Testing your soil is the first step in ensuring your lawn or garden has all the necessary nutrients needed to be beautiful and bountiful. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension makes this testing process quick and easy by offering new soil test kits through the MSU Extension Bookstore starting June 1.
"Currently soil testing is not used to the extent it should be by homeowners and gardeners because many people don't think about it, or they think it's easier to just grab a product off the shelf," says MSU Extension turf specialist Kevin Frank. "Soil testing is important, though, because not only will it let you know what nutrients you might need to apply, but if you don't need to apply anything you can save money and time."
While MSU Extension has offered soil-testing services for many years, the process has been somewhat time consuming, consisting of multiple trips to and from the county MSU Extension office. With the new soil kits, however, the process is streamlined so homeowners can get results quickly and be on their way to a productive lawn or garden. The kits include a soil bag, mail-in envelope, directions for taking soil samples and information about what your results tell you.
"One of the most unique parts of this kit is that your results will be emailed directly to you," Frank explains. "From there, your results will be linked to a website that gives you products you may want to use and application rates."
The new kit is the first effort of its kind for MSU Extension and is presently available for soil testing lawns or vegetable gardens. Testing for other garden plants will be added in the next year. Farmers who want to test their fields or homeowners who want to test soils before they plant trees or shrubs will need to continue using the standard method. Planning is underway to expand the options for the self-mailed kit in the future.
The availability of easy-to-use soil test kits will become increasingly important for homeowners in the future. Starting in January, a new Michigan law will go into effect that prevents anyone from applying phosphorus to lawns without a soil test recommendation.
"Testing helps our environment by letting us know what the soil needs. This protects our water supply by reducing the chance of over-applying nutrients," Frank said.
The kits will be available on the MSU Extension Bookstore website June 1 for $20 plus tax. Once soil samples are mailed to and tested by the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab, results will be emailed along with recommendations for product application. Homeowners who have questions after receiving their results and visiting the website should contact their county MSU Extension office or an MSU Extension educator who serves their area.