There are a few things to think about before getting started with soil tests, but don’t worry, we’ve laid them out in this handy step by step guide. It will take you no time at all to get ready!
1. Decide which fields to test
How many fields do you want to test? Which fields do you want to understand better? Is the soil type consistent across the fields you want to test? It’s not necessary to test all your fields, but depending on what you want to learn we can help you choose. Find more info on how to decide here.
2. Which soil tests should I do?
The type of farm and management goals determine which tests are relevant, there’s a wide variety and it’s not necessary to do all of them! For those not sure where to start try out these five tests which we’ve found are the most useful for all different types of farms.
3. When and how often to do the tests
There are different rhythms and frequencies you can try. The basic setup is to do all chosen tests in each field on 1 day in Spring or Autumn, so just once a year. The better setup is to do the tests twice a year, on 1 day in Spring and 1 day in Autumn and repeat annually. The best setup is more complex, read about it here and see the seasonal calendar if you want to mix and match for yourself.
4. Where on the field to do the tests
We recommend 3 sample sites in each field, although you may want to do more if you have more time or very large fields! To choose 3 sample sites we recommend finding a ‘best spot’, ‘worst spot’ and ‘average spot’ in each field you’re testing. You can return to the same spots over time using GPS in the Soilmentor app. Some tests (such as plate metering) require more random sampling. For these tests you can do a ‘W’ shaped walk through your field and add your recordings under a sample to be named ‘W Walk’ in your app. More info here.
5. Gather your soil test kit
Everything needed to do most tests should be available at home, but set aside some time to get it all together. Find a full kit list here. At the very least you need a smartphone with the Soilmentor app and a spade. Dog is optional!
6. Soilmentor account
There’s a quick bit of setting up to do on computer and smartphone before getting outside. Firstly you can use a computer (or tablet) to create a Soilmentor account and set up the fields to monitor, or create them directly in the field on your phone app. Download the app in preparation for getting outside and logging test results. If you’ve signed up for Soilmentor already, look out for an email with more instructions!
7. Let us know how you get on!
We’d love to hear how you get on with soil testing! Let us know on Twitter, Instagram, or send us an email! If you’d like more information about signing up to Soilmentor, please don’t hesitate get in touch with us – firstname.lastname@example.org.