The Small Space Garden grows fruit and vegetables in two raised beds, in containers, up trellises, and intermixed with the ornamental plants in the beds. Soil tests are an important part of garden planning and planting. The Extension Master Gardeners test the soil in the Small Space Garden to assess the need for fertilizers, lime, or other amendments. Soil tests indicate available nutrients and pH. When soils test low or medium for nutrients, plants will usually do better with added fertilizer. When soils test high or very high, fertilizer is not needed. Too much fertilizer can actually interfere with plant health. If the pH needs to be adjusted for the plants to be grown, the test results and recommendations will indicate that.
Virginia Tech recommends testing soil every 2-3 years. Soil test boxes, instructions, and forms are available for free at the Small Space Garden and at the Virginia Cooperative Extension Office at the Fairlington Community Center (3308 S. Stafford St., Arlington). Forms and more information are available online from Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech charges a fee for testing. Routine soil tests are $10 for state residents. Soluble salts and organic matter tests are available for small additional fees. Proper collecting technique is important, but it’s not hard – Extension Agent Kirsten Conrad shows how to do it in this video.