Gardening in the Lehigh Valley: It's Soil Testing Time

Denise Shelton
The right soil is essential to gardening success.Photo byGabriel JimenezonUnsplash

As winter fades, Lehigh Valley residents are eager to get their gardens started. Postal carriers stuff our mailboxes with gardening product catalogs. We inventory what we've got to work with and what we'll need to buy to make our gardens thrive this year.

But as we envision a score of tidy raised beds bursting with healthy and delicious produce, smile over catalog photos of toddlers hoisting giant turnips and tomatoes, and hint to our significant others that Wellington Boots like the royals wear would make a great gift, we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the foundation of a flourishing garden is its soil.

We are more fortunate than some gardeners in other parts of the country, even though they may enjoy a longer growing season than ours. Living in a river valley has distinct advantages for farms and gardens.
Although flooding can be a problem, farmers are willing to take the risk in exchange for the rich soil to be found in river valleys.Photo byFoto PhanaticonUnsplash

River valleys like the Lehigh are often characterized by rich, fertile soil due to the deposition of sediments during flooding. Overall, the combination of sediment deposition, alluvial soil formation, water availability, and a unique microclimate can make river valleys ideal for agriculture and support diverse and productive ecosystems.
Most home gardeners include tomatoes in their planting scheme for the season.Photo byLoren BiseronUnsplash

The Lehigh Valley is known for its agricultural productivity. The region has a unique set of soil conditions that affect crop growth and productivity. Soils range from sandy loams to clay loams and from well-drained to poorly-drained soils. Soil management practices, including fertilization and soil amendment, should be tailored to the specific soil characteristics of the region to ensure optimal crop growth and productivity.
This antique redware dish was made using clay similar to that which is found in the soil of many Lehigh Valley gardens.Photo byWikimedia Commons

After reading this ringing endorsement of our region's growing conditions, you might be tempted to skip testing your soil and take your chances. Here's why you might want to reconsider. Knowing the composition of your soil before you plant can save you time, money, and aggravation.

The benefits of soil testing for home gardeners
Testing your soil before planting can help you avoid problems later on.Photo byMarkus SpiskeonUnsplash

Soil testing is essential for home gardeners as it provides valuable information about the soil's nutrient levels, pH, and other characteristics that can affect plant growth and productivity. Here are some benefits of soil testing for home gardeners:

  1. Improves plant health and productivity: Soil testing can help home gardeners identify nutrient deficiencies or imbalances in the soil that can limit plant growth and productivity.
  2. Saves money and reduces waste: Soil testing can help home gardeners avoid over-fertilization or other unnecessary soil amendments, saving money and reducing the environmental impact of excess nutrient runoff.
  3. Increases environmental sustainability: Using soil testing to optimize soil management practices, home gardeners can reduce the use of fertilizers and other soil amendments, reducing the environmental impact of their gardening practices.
  4. Improves soil quality: Soil testing can help home gardeners identify soil characteristics, such as texture, structure, and organic matter content, that can affect soil quality and health.
  5. Supports long-term gardening success: Using soil testing to optimize soil management practices, home gardeners can support long-term gardening success and sustainability, ensuring that their gardens are productive and healthy for years to come.

Overall, soil testing is important for home gardeners to optimize soil management practices, improve plant health and productivity, and support long-term gardening success and sustainability.

Resources for soil testing in the Lehigh Valley

Home gardeners have a wide variety of soil testing options. Kits are available at most home and gardening centers and online. Amazon has a wide range of soil test kits and devices, from simple to elaborate (and expensive!), but many home growers find that a simple $10 test is all they need.

Penn State Extension has compiled this list of places where you can either pick up a kit or have one mailed to you. Click here to find a convenient location.

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Easton, PA

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