For those who have trouble making their garden grow, a pH test could diagnose the problem. Most plants like neutral soil, around 7 on the scale. Exceptions include blueberries and azaleas, which like more acidic soil (5-6), and fern and asparagus, which like a slightly alkaline soil (around 7.5).
If your soil’s pH is off, you can add limestone or woodash to increase the pH or sulfur, peat moss or coffee grinds to lower it.
The Cornell Cooperative Extension offers soil testing locally:
- Ulster County: Drop off sample at the office in the Kingston Plaza, 232 Plaza Road, Kingston, Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Cost is $3 per sample and $1 for each additional sample.
- Dutchess County: Drop off sample at the extension office at the Dutchess County Farm & Home Center, 2715 Route 44 Millbrook, Monday-Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., April through October. Cost is $15 per sample.
Soil sampling recommendations:
- Submit at least a cup of dry soil with the clumps broken up
- Take samples from several areas; 5-10 for a 100-square-foot area; more than 10 for larger areas
- Dig down at least 4 inches for sample
- Keep lawn and garden samples separate, as well as samples from good and bad growth areas (as applicable)
The Cornell Cooperative Extension various other tests measuring other nutrients in the soil for an additional cost. More information available at the offices or online at http://ulster.cce.cornell.edu/gardening/soil-testing and http://ccedutchess.org/agriculture/soil-testing.