Soil Testing

Last weekend when we planted our potatoes, we decided that we would expand our potato plot into the strawberry bed, which we made room for by emptying a very sad cranberry bed of its pathetic plants:

To make sure that we wouldn't just be killing strawberries in that bed the way we killed those cranberries, we grabbed a soil test kit at our local feed store (yes, that's a thing):

In all our years of gardening, we've never once bothered with a soil test. I guess we've just gotten lucky with good soil, and all our compost use paid off. So this was fun. 

You fill up to the first line of the plastic test tube with soil from a depth of 4 inches. Then you empty that little capsule of powder into the tube. Add water, shake it up, and let it settle:

Then you compare the color of the water to the chart on the package. This is very alkaline, which explains why the cranberries never thrived they need really acidic soil, so they were never able to absorb the necessary nutrients to grow and, you know, make cranberries. This soil is even too alkaline for strawberries, so we added some sulfur to amend the bed.

We're going to let that sit for a season, though, since the Tribute strawberries that we planted in 2012 look really terrible this year. I was planning on replacing them next summer, but we decided to do it a year early. These have been replaced with Sparkle, a June-bearing variety. That makes the half of this bed in the foreground a June-bearing bed, which is easy to keep track of anyway. Next year we'll plant some ever-bearing variety in that old cranberry bed, which will hopefully be back to a more neutral soil by then.

We also tested our blueberry bed, which turned out to be neutral. Too bad it's supposed to be really acidic. We also added some more sulfur there, and the fertilizer for each plant is also acidic, so hopefully by next year it will be well on its way. In the meantime, we bought four new blueberries to replace ones that never took off:

If it would ever get warmer than a 37-degree windchill, we'll plant them and be good to go.


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