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need help comparing two soil test results

Posted by njitgrad 6A/6B New Jersey (My Page) on
Tue, Jun 17, 14 at 22:03

I just got my 2nd soil test results back from Rutgers. This was the first followup test since my original test two years ago when my soil was first delivered. I've made several ammendments in the past two years so variations were anticipated.

The first item of interest was that my pH went from a 6.5 to 7.23 making it slightly alkaline.

In the area of macronutrients the items that increased (parts per acre) were Phosporous (from 672 to 730), Calcium (from 4051 to 6445) and Magnesium (from 747 to 968). The only item that decreased was Potassium (from 2010 to 1613). All macronutrients are still at ABOVE OPTIMUM LEVELS.

In the area of micronutrients the items of interest that increased (parts per million - rounded) were Zinc (from 22 to 31) and Copper (from 3 to 13). Those that decreased were Manganese (from 74 to 70) and Iron (from 334 to 295).

I also had the soluble salt test done this time to get an idea of how good (or bad) the addition of composted manure to my beds was this spring. Even though I have no baseline to compare it against, I don't know how to interpret the results. Any advice would be appreciated.

The thing that really stuck out in the pH results section was that they recommended to NOT ADD ANY COMPOST to the soil. Why??? How can any amount of vegetative compost (leaves, kitchen scraps, coffee grinds) make my soil any more alkaline? Please advise because my plan was to top dress more vegetative compost monthly.

Do any of the large changes in measurements (like Calcium and Copper) sound alarming to anyone? If so, why?

Below are pics of the report as well as a view of what my garden looks like today. It certainly "seems" to be well balanced as everything is growing nicely in the beds (with the exception of some cukes I recently pulled due to Angular Leaf).

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

I will give you my opinion about what i can. You may have overdone the Lime. Lime if you did use some besides adding calcium increases PH, making it alkaline. Peat moss is supposed to make it more acidic. It is controversial to use peat moss, it is supposed to be a non-renewable resource. But you see stacks of the stuff at home and garden centers, and the stuff from Canada is mentioned to be plentiful. So I would add a bit of Peat moss, mix in a bit in the soil. If it isn't mixed in it will make a crust on the top of soil and repel rain or hose water. Sulfer will help lower PH also. That is what i would do. I am no expert, though. But I know my info to be true, from what I have read.

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

I never directly added any lime. The only things I have added in the past two years are varying quantities of self-made vegetative compost, Valfei's Garden Compost (made of composted sea-weed residue, shrimps and lobsters residue), worm castings, and composted cow manure. I also added a little vermiculite this year just to help a little bit with compaction.

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

A soil pH of 7.23, while a bit above the 6.2 to 6.8, is not much of a concern and I have seen my soil go from 5.7 pH to 7.2 just by getting the amount of organic matter up to the optimum of 6 to 8 percent. Yours, at 15, is a bit high. Your macro nutrients, while above optimum, appear to be in balance and that need not be a concern.
I'd not add more compost, or other organic matter, for a while.

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

  • Posted by nil13 z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Wa (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 18, 14 at 11:26

Seaweed compost has been shown to raise pH. Other composts have a pH that usually falls between 6-8 depending on composition.

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

So...when would you expect it would be okay to add more vegetative compost? I built a fancy three-bin system last year only to find out that the compost I have in it now (ready to go) is not necessary. How long can compost sit around?

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

  • Posted by nil13 z21 L.A., CA (Mt. Wa (My Page) on
    Wed, Jun 18, 14 at 11:38

I bet the rest of your landscape would appreciate some compost. It should be pretty easy to make compost disappear.

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

Should I consider sprinkling Espoma Acidifier to the top of my beds? Over time would this lower my pH with each watering of the garden? Or should I not bother getting the pH down until the end of the growing season?

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

The pH of that soil is fine for what you are growing so adding anything to change that pH is not necessary. You can use these simple soil tests,
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 drains’ 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.

with the Rutgers to look at the soil in depth and they can help guide you in making decisions about what to do with the soil.
I have grown vegetables in the soil I have here with the soil pH in the 7.2 range for many years now with few problems, a few insect pests but no plant disease.

RE: need help comparing two soil test results

From the looks of your pics your garden is growing just fine, so if it ain't broke, no need to fix it. :-]

I had trouble reading your initial post because for some reason my browser extended all your text to the right underneath the ads and past them all the way out to the parking lot. ?!? But as far as micronutrients, as long as things like Cu and Fe are within reasonable limits, occasional maintenance additions of compost will keep them there.

Happy gardening!

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