 minutes for soil to settle and color to develop.
  8. Compare the soil solution color to the color-coded chart printed on the test chamber.
  9. If needed, amend the soil as recommended. For example, if soil is too acidic add lime; if it's too alkaline, add peat moss or sulfur.
  10. Test soil annually, and treat it as needed.