Test your soil now to assess your fertilizer needs
During the upcoming growing season you may need to fertilize your lawn or garden. You will probably want to add Nitrogen in some form on a consistent basis since it does not stay in the soil long. If you add Nitrogen in an organic form it will be slow-release so you don’t need to worry about adding too much. If adding Nitrogen in chemical form it is important to get the timing and amount correct. For all the other soil nutrients you should get a soil test to make sure there really is need – there is no point in spending time and money to apply something you already have. A soil test is also important to find out the PH – it needs to be in the right range for what you are trying to grow. Even if the nutrients are present, if the PH is not right the plants won’t be able to make use of them.
Here is how to prepare a soil sample. Go to 10 to 15 places in your yard or garden and dig up consistently sized samples from the surface to six inches down. Collect the samples in a clean plastic bucket. Spread them out to air dry then mix together thoroughly. If you have distinct areas such as a lawn vs planting beds, prepare a separate sample for each area. You might want to do separate tests for the front or back yard, or sunny vs. shady areas also. Put one pint of each sample mixture into a clean plastic bag, label it with your name, address and sample location, and take it to a lab.
For information about the University of Missouri Extension testing service, see their web site. This web page on the Missouri Botanical Garden web site will tell you how to utilize your test results after you get them.