Master gardeners to offer soil testing

WESTFIELD-Area residents seeking the “best garden ever” are invited to bring soil samples for testing on Sept. 21 to the Westfield Farmers’ Market.
“Plan to have the best garden ever,” said Deborah Randzio, market manager, noting that a $1 donation is requested for the testing which will be conducted by members of the Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Association (WMMGA) from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. on the grounds of the Episcopal Church of the Atonement on Court Street.
The WMMGA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the educational mission of promoting good and sustainable gardening practices. Members are all volunteers who have graduated from an academic training class and have completed service hours working with the public to advance the group’s mission.
“Fall is the best time to test your soil for its pH,” said Randzio. “When lime is applied now it will have the winter months to work into your soil and be immediately available for your spring growing plants.”
Randzio said the sample process is “easy,” and encourages individuals to collect separate samples from one’s lawn, vegetable garden, perennial flower garden, or under trees and shrubs.
“With a trowel remove a plug of soil from the surface down to the proper depth,” said Randzio, adding that sample depths are three to four inches for a lawn, six to eight inches for a flower or vegetable garden, and 10 to 12 inches for trees or shrubs.
“Collect from several spots in your sampling area,” she said. “If the area is small, collect four to six samples, for larger areas, collect eight to 12 samples.”
Randzio said the next step in the process is to place the soil into a bucket and mix it together.
“Remove twigs and other coarse materials, and sift with a sieve if you can,” she said, adding, “place about one cup into a zip lock bag.”
Randzio noted that if the soil is damp, leave the bag open to let it dry out and then close it on Sept. 21 prior to testing.
“Label each sample bag with its type – vegetable, lawn, perennial, and the approximate size of the area,” said Randzio.
Master gardeners will test the pH and explain how much lime may be needed to apply to each area.
“Master gardeners will also be able to answer all your soil questions and any other gardening questions you have,” said Randzio.
For anyone needing a complete analysis, soil can be sent to the Mass Soil Testing Laboratory for a fee. For more details, visit http://soiltest.umass.edu.
For more information on the WMMGA and additional soil testing events, visit http://wmmga.org.

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