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Getting to Know Your Soil

Your soil results are in - now what?

Most of us aren't soil scientists. When we see technical terms and symbols, we begin to glaze over and reach for the fertilizer bag - at a very high cost to our streams, the Bay and local taxes. Having a garden coach who understands your way of gardening, budget and proper equipment constraints is important. You and your horticulturalist, designer, landscaper, nutrient management planner and local extension agent have the results. They can now help interpret the analysis and further advise you on your next steps.

Your coach can help you identify and obtain the right amendments for your soil. Buy and use only what what you need. Do NOT stockpile - even if it's on sale!

Definitely use your own compost. One of my clients told me he rakes and bags 200 bags of leaves from his yard every fall! Those leaves are collected by the city and professionally composted. He mows some leaves with grass clippings, composts them together and uses. He also buys back the professionally made compost from - you guessed it! - his and his neighborhood's leaves. If you don't compost, buy it only from reputable suppliers who have consistent quality control practices, meet best practices and standards, and haven't had problems with newer herbicides that persist in hay, animal digestive tracts and the composting process.

As far as application goes, are you smarter than a fifth-grader? Studies have shown most of us in our region overapply fertilizers because we don't correctly calculate the area/square footage nor the application rate. And there's the philosphy, "If a little is good, a lot must be better" - a watershed killer. Knowing what you don't know is the first sign of wisdom.

Seek help from your garden coach or extension agent. Support inclusion of these math basics and good stewardship practices in our state's Standards of Learning. Kids may even enjoy knowing they can use all this math stuff to help protect soils, waterways, plants, animals and fish!

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