using the rapitest soil test kit?

thefrozengardenerJuly 25, 2014

Hello everyone,

so um where to begin. a few weeks ago I noticed some of my tomato plants becoming very ill and I started to wonder what could be going on.

at first I thought perhaps that I had bought bad plants ( which is possible if the seeds are of poor quality) . however, I started to observe the conditions to which my tomato plants were taking. as time passed on I noticed the the leaves kept yellowing and repeating the same conditions. so I pruned them and apply ed an pesticide to all of my plants. the reason for this is because I had some white flys/green flys. so I figured that could be the cause of it but that didnt stop the problem or anything. infact after the insects were dead the plants them selves kept showing the same signs. so I thought " hmmmmmm, must be a fungus or diseases. so I sprayed some fungicide on the plants thinking it would help but it didnt as well. so then I said " well I havnt planted in this soil for 3-4 years. let me check out whats going on". so I ordered a lust leaf rapitest kit and followed the instructions on the package to get an idea of whats going wheres what I had gotten from it, im not sure how accurate they are or not but here goes.

the ph in my soil is roughly 6.8 ( I took 3 tests from the area where the affected tomato plants are)

Nitrogen is depleted or deficient in all 3 tests.

phosphorus is heavy in the soil supposedly. it shows in all three tests that there is a surplus of it or an sufficient amount.

potassium however is deficient or adequate

now whats bothering me about this all is the fact that im not sure how trusting these tests are but all of them are showing the same results. so im assuming that the test them selves are working correctly? can I count on them for a general idea on whats wrong? also, if they are right.... how do I lower the phosphorus levels in my soil and increase the other nutrients needed for my plants? I had read that phosphorus can use the levels to seem as if they are burning and yellowing because of the high amounts but im not sure if thats true or not in my case.

anyways, I need help regarding my issue or at least figuring out whats going on related to the soil and to the plants them selves. so if anyone could help me with this ti would be great. one other thing, I havnt seen any earth worms in my garden as well, im wondering if the soil conditions are in poor shape that not even those little critters wanted to come live in there.

one last thing I want to mention. the root system on the tomato's doesn't seem like its fully developed as it had years ago when I was gardening. I just started again after 3-4 years.

This post was edited by thefrozengardener on Fri, Jul 25, 14 at 22:05

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Where in the United States are you and what is your soil like?
How much organic matter is in that soil?
What kind of life is in that soil?
What does that soil smell like?
Earthworms need organic matter to exist and soils lacking adequate amounts of organic matter do not have many, if any, earthworms.

You cannot lower the amount of Phosphorus in that soil but you can bring things into balance with the appropriate amounts of other nutrients and that is where the horticulturist at the local office of your state universities Cooperative Extension Service could be of some help.

This post was edited by kimmsr on Sat, Jul 26, 14 at 6:44

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 6:42AM
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well im from chicago and the soil is sorta clay like but its compacted it a bit. for example when you squeeze the soil in your hand it conforms to clump but breaks a part. hence why it seems like its sorta clay like.

organic matter well there is minimal amount. I didnt add any compost or manure or anything but fertilizer this year ( the stores ran out of mushroom compost that I generally use).

my soil.... smells like dirt, it doesnt smell acidic at all or anything

as for the critters them selves, ive seen spiders, ants, slugs, grubs ( at times or something that looked like them) and thats pretty much it. i havnt seen any earth worms at all so im guessing that the area is in poor condition.

what I need to know is how can I promote the proper conditions for earth worms to com into my garden and what can I add ( organic wise) to the soil to bring the nitrogen and potassium levesl slightly up. even if its just a small amount at this point. id like to just test it out to see if the problem is related to soil or bad seedlings or perhaps something much more.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2014 at 4:29PM
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A good healthy soil has a pleasant, rich earth odor while other soils might smell putrid or like the chemicals that have been added to them.
Earthworms need organic matter so to make the proper conditions to get earthworms to move into your garden you need to get the soil into a condition that will be attractive to them by adding organic matter. Earthworms are one of the members of the Soil Food Web and the most visible and indication that the soil supports a good and active Soil Food Web.
Don't be overly concerned about nutrient levels now since that will change as more organic mater is added to the soil. Get the soil into a good healthy condition and the nutrients will be there to feed the plants.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 6:39AM
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Couple of things come immediately to mind. First never apply any pesticide (insecticide, fungicide, etc.) without knowing exactly what you are treating for. You can't just doesn't work that way :-) You can do more harm applying so-called remedies that are NOT needed than doing nothing. These can often cause or exacerbate some of the symptoms you describe, depending on plant and when applied.

Second, home soil test kits are notoriously inaccurate, except perhaps for some pH kits. But the nutrient assessment kits are just a big waste of money. Nitrogen is the most mobile of any of the plant nutrients and is very difficult to test for as it can change due to time of day, weather, amount of rainfall or irrigation, etc. In fact, a good many professional labs don't even test for N or if they do, only with very specialized tests.

I would put very little reliance on the results of your home test kit. If you really want a proper analysis, go through a professional testing lab - your county extension service should be able to hook you up with one.

At any rate, it is too late in the season to do much with the current garden. Have you tried applying a fertilizer at all? What kind of soil is in your garden (native? amended? imported?) and do you amend often or use cover crops? Do you rotate your crops? If you think this is a disease or insect issue, post photos so we can help determine or ID.

Otherwise, take the time between growing seasons to get your soil tested properly and then amended as required.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2014 at 4:24PM
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ok. well I called up the nursery where I had gotten my plants from and talked to a soil specialist there and he said that the tests are pretty accurate. they arent 100 percent but if the test is done repeatedly and its showing the same thing then there could be something wrong with the soil.

he also, said that the fertilizer that I am using might not be working properly and to try a new one. so I had already started that. last weekend I started using miracle grow just to see if it does anything and well im on week two now of using it. so we shall see if it produces any results in a few weeks.

I dont know if I honestly believe the tests so Im thinking about putting coffee chaf, manure, leafs, grass clippings and leafs in the soil during the fall time and testing it in the spring.

any suggestions on what else I could add or even should add?

also, whats a good way to get earth worms. i mean i keep hearing organic matter but if someone can define it a bit better that would be great.

oh and garden gal. I sprayed the plants because they had pests on them. see it seemed like they had bugs on them so I ended up spraying them. (white little flys, green ones, and some red ones). so I ended up spraying them for that reason. thinking that they were the cause of it all. once I controlled them, I still noticed a decline of plant health and stunned growth. so then a few weeks later I used fungicide to try see if that was the cause but it seems that it wasnt. so thats when I turned to the soil and came across this issue. the thing is that in all my years of planting ive never come across a condition like this.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 1:46AM
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Your University of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service no longer provides soil testing, although they do have a list of labs that will. Get a good soil test done.
That "soil specialist" at that nursery is suspect because of his statement that the fertilizer you were using was not working properly and he had another one that would, without looking at the plants or doing a soil test. You need a good reliable soil test to determine what, if anything, needs to be done. These simple soil tests may also help.
1) Soil test for organic matter. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. For example, a good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drainsâ too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.

Here is a link that might be useful: UI CES

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 6:19AM
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LOL!! Your soil specialist is full of it! If he had any sort of specialized knowledge he would know how totally inaccurate those home test kits are. And I'd love to have him explain to me exactly how one fertilizer wouldn't "work properly" and the benefits of trying another in its place. Why would one type of fertilizer work any better than another? To be completely honest with you, that sort of statement is just laughable and demonstrates how little horticultural knowledge this person really has.

Get a soil test done.... a real one done by a professional soil testing lab. And then follow their instructions for any needed amendments for next season.

As to your 'pest' problems.......the presence of insects on plants does not always mean they are 'pests'. There's just as many beneficial insects as there are bad guys. And indiscriminate spraying without an exact identification of the pest you are attempting to control can destroy many of the good guys you want to encourage. Same thing with possible disease must know EXACTLY what you are treating for before you treat, otherwise how would you know what to treat with?

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 2:59PM
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yeah I dont honestly know because ive never really used the fertilizer before. I tend to use mushroom compost/manure compost and I generally never have a problem but i wasnt able to obtain any because everyone they ran out of them and horse manure ( which is free of charge at a local race track) takes like 4 months to basically break down. so I was limited on what I could add this year but what would explain the tomatoes being stunned?. I mean i cant pin point it any of it at all.

as for the bugs. well these bugs are commonly on roma tomato plants. for whatever reason they go on there ( little green and white ones.) and they do inflict harm to the plant by draining off of it. so I did my research on them. so I was treating the problem but once again it wasnt the root of the problem.

the point being is that diseased plants are perfect grounds for pests. so with that being said I figured that the pests were causing the plant to get sick and die. see the leaves were turning yellowish and burning around the tips. ( the plant was stunned prior to this). so I did know what I was targeting. mind you I dont like using pesticides for the reason you said. I tend to use a garlic/soap pesticide that effectively works against these bugs. anyways, the bugs arent the cause of it. I tried fungicide but that clearly didnt work as well.

i am highly considering it but im also considering what your saying. which was and is " dont pay attention to it" as I said before I think im going to till the grass clippings, leafs, (gonna try to get horse manure) and mushroom compost in the ground or dig a huge hold and make a mound of it until next spring.

whats good to add potassium to the soil? since im doing an organic compost in the fall. Id like to figure out what else would go in there to make a much more healthier soil. the dirt shouldn't be compacted or clay like so.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 4:32PM
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Without any photos provided to illustrate what you are trying to explain, it is impossible to know what's going wrong with your garden. It could be soil/nutrient issues, it could be disease issues, it could be insect issues or it could be cultural issues. There is just not enough information provided to make any kind of reasonable determination. And I also still have some serious reservations about the appropriateness of any pesticide treatments, especially without any identification.

Again........get a soil test done. That's the only way you can possibly determine if you need to add potassium. Any compost (and by definition ALL compost is organic) should have a range of basic plant nutrients and that would include potassium, usually in sufficient quantities for any home gardener. Often, just routinely adding compost or other organic matter to your garden on a seasonal basis is sufficient to keep nutrient levels at a proper level without ever needing to resort to additional fertilizers. As well as all the other beneficial effects compost/OM has on the soil.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2014 at 5:41PM
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toxcrusadr Clay Soil(Zone 6a - MO)

How much sun are these tomatoes getting?

How is the water situation - does the soil dry up or are you keeping it always wet or somewhere in between?

Are leaves browning and falling off or does the whole plant just look pale?

What kind of miracle gro are you using? What's the NPK rating on it? How much are you applying?

If the MG has P in it, which it usually does, you don't really need that since your P is already high, if you trust that test.

Compost will help a myriad of ills, don't worry about your potassium levels, just add compost every year.

I asked about trees and sun because I started having very sickly garden plants and found they were not getting enough sun and tree roots were robbing moisture and nutrients. I moved the garden this year and the results are astounding. Nothing wrong with the soil!

    Bookmark   July 30, 2014 at 11:16AM
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