Pender Gardener

How Soil Testing Can Help You

Stunted growth, yellowing leaves, and shedding of flowers and leaves are symptoms your plants may not be getting the nutrients they need.

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 04:13 PM.

How Soil Testing Can Help You

Heavy rains this summer have removed many nutrients from the soil in southeastern North Carolina. Symptoms of nutrient deficiency include stunted growth, discolored leaves, excessive shedding of older leaves, reduced flowering, and poor flavor in vegetables. If you have observed any of these symptoms on plants in your yard soil testing can help you get to the root of the problem and tell you how to fix it.  


Simple and Free!

North Carolina is the only state to still offer soil testing as a free service to its residents. Boxes and forms for sampling are available from any Cooperative Extension office. Completed samples should be dropped off at your local Extension office to be sent to the N.C. Department of Agriculture’s soil testing lab in Raleigh.

Fall is the perfect time to soil test. Results for samples submitted now will be ready in three to four weeks, much quicker than the nine to ten weeks it often takes in the busy spring season. Collecting soil samples only takes a few minutes, can help you save money in your lawn, garden and landscape, and can result in healthier plants by telling you which nutrients are already in your soil and which ones you need to add with either natural or synthetic fertilizers.

One of the most important things the soil test measures is soil pH, or how acidic or basic your soil is. Soil pH levels in our area range anywhere from 3.5 (very acidic) to 8.0 (basic) or higher. Most plants prefer to grow in soils where the pH is 5.5 to 6.5. Soil testing is the only way to know if your soil is too acidic and if you need to add lime to raise pH. Many people apply lime unnecessarily, which can raise soil pH too high, resulting in poor plant growth.

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