My Home Soil Test Kit Revealed The Following - Can You Help?

by Donna
(United States)

I read and re-read the free compost ebooks and although they're very informative, I still have lots of questions. HELP please.


I have approx. 1,400 sq. ft. of veggie and garden space. Did a soil test using Burpee's 4 test kit. Took soil from 5 different areas in garden. The results floored me - PH was a little high but not bad. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK) was almost zero - very low.

With planting season just weeks away, I'm really worried. How do I amend my soil right now? I need a quick fix. I plan on putting compost down over the weekend 3"- 4" over all areas. Should I rototill the compost into my existing soil, or leave as top dressing?

I have also been told to add sulphur and 10-10-10. This this right or wrong? If right, how much should I add?

I just bought a pint of nematodes. They arrived yesterday taped to the inside of box and when I pulled off the tape, I accidentally damaged the instructions. So how do I use/apply them to my garden? And how soon?

When I mow my lawn, should I be putting all that grass (3/4 acres worth) in my garden right away?

I also have a worm farm down the road from me. Should I buy worms for compost and garden areas?

I have a compost barrel, but plan on starting a bigger area outback. I have written down all the ingredients for compost tea. If I go to the store and ask for all of the ingredients, are they going to know what I want? For instance, endomycorrhizal fungi spores, liquid kelp, calcium, humic/fulvic acid, fish hydrolysate, and unsulphured molasses.

Thanks for taking the time to respond to my questions. :)

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Feb 19, 2012
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I'm not a fan of home soil test kits - Part 1 of 2
by: Compost Junkie Dave

Hi Donna,

I've copied and pasted your original questions below (in italics) and interspersed my replies.




I have approx. 1,400 sq. ft. of veggie and garden space. Did a soil test using Burpee's 4 test kit. Took soil from 5 different areas in garden. The results floored me - PH was a little high but not bad. Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium (NPK) was almost zero - very low.

I do not recommend you use these home soil testing kits. They are typically inaccurate and don't give you the details you really need out of a soil test (i.e. Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), Organic Matter (OM), Base saturation - Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Sodium, etc.).

Please consider taking a new soil test and sending it to Logan Labs. The basic soil test from Logan will provide you with a great deal of useful info. Take samples from several different locations in your garden (4-6" deep), mix the samples together, let it dry out, and then send it to Logan. Use the information on their "sampling page" for more details. When done, send me the results and we'll go through them together.

By the way Tribe, I'm currently working on a deal with Logan that will allow all Compost Junkie members a discount off their soil/compost testing. More to come...

How do I amend my soil right now? I need a quick fix.

Quick fixes don't exist in nature, nor do they exist in successful veggie gardening. Instead of panicking and thinking "quick fix", work towards building soil fertility slowly. Focus on the Golden Triangle of Soil Health - microbes, organic matter, and nutrients.

I plan on putting compost down over the weekend 3"- 4" over all areas. Should I rototill the compost into my existing soil, or leave as top dressing?

I'm not a big fan of rototillers, they destroy your microorganisms. Instead, apply it as a topdressing then scratch it into the first couple inches of your beds.

I have also been told to add sulphur and 10-10-10. This this right or wrong? If right, how much should I add?

This is your call, but I personally don't like to add a bunch of nutrients to my soil unless I know my soil needs it. The only way I know if it needs it is based on a quality soil test (e.g. Logan Labs test).

my reply continues below...

Feb 19, 2012
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I'm not a fan of home soil test kits - Part 2 of 2
by: Compost Junkie Dave

...continued from above

How do I use/apply nematodes to my garden? And how soon?

You're going to want to use a hose-end sprayer attachment and water them into your soils. I have mixed feelings about this practice. But if you've already bought them, you might as well use them.

Re how soon, where do you live? What are your average temps these days?

When I mow my lawn, should I be putting all that grass (3/4 acres worth) in my garden right away?

That's one option - use it as a mulch. However, I'd suggest using it as a compost ingredient.

Should I buy worms for my compost and garden areas?

Do you already have lots of worms in your soils? If so, I wouldn't worry about it. If not, it can be very helpful in building soil fertility and helping breakdown your compost.

I have written down all the ingredients for compost tea. If I go to the store and ask for all of the ingredients, are they going to know what I want?

More than likely the answer is no. You're better off purchasing these ingredients from an online retailer.

Note - As of yesterday, I am no longer going to recommend adding humic acids to compost teas. I don't want to go into details here, so stay tuned to our compost tea recipes page for updates.

Hope this helps Donna. Please let me know if you have any other questions. Also, if other members have something to add, please do so.

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