02 March 2011

Soil Test Results

My inner nerd loves to pore over the soil test results. Most farms do not test every year, but we like to keep a very close eye on things. Yearly soil tests mean we never guess at how much lime to apply or exactly which nutrients are needed. Our fertilizer is custom blended - and certified organic - by Countryside Naturals in Waynesboro,Virginia.

Marking the boundaries
Soil testing begins with a walk of the field and a look at our production figures from the previous year. Although everything is grown in one field, the soil and output varies. The southwest corner is sandier and slopes to the west. The northeast corner has been under production for longer - we put our first raised beds here - and as such it has been amended more and usually tests better than other parts of the field. That's right, we test different parts of the field separately.

Hole already filled in!
Once we have decided the boundaries of each testing area, Karl digs a series of holes in a random pattern across the area. He then takes a slice of soil from the side of each hole and mixes those slices together in a clean bucket. A couple of scoops of soil are then taken from the bucket and sent to the lab. Here's where I give a shout out to A&L Eastern Labs in Richmond, Virginia - fantastic job as always and so fast!
Collecting the bagged samples

The next step for us is sending the results to Kevin at Countryside so he can mix individual fertilizers for each of our tested areas. Then comes the road trip fun part - you have not lived until you have met up with a fertilizer delivery truck in a gas station parking lot! Dan from Countryside drives about in his truck and meets up with customers in different parking lots to save us all the drive down to Waynesboro. Unfortunately our usual meet is on the first Thursday of the month at Haymarket, but we needed to place our order a few days in advance - a deadline we obviously missed. Our next chance to meet with Dan is at Warrenton on the 4th Thursday.