How to get soil tested in Vancouver?

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by missbrown, Feb 13, 2003.

  1. missbrown

    missbrown Member

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    Hi all! I'm new to gardening. My yard is new to gardening as well -- mostly just grass and a few big cedar trees, and the soil seems very sandy with a lot of rocks in it. I would like to prepare some new beds. All the gardening books seem to recommend testing the soil before doing anything. Does anyone know of any Vancouver companies/labs that offer soil testing services specifically for gardeners? Any other suggestions regarding soil prep?

    Thanks,
    Miss Brown
     
  2. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    I don't want to discourage you from getting your soil tested if you really want to, but...

    In general, upland soils in the Vancouver area are typically acidic, shallow and nutrient poor. In many cases, they are composed of sand and gravel layers (the result of receding glaciers 10,000 years ago) and a thin covering of organic material that is mixed to some extent with the underlying material. Amending typical Vancouver soils so that ornamentals thrive, means adding organic matter (partially rotted leaves, etc.); for vegetables, lime is added to reduce acidity, and higher quality decomposed organic matter (such as composted kitchen waste) is needed for good results.

    Soils derived from lake or river sediments (e.g., Richmond and some of the flatter parts of the Lower Mainland) tend to be deeper, finer textured (more silt and clay) and more fertile.

    If the soil in your yard is native, undisturbed soil (i.e., not subsoil left after the organic layers have been stripped off, which is typical on newer construction sites), or composed of manufactured "soil," the addition of well-rotted organic matter is probably all you would need to give ornamentals a good start.

    If you are dealing with subsoil, you will need to work the soil to a greater degree to get plants to grow. This usually entails the regular application of organic materials over a longer period, which is necessary to bring the soil back to life. You may also need to pay attention to drainage issues, since the removal of the upper layers of soil creates an artificially low ground level. Despite what we've seen of the weather lately, Vancouver is usually very rainy in the winter, and we lose many plants to wet feet (saturated soil because of a high water table).

    If your yard has manufactured soil (e.g., "top-soil") as the primary growing medium, it is probably wise to get a soil test, since the manufacture of these materials is not regulated and problems have been known to arise with their use.

    Check the yellow pages under "laboratories - testing" for a soil testing facility near you. Be sure to ask if the laboratory does residential soil fertility analysis.
     
  3. missbrown

    missbrown Member

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    Thanks for your reply, Douglas.

    My house is in Kerrisdale, near 41st and Granville. The house is about 70 years old, and my parents have lived in it for 25 years and have never done anything to the garden/soil. Should I go ahead and assume that we have "native, undisturbed soil" and not just the stripped down "subsoil" you mentioned that newer sites have? We do seem to have a healthy supply of worms... Should I just pick out most of the offending rocks and work in some compost and leave it at that?
     
  4. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    I think you probably have excellent soil there. As you are quite near VanDusen Garden, it might pay to talk with one of the gardeners there, as the soils are very likely similar. I know most of VanDusen to be quite sandy and well-drained (excellent for rhododendrons when leaf-mould is added). Worms are a sign of soil health, and their presence suggests there's already plenty of organic matter in the soil.
     
  5. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    We received an email as follows:

    Since this question has been answered in the past, I'm "bumping" up this question so that it appears at the top of the forum. In short, UBC does not do soil testing, but please see the above answer.
     
  6. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    most garden centers should have someone that can look at (touch, feel smell) your soil sample and give you a reasonable idea of its drainage and water retention capabilities ( you can most likely handle this yourself too :) ) for a complex soil test ( read - expensive) you can try Northwest Labs, they are in Langley and a complete test runs near $60 or $70 last I heard. A basic do it yourself test kit (pH, N,-P-K tests) will be about 20 or 30 bucks at your local garden store, they arent that popular so they may have to order a kit for you if you need one.
     

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