Local News

Free Soil Testing Can Help Your Garden Grow

Posted January 13, 2003 2:46 a.m. EST

— For gardeners, this is the season of anticipation and expectation -- unless, of course, you have the proverbial brown thumb. Planting problems may have nothing to do with skill and everything to do with soil.

Peggy Herbert's new gardening hobby is growing.

"I want to improve my lawn. I want to have nicer bushes and trees and prettier flowers. I want everything to be lusher, greener," she said.

That is why Herbert brought a little box of dirt to North Carolina's soil laboratory in Raleigh.

Herbert's sample is one of thousands sent in by homeowners, farmers and businesses across the state. They all want to know what their soil needs to help their yards, plants and crops flourish.

Lab workers then analyze the hundreds of different colors and types of soils.

"We have about as diverse soils in this state as any state in the U.S.," said Dr. David Hardy.

They grind it, scoop it and mix it!

"This extraction is actually occurring for our elemental analysis, like phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium -- the micro nutrients in the soil," Hardy said.

At its peak, the lab processes 2,400 dirt samples a day.

When the lab is done testing a sample, is a computer printout shows exactly what each sample needs, helping Herbert and other gardeners know what their gardens need to grow lush and green.

The lab's service is free. To learn more about how to collect and send a sample, call your local cooperative extension service office. There is one in every county.