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Test the dirt for better home gardens

Better yields from home gardens calls for getting the soil tested, according to Dr. Leonard Githinji, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff Extension Program horticulture specialist. In a press release, Githinji said a soil test would not only show which nutrients are needed, how much is needed and whether the soil is acidic or alkaline, but also how to correct any imbalances.

Soil testing is available through county extension offices, as well as the instructions and tools needed for a sample collection.

A representative sample needs at least 25 soil cores from each sample area; the soil cores are mixed thoroughly in a clean bucket to form what is called a composite sample. The composite sample should cover no more than 20 acres.

Place the composite sample in the soil box, include all requested details and either mail or take to your nearest county Cooperative Extension office. They will send the sample to a lab that specializes in nutrient analysis.

Githinji said soil sampling can be done at any time of year, but the ideal time is about three months before planting to give time to work the soil, adjust the soil pH and add any needed organic material.

The lab report gives recommendations for nutrients and pH correction.

For more information on soil sampling or for help understanding soil sample results, contact the Lonoke County Extension office, at the Lonoke County Agriculture Center, 2001 U.S. Highway 70 east, Lonoke; phone 501-676-3124, fax 501-676-7847.

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