Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Well, I was wrong

Earlier I posted "Who needs a soil test when you have sheep sorrel?" I had just spread 16 million yards of leaf compost (at least that's how my arms felt) and the sheep sorrel was popping up everywhere.

Tukey's voice in my head: "read your weeds." Sheep sorrel is acid-loving, an indication your pH is low. It dovetailed with my preconceived notions about my soil, reinforcing the tale I'd heard from friend after friend after neighbor for years: in south Jersey, he soil's so acidic, you can't overlime.

We were all wrong. Tukey's voice again: "get the soil test."

Went down to my county Extension Service and picked up my $20 dirt bag. Seriously, it's a little canvas bag you stuff with soil and send off to Rutgers University for testing. And you don't even need a box - the Post Office sends it as is. Pretty cool.

About two weeks later, the test results arrived. And these words jumped out at me:
pH: 7.45 Very slightly alkaline, indicative of overliming.
Yikes! Here I was liming spring and fall – heeding the conventional wisdom – and I actually pushed the pH high.

The problem: high pH limits the availability of key minerals, including copper, manganese and boron. The good news – the report recommends "Amendment with organic matter is the best long-term solution ..." Bingo. That would be ... compost tea. The problem will take care of itself with time. And there's a bright side. I can skip the fall liming which will satisfy my lazy side.

Lesson: get the soil test. It might surprise you.

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