Monday, March 30, 2009

Creating a Food Plot Start to Finish: Soil Testing

Creating a Food Plot Start to Finish
Soil Testing

I plan to do a weekly post mapping the how to's on creating the ideal Whitetail food plot. Each post will consist of a basic step which will eventually lead to a complete series of steps to creating the ideal food plot that Whitetail Deer will not be able to resist.

I begin my series of posts with Soil Testing. I am not an expert in soils, so when I began creating food plots I used the experts from universities and geological partners to help me understand the purpose and science from soil testing. I will gladly share what I found and give you the sources to do the research yourself.

What is a soil test?

The best answer I could find was on the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. "A soil test is a process by which elements (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper and zinc) are chemically removed from the soil and measured for their "plant available" content within the sample. The quantity of available nutrients in the sample determines the amount of fertilizer that is recommended. A soil test also measures soil pH, humic matter and exchangeable acidity. These analyses indicate whether lime is needed and, if so, how much to apply."

So I dissected out the parts to help us get through the soil testing that I used to help me start my food plot.

Basic Soil Testing Procedure

To obtain a good soil sample make sure the sample is characteristic of your yard or field. This requires taking a minimum of 5 core soil samples for an area and mixing them together to form a composite.

If the soil is different in your garden or lawn or fields, then a different composite soil sample should be taken for each area. Soil samples may be taken at any time of the year. However, if you want to plan for the next year's growing season, then fall is best. Fall testing will allow you to take advantage of "end of the year" sales, as well as plan for the upcoming spring.

Fill out the soil information sheet from your County Extension. The form may be picked up and filled out at home, or in the Extension Office when you actually bring in the soil samples.
Use a garden trowel, spade, sampling probe or auger to take core samples. (Most County Extension Offices have sampling probes and augers available for loan.)

Scrape away the surface duff/litter and insert the probe or auger into the soil to plow depth or at least 6 inches.

Take 5 (minimum) core samples for every 5 acre section. A popular sampling pattern is in the shape of a "W" where you would take a sample at each point.

Mix the core soil samples in a clean container and place about 2 cups (1 pint) into a plastic bag.
Label the bag with your name, field/site location, and sample number.

Record the field/site and sample location on a sketch. Keep this for reference.

Take the soil samples and information sheet to your County Extension Office or send the soil samples directly to a soil testing laboratory. For example: The cost for a soil test through the Portage County Extension Office is $15 for garden and turf, and $6.50 for field crops.

The next post will be what to do when you get the results of your soil test.


North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Soil Testing: Why and How to Do It &What Does It All Mean?

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