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There are many tools that home gardeners use that are not much different from the farmers except for scale and cost. For example, a home gardener may till their garden site with a powered tiller that they walk behind. This machine may cost anywhere from $400 to more than a $1000. A local farmer will hitch their 200 plus horsepower tractor to a tillage implement that may have a combined cost of more of than $300,000. There is a big difference in scale between the home gardener’s machine and the farmer’s, but they achieve the same goal, tilling the land in preparation for planting. Also, there is a difference in the amount of work that can be achieved between the two machines. The home gardener may run the tiller on a few hundredths of an acre in a day and the farmer can till more than a hundred acres in the same time. But, there is one tool that both the home gardener and farmer can or do use that is quite beneficial and I’ll tell you about that in a minute.
Soil is a living, dynamic resource that supports plant life. It is made up of different size mineral particles (sand, silt, and clay), organic matter, and numerous species of living organisms. Soil has biological, chemical, and physical properties that are always changing. Both the home gardener and farmer depend on the soil to grow their crops/plants. One of the foundational practices to help insure that both the home gardener and farmer have productive plants/crops is to properly feed their plants by providing the nutrients needed. Many of those nutrients are present in the soil as organic matter (remains of living organisms) or is provided by the farmer/home gardener from various sources.
My soil science professor at North Carolina State University told us that soil had more chemical reactions taking place than a modern chemical factory. Many of these chemical reactions impact the availability of nutrients in the soil that plants/crops need.
How can the home gardener as well as the farmer know whether their plants/crops have the proper amount of nutrients? The answer is soil testing. Soil testing is a service provided to any citizen in the state by the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Services. A standard soil test provides a wealth of information including whether or not you need lime and/or various plant nutrients. If you would like to learn how to take a proper soil sample to have it tested at the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Agronomic Services lab, use the following link Taking a soil sample
NCDA&CS provides this service free of charge except during what is called “peak times”, which is December 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024. The N.C. Cooperative Extension, Pasquotank County Center (252-338-3954) has the materials needed to submit soil samples as well as other information about the service and can assist you with interpretation of the results.