Soil tests alert you to possible contaminants in your yard or plot, such as lead or heavy metals, and are therefore a critical first step before planting in order to make sure it's safe to grow food there. Soil tests also tell you about the nutritional balance and acidity of your soil, which can be useful in deciding what plants will do well in your garden (e.g., blueberries like soils with a low pH) or what sort of amendments you'll need to add to change the composition of your soil.
Watch our slideshow below to learn how to conduct your own simple test using basic items. We recommend sending the sample to the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMASS) Soil Testing Laboratory and selecting option C, Standard Soil Test with Organic Matter, which costs $15. Click here to download the brochure.
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