The state extension office where I'm at does free soil testing and that's been my method in the past but I was wondering if anyone has ever used one of the hand held testers? And whether they're any good? I've seen some on amazon.com for as little as $30-$40. I was thinking it'd be nice to have the instant results rather than wait on the results from the state.
I have considered buying a soil test kit since I send in soil samples every year for testing. The problem with all the small test kits, is that they only test for pH, Nitrogen, Phosphorus and K, Potash. They do not test for calcium, which is a key nutrient for ginseng.
To get a kit that would include the test for calcium, costs around $350 on up. Unless there is some cheaper way to test for calcium levels alone, its just not worth the bother for a test that is incomplete.
perhaps there is someone on here that knows how to do a cheap test for calcium.
It cost me $12 for each soil sample I send in to the University of Maine. But is a very complete and accurate soil test.
Here in Middle TN it cost 7.00 for a soil test (the basic test) which is done by the University of Tennessee Extension Office and includes water PH, Buffer Value P K Ca and Mg levels and then their recommendations for N P K and Limestone (based on crop codes specified and ginseng is one of the available crop codes).
Best I remember I got my results in about 3 weeks.
You can pay more for an advanced test if you needed to know more than that.
I looked around online for a test kit that included the Ca test, had good reviews and a decent price but had no luck with that.
I would not mind at all doing my own test if I could find a decent kit, especially one that did the accurate Ca level test.
You can get PH meters that work fairly well. I have had one of those for years and it showed my ginseng seed producing bed at 5.7 on PH, and my soil test from that same hollow came back at 5.7 too.
For ginseng growing purposes if you had a PH tester, and a kit that would test for Ca levels - think that is about all you would really need.
If anyone knows of such a Ca level test kit - let me know - I would sure be interested in on of those too.
It is important to get soil tests before adding gypsum. Don't add gypsum without knowing what your clacium level is.
In Scott persons book, he says:
\"Take an annual soil sample in late winter. Whenever calcium is less than 2000 ppa, top dress your wild simulated site with 50 pounds of gypsum per 1000 sq ft of planted area just before the plants begin their season's growth in the spring. If Ca is 2000 pounds or higher, do not add gypsum , unless either your plants are not growing vigorously or you see evidence of disease in your planting.\"
I started using gypsum five years ago to raise calcium levels when they were below 2000 ppa. After a fall and spring application on each site, the clacium levels have stayed up above 2000 ppa. my sites range from 2200-3800 ppa and have not needed to add any more to the established beds. So I only add gypsum to new beds if soil test show low calcium. And do tests on established areas each year. So far the calcium levels seem to be staying good in planted beds(1-5 yr olds). Two applications of gypsum should be enough to get calcium levels were they should be.
Each year(usually late summer) I take one sample from each general area of established beds. I'm most interested to find out If it's calcium levels have dropped and should they be treated with more gypsum. 3-4 seperate samples to send in for testing. This is for about 50,000 roots.
I also take samples from all areas to be planted with seeds the following Fall to find out how much gypsum to add. My ph has always been good, so the big concern is the calcium levels.