How to soil test and actually utilize the results – a challenging task

As a newer gardener, I have not previously gotten around to using soil test information. I’ve been planning an ornamental overhaul in a small area of my yard and wanted to soil test to make sure the plants added to the area had the best chance of success. The HGIC website has a lot of soil test information, but I’ve never looked at it closely myself until now. Even though our content is well-written and organized, the subject is intimidating with many choices to make, multiple steps, math homework to figure out how much fertilizer to use in your space, and as I learned, many caveats or roadblocks. I can see plenty of people just giving up and not adding any soil amendments, or just going to the hardware store and buying a bag of fertilizer and applying without thinking too much about it.

Even after reading our material thoroughly, I still needed several questions answered from our experts. I’ve got a handle on it now, for the most part. With this post, I hope to detail how I figured out what fertilizers I needed, how to apply it, and then the most important things I learned that I didn’t feel are made clear.

The goal

I’ve got this space in my backyard that wasn’t being used for much. In the summer of 2020, mid-pandemic, pre-offspring, I decided to revisit a teenage hobby of mine – remote control cars. I took a shovel and cleared out an area and built ramps and hills out of dirt, for my very-own mini-dirt track. 2 years later, my wife asks me “are you going to keep the track? It’s ugly.” So, my task is to beautify it with improved landscaping and added vegetation. We also have a bunch of hostas in our front yard garden that keep getting eaten by deer. Our backyard is smaller and enclosed, so we hope the hostas will avoid attack in their new backyard, trackside location. We are also adding other plants good for shade conditions.

The location is on a bit of an incline, with the higher elevation area being more sandy and rocky, and the bottom softer and wetter. There is an “infield” of the track that is often stood on that is grass, but has been overtaken with weeds. I am planting nice plants and shrubs around the outside, and re-seeding the infield with grass. Since I know from a lot of digging to make the track that the soil is quite different in different areas, I wanted to soil test so that I could find out what exactly I might need to do to make sure the plants have the soil they need in their different locations.

Soil test basics

If you aren’t familiar, soil testing is when you take samples of soil from an area in your yard or garden and send that off to a lab that will reply with data and recommendations for what you need to add the the soil for the crop or plants you have or will have growing in that area. You can send multiple samples (labeled) from different areas and get specific data for specific areas of your property.

Amending the soil based on these results can help your ornamental plants, lawn, and food gardens.

We have a list of 6 recommended labs that will give you soil test results. You’ll have to choose which type of tests you want. You’ll want to choose the ones labeled for homeowners. Beyond that, the test facility may ask what type of “crop” you are growing; lawn, ornamentals, trees, etc. This is nice to have because they will then send you recommendations tailored to that specific crop. My coworkers at the HGIC told me that lawn and ornamentals will have similar recommendations, so I decided to just mark all locations as “lawn” for crops.

I took samples from the high up sandy area, the infield grass area, and the wetter, lower area, and prepared to send to a lab. I labeled them A, B, and C, and took a picture of each bag in the test location so I could remember where each one was.

A location
B location
C location

I then spent $10 shipping dirt through the mail!

I got my test results

….and whewee! – it was time to dive in and figure out what to do with this information.

Results for my area “b”

There is a LOT of information presented on these results. HGIC has a great infographic explaining all parts of soil test results at this link. In your results, you’ll be presented with lists of data of how much of certain nutrients or pH levels you have, graphs of your levels, and a lot of what I think is pretty extraneous for what myself and most homeowners need. I found the boiled-down information in the “recommendations” section of my test to be what I needed to use to take action. The lab has interpreted all my levels they measured and produced a list of recommended amounts of nutrients to add that would help the basic “crops” I selected grow.

Below are my recommendations for my three locations.

A location
B location
C location

What to do with this data?

Comparing my results, it looks like all three locations can use similar levels of N, P2O5, and K20, – around 3-4 lbs per 1000 square feet of land. My A location requires 5.3 lbs of S (sulfur), additionally. All three locations suggest some low amount of Mg, but it is so low, that I am not going to take action on that. So, what are these?

Through my research on our fertilizer page, a basic thing I have learned is that :

The three numbers on fertilizer products (e.g., 3-4-3) represent the percentage, by weight, of N (nitrogen), P (phosphorus) expressed as P2O5 (phosphate), and K (potassium) expressed as K20(potash). For example, a 5 lb. bag of 10-5-5 fertilizer contains 0.5 lbs. of N, 0.25 lb. of P2O5, and 0.25 lb. of K20.

The N, P, and K numbers on the packaging refer to the percentage of each nutrient found in the bag. I’m assuming that if that does not add up to 100%, the rest is filler.

Hey – look at that: N, P, and K are right next to each other and in the same order on the results I received. So, it looks like I need to find a fertilizer product or products that will let me add roughly 3.5 lbs per 1000 square feet of each N, P, and K to all my locations.

Location A up on the hill additionally needs 5.3 lbs/1000sqft of sulfur, which I learned is an acidifier that raises soil pH.

They suggest “5D” of CaCO3, in my location B results, which confused me for a minute until I saw the note below the chart saying “lime expressed in pure CaCO3. D= Dolomitic.” However, since I know lime is used to adjust pH, and that area was listed as inside the optimal pH range, I’m not even going to bother with lime.

pH results for location B.

Shopping for fertilizer

Instead of going to the hardware store and browsing immediately since I’ve never really shopped for fertilizer, I decide to shop around online to see what types of products are generally available, what their nutrient numbers are, and do math to see what I would need.

After some confusing math and shopping, I decided to run a question by the expert consultants at the HGIC to check my work and offer advice. I had asked if a 10-10-10 product I found was right for me.

They came back with a bit of a surprise:

The N rec of 4 lbs. should be disregarded. People should always follow the UME N fertilizer guidelines for turf which comply with state law (max. 2.7 lbs. of N/1,000 sq. ft. per year and maximum 0.9 lbs. of N/1,000 sq. ft. per single application).

If P is low in the soil, it is added separately and not as part of the N fertilization that occurs mostly in fall for lawns. Using 10-10-10 could deliver the total correct amount of P & K but would add more N than is allowed by law. So, you would apply N with a separate turf fertilizer. You could reduce the N fert amount by half if the turf is well-established and you leave your clippings in place.

There are regulations in the state of Maryland about the amount of N fertilizer you can add at a time. See: MD Fertilizer law in a nutshell. Over-fertilizing is bad for the environment – excess can wash into waterways and affect wildlife. I just need to find P and K to add and I’ll leave the N alone I need a product with “0” as the first of the three numbers.

I head to the store

I find a bag that says it’s got sulfur – it’s soil acidifier. Check that one.

Soil acidifier

I find a liquid bottle of “Morbloom Concentrate” with numbers 0-10-10. Great! No nitrogen, and equal numbers P and K!

Morbloom with application instructions

But wait – I get home and start doing the math about how much of this morbloom I need, and it becomes confusing because this is a concentrate, it’s measured in ounces, not pounds, and this is a liquid.

I run this by our experts, and apparently liquids are not great for increasing P and K levels in the soil amendment like this. They are ideal for quick nutrient boosts for potted plants. The liquids absorb quickly and wash away in regular soil, so this is not a longer-term solution. I’ll be returning this to the store.

HGIC recommends to me to get specific products. It sounds like there isn’t a fertilizer product that will have the equal P and K levels I am looking for. I’ll have to buy, measure, and apply P and K separately. I am recommended to get Muriate of Potash (K) which I found at 0-0-60 levels, and after scrounging a bit, I found bone meal (N and P) at 4-12-0 levels in my garage. The bone meal has nitrogen in it, which I was somewhat avoiding, but it is at a relatively low level compared to the P, so I believe this will be fine.

Bone meal bag
Muriate of potash bag

Time for math

I’ve got my fertilizers – time to do the math to figure out how much of each to apply in my specific spaces. I know how many lbs per 1000 square feet are recommended to add from the soil test results, but I need to figure out:

  1. How many lbs of each nutrient I need for each of my specific spaces based on their area.
  2. What actual amount of the product I bought (volume or weight) do I actually need to scoop out and sprinkle around my locations, calculated based off the percentage of the nutrients listed on the bag.

First, I needed the areas in square feet of my locations. For this article, I’ll just stick with my location B to which I will be adding grass. Refer to your middle school geometry text books on calculating area. I am not going very accurate on this, so with tape measure and some rough math, I came to 50 square feet (not a large space).

My “B” space. The “infield” to my race track!

Since my recommendations are for 3.5 lbs of phosphate and 3.8 lbs of potash per 1000 square feet, I need to figure out the relative amounts of each for a my smaller 50 sqft area.

So: 50 sq. ft./1000 sq. ft. = .05 or 5%. I need 5% of 3.5 and 3.8. That is 0.175 lbs. of phosphate and 0.19 lbs. of potash.

Second, I need to figure out how much of the  bone meal (10% phosphate) and muriate of potash (60% of potash. )I need to get 0.175 lbs. and 0.19 lbs., respectively.

The N-P-K numbers represent what percentage of each nutrient the product is comprised of. So, this means that the 4-10-0 bone meal is 4% nitrogen and 10% phosphate (P2O5) and the 0-0-60 muriate of potash is 60% potash (K20) and.

So, I need to divide the amount of each nutrient I want to add to my garden by the percentage of those nutrients in the two fertilizers:

0.175 lbs. of phosphate needed divided  by the percentage of phosphate in the bone meal: 0.175 lbs. /0.10 = 1.75 lbs. of bone meal for the 50 sq. ft. area..

0.19 lbs. of potash needed divided by the percentage of potash in the muriate of potash: 0.19 lbs./0.60 = 0.31 lbs. of muriate of potash for the 50 sq. ft. area

After calculations, unfortunately the required amount of bone meal fertilizer would deliver more N (1.4 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.) than is allowable in a single application under Maryland Law,but I’ve decided to apply it anyways. This is a small area that is pretty closed off and isolated from roadways and ways for things to wash into the water supply, so I think any environmental affects will be minimized.

Mass or volume

I’ve got my amounts calculated by weight, but I wasn’t planning on taking a scale out to the garden and weighing out the correct portions. Luckily, our page has links to documents with charts showing mass and volume conversions for common fertilizers. According to this document:

  • Bone meal: 1/3 lb. = 1 cup
  • Muriate of potash: 1/2 lb. = 1 cup

So, I need

  • 5.7 cups bone meal
  • 0.58 cups muriate of potash

WHEW!

Applying the fertilizer

I’ll scoop the amount needed of each and sprinkle it as evenly as I can around the areas. Certain spots have been mulched already which isn’t ideal, but I’ll try to sweep some mulch areas away temporarily to sprinkle the fertilizers directly onto the soil, then sweep the mulch back.

If it is not forecasted to rain soon, I’ll give the areas a bit of a water to start the fertilizer dissolving and dissipating into the soil.

I needed something to scoop and measure with, though, so I grabbed a plastic solo cup. I got out a measuring cup and poured two cups of water into the solo cup which filled it to one of the rings at the top. With that in mind, I scooped 1/4 of a solo cup of murate of potash, and a bit less than 3 cups of bone meal.

Solo cup with muriate of potash.

Key takeaways from a first time fertilizing job

Certain things stuck out in my mind during this process as things I should remember moving forward:

Liquid vs solid/powder/granular fertilizers.

The liquid stuff is not the best choice for maintaining adequate nutrient levels in  your landscape!

Fudging the numbers

There’s so much room for small errors and variations throughout the process, that I don’t think absolute accuracy in deciding how much to apply is very important. I have a feeling that the fertilizer conversion to cups is more of a rule of thumb than a precise conversion. Measuring the area of your landscape is hard to do extremely accurately.

There’s got to be a lot of variability in how much product actually absorbs and stays in the soil due to the make up that soil, weather that may wash away some part of it, and more. You absolutely don’t want to throw double what is needed on your soil (in fact, there are laws about how much nitrogen you can apply to turfgrass in Maryland), but for me, I think getting in the ballpark and sometimes eyeballing it may work well enough. I’m a casual gardener trying to improve my soil, not optimize it.

Focus on recommendations from the soil test

A ton of data is presented to you in your soil test results, but all you need to take action with is what they recommend you add.

Disregard the Nitrogen (N) recommendations from the soil test

I’ve got my compost pile, and my mower mulches grass clippings and leaves that I can scoop up and apply to an area that needs it. Unless the soil test says I am very deficient, the normal, natural ways of adding compostable materials should be enough. And I can always fertilize with some nitrogen fertilizer if plant leaves are small with a  pale color.

What is soil pH and does it really matter to plants? 

Well, the short answer from a soil nerd (please note soil nerd is not the same as a soil scientist or soil chemist) is that yes it really does matter! Have you ever done the experiment with boiling red cabbage leaves and used that as a pH indicator? It’s a fun science experiment but probably wouldn’t work for determining an accurate soil pH. 

People do not always see the benefit of getting their soil tested; however, if you take a good comprehensive soil sample, the information that you get from the analysis is invaluable. Not only will the results keep you from over-applying nutrients, which has economic and environmental benefits, but also it will ensure that your plants have all that they need right at their root tips.

In my opinion, the most helpful piece of information gained from conducting a soil analysis is the soil pH. PH is a measure of hydrogen ion concentration and tells you how acidic or basic/alkaline the soil is. Most vegetable garden plants prefer a pH between 6-7; therefore, acidic soils need to be amended with calcium carbonate (limestone). Acidic soils are indicated with numbers below 6 on the pH scale which ranges from 0 to 14. Soils in the Eastern US are often acidic, but the natural pH will depend on parent material and other soil factors, such as how the soil has been managed, what plants are growing there, etc. 

It should be noted that some plants actually prefer acidic soils, such as rhododendron, azaleas, and blueberries. Also, some plant diseases, such as scab in potatoes, are worse at a higher pH. Lowering soil pH (often done by adding sulfur) can take several months and may need to be a multi-step process. It is a great idea to test garden soils in the fall, so pH-altering amendments have time to do their job. Here is a great cheat sheet to help you understand what your soil analysis results mean

Another reason that pH is important is that it helps determine the availability of soil nutrients. Soil pH is linked to Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC), which is influenced by soil particle size and the type of parent material (rock). Clay soils will have a higher CEC (sites to hold onto nutrient ions) than sandy soils. CEC will be reported on most soil analyses. If the pH is not in the correct range, then many nutrients are not available to plants, even if you have applied ample nutrients. Thus, in order for the nutrients to support plant growth, it’s important to get that pH correct! This will provide both economic and environmental savings. Check out this link for a neat chart showing nutrients available and pH

The third reason that it is important to check pH is because it can affect soil microorganisms, which are going to thrive at a near neutral level. If the pH is too high or too low you will see a decrease in the number and activity of good soil bacteria, fungus, and more that help to break down organic matter and do amazing other things in the soil profile. (For more details on this topic, download PDF – Soil Acidity Impacts Beneficial Soil Microorganisms, from Washington State University Extension.)

Common questions about soil pH

Can pH change from year to year?

Some forms of nutrients —commercial fertilizers, compost, composted animal waste (cow, horse, pig, chicken manure), organic matter, the weathering of rocks, and even rainfall can alter pH. Fertilizers, depending on the type used, will alter soil pH at different rates. Refer to this PDF – Fertilizers and Soil pH from the University of California.  

Can I use a home soil Testing kit?

I normally steer people away from these types of kits, just because there are so many inaccuracies, especially,  if the kits were not stored at the proper temperature and the directions are not followed correctly, then the results may not be 100% accurate.  

What about electronic soil testing probes?

I don’t have first-hand experience with these probes. I am sure that they do have a level of accuracy; however, I cannot justify the upfront cost. For most gardeners, soil testing every 3 years is sufficient, so in my opinion, it is easier to just collect the sample and send it to a laboratory. 

By Ashley Bodkins, Senior Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Garrett County, Maryland, edited by Christa Carignan, Coordinator, Home & Garden Information Center, University of Maryland Extension. See more posts by Ashley and Christa


This year, the University of Maryland Extension Master Gardener Grow It Eat It Program celebrates the resource that supports all life on earth – soil! Look for soil education programs offered by your local Master Gardener program, and visit the Home & Garden Information Center website for more information about soil health.

Are you looking at my soil?

soil in a raised bed

As a first-year college student studying horticulture (and later agronomy) I had no idea what I was in for when I signed up for that first Introduction to Soil Science course. Growing up, gardening and working on my family’s dairy farm, soil was something that we often talked about, mainly if it was wet or dry, rocky or smooth, and of course to stay out of the garden when it was wet; however, I really didn’t understand how important managing it was or how many different parts could be studied!

The technical definition of soil is the natural body composed of solids, liquids, gasses, and living matter that is capable of supporting plant life and has properties resulting from the five factors of soil formation. Wow! A mouthful of words, but a key point from this definition is the word NATURAL— soil is what covers the earth naturally and helps to absorb and disperse solar radiation and precipitation. It also provides an anchor for plant life. With harsh treatment, this living portion can be damaged and thus can take many years to build back. It is important to know too that healthy soils help to mitigate climate change as they store a huge amount of carbon in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2) and organic matter.

Continue reading

Seed starting and soil testing: a Master Gardener outlines his spring gardening progress

In mid-February, I started my Gypsy, Monty, and Green Magic broccoli, Snow Crown cauliflower, Lacinato kale, several types of lettuce, and some Big Blue salvia.

Italian flat-leaf parsley was started in mid-January. Most of these transplants will be planted in the garden or containers in the first week of April after hardening off for at least a week in my cold frame. My pre-sprouted snap peas will be planted in late March. Planting dates for central Maryland can be found here on the Home and Garden Information Center website.

Kent's seedlings

In early March, I will be making a trip into Baltimore to get some other seeds for Sugar Ann snap peas, Jade string beans, and a couple of other things. In late March, I will be planting some seed potatoes in containers, just to see what the yield is. On March 27th, seven to eight weeks before the spring plant out date of mid-May, I will be planting Galine eggplant and several different types of peppers.

In previous years, I’ve planted tomatoes six weeks prior to my plant out date, but they have been leggy. This year, I’m planting them on April 10 for planting in the garden and containers on May 15.

My latest soil test, done in May of 2019, says to incorporate one pound of nitrogen (N) per 1,000 square feet. Only N is required since the beds contain the optimum amount of phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) and are at the correct pH.

To determine what fertilizer needs to be added to my beds which are 32 or 40 square feet, I will have to convert this recommendation to determine the amount of urea (46-0-0) to apply to my beds. This is fairly simple to do, using the following equation. Amount of N/.46 (% of N in urea) x beds size/1000 square feet. This yields the following: 2.17 pounds of urea x 0.032 for a 32 square foot bed equals .069 pounds of urea or 1.1 ounces. I guess I’ll have to get out my kitchen scale.

Alternatively, the University of Delaware suggested 2.5 pounds per 1000 square feet or 2.5 x .032 = 1.28 ounces of urea. This calculation works for almost all recommendations from soil test labs. However, if in doubt, you can always Ask a Gardening Expert at HGIC.

By Kent Phillips, University of Maryland Extension, Howard County Master Gardener

Building healthy soil is the key to healthy plants

Healthy soil grows healthy plants.  If you want a vigorous, productive garden, protect and improve your soil.

Soil is made up of minerals, air, water, and organic matter.  This skin of the Earth anchors and grows our food, filters our water, and recycles vital nutrients like carbon.

How do you build healthier soil?  You feed it.

Compost, chipped leaves, untreated grass clippings, and other organic amendments can be turned in or used as mulch.  Cover crops can be planted in the fall and turned into the soil in spring.

This organic matter lightens heavy clay soils.  It improves soil structure.  It helps the soil hold water and nutrients.  It helps to suppress disease and feeds beneficial soil organisms.

Yes, soil is alive.  An intricate community of microbes, fungi, beneficial insects, worms and more lives beneath your feet. Keeping this gang happy helps your plants growing their best.

That’s why we discourage tilling.  When you till, you disturb the soil community, literally turning their world upside down.  You also damage soil structure and bring weed seeds to the surface.

So till less or not at all.  Instead, use a garden fork or broadfork to gently loosen soil, if needed. Broadforks are simply wide forks you rock to aerate soil.

Seedlings in soil

How else can you improve your soil?  Get a soil test.  For $10 to $15 you can find out just what fertilizer your soil needs – and doesn’t need.

Soil tests can save you time and money and keep excess fertilizers out of our waterways.

Getting a soil test is easy.  Download everything you need at the Home & Garden Information Center website.

Next, go deep.  Scoop a few soil samples in your garden, going at least 6 inches down.  Mix the sample and let it dry.  Scoop a cup or two into the bag, box it up, and mail it to a lab.

You’ll have your results in a week or two.  The test will tell you your soil’s pH, nutrient levels, and percent of organic matter.  You’ll also get specific fertilizer recommendations for what you’re growing.

You can also help keep soil healthy by not walking on it, especially when it’s wet.  That causes compaction.  Air, water, nutrients, and roots have a tough time moving through dense soil.

Instead, create paths or strategically place stepping stones so you can walk between rows of plants.

I know you’re eager to garden, but don’t work wet soil.  This also causes compaction.

To test if your soil is dry enough to work, grab a handful of and squeeze it into a ball.  Now, bounce it gently.  If it stays intact, your soil is too wet to work.  If it crumbles it’s ready.

And never, ever till wet soil.  That wrecks its structure and the soil community.  Think Armageddon.

Great gardens grow from the bottom up.  Protect and improve your soil to ensure it rewards you with year after year of productive plantings.

Photo of ornamental garden
Well-tended soil yields beautiful results such as the flowers at the Washington County Master Gardeners’ Boonsboro Library garden.

By Annette Cormany, Principal Agent Associate and Master Gardener Coordinator, Washington County, University of Maryland Extension. This article was previously published by Herald-Mail Media. Read more by Annette.

The Garden Hoes Podcast Episode 06 Part 2 – Gardening with Children

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If you’re teleworking like we are, keeping the little ones entertained while getting everything checked off on your weekly “to do” list can seem impossible. In this special edition, we explore all the fun ways you can include your little ones in your gardening activities.

For parents struggling to find engaging ways to keep children busy and entertained gardening is a great activity to introduce to your kids while you are home. Gardening does not require advanced skill, the perfect raised bed, or a sprawling backyard. Gardening with kids can be as simple as planting seeds in a container (or starting seeds inside) or by reading them a garden-themed children’s book. There countless garden-themed children’s books that work for children of all ages. We discussed some of our all-time favorite books and fun activities to go along with them. The wonder of planting a garden and watching it grow can spark endless questions from your kids. Questions like: Why do plants need the sun to grow? Why are worms in the garden? How do plants “drink” water? Before you know it, you will be talking about soil, compost, and photosynthesis!

We also discussed the Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) and its invasive tendencies. You will hear the name Callery and Bradford used interchangeably, however, ‘Bradford’ was the name of the first cultivar of Callery pear but is often used to refer to the species. Many beautiful native alternatives benefit our birds and butterflies. Visit the UME-Home and Garden Information Center if you would like more information about the Bradford Pear. For more information about Maryland Invasive Plants Prevention and Control visit the Maryland Department of Agriculture.

Children’s Gardening Books:

  • The Bad Seed, by Jory John
  • Monsters don’t eat broccoli by Barbara Jean Hick
  • Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens
  • From Seed to Plant by Gail Gibbons 
  • Up Down & Around by Katherine Ayres
  • I will never not ever eat a tomato by Lauren Child
  • Wiggly Worms at Work by Wendy Pfeffer
  • Velma Gratch and the way cool butterfly by Alan Madison and Kevin Hawkes
  • Gardening With Children, Brooklyn Botanic Garden Guide (for activities)
  • Tree, by Britta Teckentrup (a Fletcher favorite)

Gardening with Kids

The Garden in a Glove activity can be found here. 

 

Callery Pear: (~21:15)
Native Plant of the Month: “Pinxterbloom Azalea”, or Rhododendron periclymenoides (~25:45)
Bug of the Month: Eastern tent caterpillars (~29:45)

If you have a garden question or topic you like us to talk about you can email us at Gardenhoespodcast@gmail.com

For more information about University of Maryland Extension and these topics, please check out the Home and Garden Information Center website at https://extension.umd.edu/hgic

The Garden Hoes Podcast is brought to you by the University of Maryland Extension. Mikaela Boley- Senior Agent Assoc. (Talbot Co.) for Horticulture, Rachel Rhodes- Agent Assoc. for Horticulture (QA Co), and Emily Zobel- Agriculture Agent (Dorchester Co.).

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The Garden Hoes Podcast Episode 06 PART 1 – Soil Health and planting trees

Garden Hoes Episode 6Listen to this episode

Hello Listener,

We hope you and your family are safe during this difficult time. Our April episode ended up being rather lengthy, so we decided to turn it into two episodes. So this month you will get twice the Garden Hoes.

In this episode, we welcomed special guest Dr. Nicole Fiorellino, to give us the “dirt” on soil. Dr. Fiorellino is an Assistant Professor and Extension Specialist in Agronomy with the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland College Park. Did you know that different regions around the United States use different methods to analyze soil, or that there is a right and wrong way to collect a soil sample? Dr. Fiorellino walks us through the best ways to get the most out of soil. While you are at it, check out this great video featuring Dr. Fiorellino as she shows you how to collect a soil sample. The University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center also has a great page on soil testing.

We also discussed the “how to’s” on planting trees, shrubs, and perennials. The things you should do before planting, like calling Miss Utility (1-800-257-7777), to check for hidden utilities. We also touched on things that you should look for when picking out plants at a nursery, like how to pick out healthy plants and how to avoid impulse buys.

Example of correctly mulched tree
Example of correctly mulched tree

Did you know there’s a method for planting trees and shrubs? How you dig a hole for your trees and shrubs can greatly impact their survival. Other than digging the proper hole, watering is just as important. One of the most important things to remember is to water plants in the morning. If you water during the heat of the day increases the amount of water last to evaporation by as much as 40%.

Tips and advice for planting trees and shrubs (30:00)
Tip of the Month (45:00)

**NOTE** Native Plant of the month and bug of the month will be in a second episode coming out later this month, along with some tips for gardening with children.

If you have a garden question or topic, you would like us to talk about you can email us at Gardenhoespodcast@gmail.com

For more information about University of Maryland Extension and these topics, please check out the Home and Garden Information Center website at https://extension.umd.edu/hgic

The Garden Hoes Podcast is brought to you by the University of Maryland Extension. Mikaela Boley- Senior Agent Assoc. (Talbot Co.) for Horticulture, Rachel Rhodes- Agent Assoc. for Horticulture (QA Co), and Emily Zobel- Agriculture Agent (Dorchester Co.).

Listen to this episode
Find all The Garden Hoes episodes