Soil Testing: How to Respond if Your Soil is Not an ‘A’ Student

By on March 10, 2011

Tricia is getting ready to test her soil with the La Motte Soil Test Kit

The Envelope Please

Let’s say you’ve followed Tricia’s suggestions in our Soil Tests video, carefully collected soil samples, and sent them off for soil analysis.

The soil analysis envelope arrives in your mailbox and it’s the moment of truth. Is your soil the dirt equivalent of a genius, or does it need help?

The free booklet we provide will show you how to interpret the results of the soil analysis, and how to measure the amount of fertilizer you may need to take your soil to the head of the class.

Organic Fertilizers to Solve Soil Problems

For practical assistance in this complex area, go to our Home page and click on Fertilizers. In the left menu bar you’ll see a list of organic fertilizers, that can be sorted according to your needs.

What are those numbers on the fertilizer box?

0-10-10, for instance. The numbers represent the amounts of three macronutrients, N P and K, in a fertilizer.

Memorize these letters:

N-P-K means nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

So a zero as the first number on a fertilizer box means zero nitrogen. Here are the organic ways to add these macronutrients to your soil.

Nitrogen—for vigorous leaves

Sources: Blood Meal, Cottonseed Meal, PVFS Liquid Fish Emulsion, Fish Meal, Feather Meal, and pelleted fertilizers formulated for different kinds of plants.

Phosphorus—for flower, fruit and root development

Sources: Soft Rock Phosphate and Bone Meal.

Potassium—vigor and other essential processes

Sources: Sulfate of Potash and Greensand.

Take-Home Test

For around-the-garden information, you can use a DIY at-home test kit. The information provided by these test kits is not as detailed as the soil analysis testing, but can give you fast results when you’re in the middle of transplanting seedlings or perennials, and want quick answers.

The pH meters are handy tools for doing spot checks and keeping up with soil pH (which can change even during phases of the moon).

The more you know about your soil, the better. Don’t spend your money on fertilizers until you know exactly what you need. You may be pleasantly surprised by the test scores!

  Comments (6)


We did your soil analysis a few months ago and purchased all our fertilizers and now are hoping for stellar results!  This is a great post.  I might link to it from my blog if that is alright?  I am sending lots of people your way from the nursery I work at in Red Bluff!

Posted by Ferne Watt on Mar. 12, 2011 at 9:00:20 AM


Ferne Sure we’d be pleased to have you link to us! Thanks for your kind words and please let us know how your soil does.

Posted by Charlotte on Mar. 14, 2011 at 2:34:55 PM


I’m looking to see if I can test not only the integrity of the soil and what it’s lacking or needs more in terms of amendments, but also what kind of toxic elements could be in the soil for example lead paint etc.  will a complete soil testing kit sent to a professional lab give me that information (and peace of mind!) that my soil is clean of toxicity?

Posted by Kim Hutchinson on Apr. 15, 2013 at 12:10:23 PM

Kim, Our lab soil test gives readings on zinc, manganese, iron, copper and boron in addition to organic matter, estimated nitrogen release & nitrate nitrogen, phosphorus (weak bray & sodium bicarbonate P), extractable cations (potassium, magnesium, calcium, sodium), hydrogen, sulfate sulfur, pH & cation exchange capacity and percent cation saturation and excess lime  Many local companies process soil tests for lead. Check with your local Master Gardeners or County Extension office to find out which lead testing facility is nearby.

Posted by on Apr. 16, 2013 at 2:01:32 PM


Good day to you.  Awesome vids and well as products. Was actually wondering where you go to send off soil samples for testing? I have called around my local area and no one seems to know what I’m talking about or they don’t know where. Thank you!

Posted by SpitFire on Jan. 28, 2014 at 8:39:09 PM

Hello SpitFire,

Thank you. We actually provide soil testing. If you’re local you can bring it in to our retail store or mail it to us. Your local ag extension or master gardeners can help as well. I’m glad to hear our videos and articles are helpful to you.

Posted by on Jan. 29, 2014 at 11:52:00 AM

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