Getting a detailed report
For each soil sample submitted along with the correct form and $3, a home gardener will get a one-page report from the soil testing lab at Mississippi State University.
The report tells the soil’s pH (acidity or alkalinity), total soluble salts and levels of phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, zinc and calcium. The sheet also tells whether these levels are considered low or high.
A summary statement will reveal whether the soil is alkaline, neutral or acid, and it will tell if any lime is recommended for the crop. Directions will explain how and when to apply lime. Fertilizer recommendations are given per 1,000 square feet. Substitutions can be made, and the gardener is advised to call his county agent for advice on this. (The county agent’s telephone number and name is listed on the report.)
Example: One sample statement for a Nettleton home vegetable garden said the soil pH was 5.9, or acid. The MCES does not recommend lime in such cases. Total soluble salts were 0.3 (low). Phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and zinc were all present in high or very high levels.
The fertilizer recommendations were three pounds of 34-0-0 fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) per 1,000 square feet for pre-planting, plus another three pounds of the same fertilizer in a side-dress application four to six weeks after planting. (Apply side dressing in a band 4-6 inches from the base of the plants. The side-dress application works out to 1 pound of ammonium nitrate per 100 feet of row.) Gardeners are advised not to get fertilizer on the foliage.
Other services: Lee County Agent Jackie L. Courson said MSU also offers other free services to help gardeners. These include testing of samples for nematodes (parasitic worms) and testing of plant tissue to discover what problem or disease is causing a sick plant’s symptoms. For details, contact your county agent.