Many home gardens suffer from high soil acid levels. This is called a low soil pH and results in metals like aluminum and manganese becoming toxic to your garden plants. When this happens, Dr. Hugh Savoy a soil specialist with University of Tennessee Extension, says the fertilizer you are applying can't be properly utilized by your garden plants for growth and development. "Your plants often become stunted and the result is a loss of production or quality," he said.

A simple soil test properly taken and processed can tell you when your garden soil has too much acid in it. Soil analysis is available through the UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center in Nashville. Sampling, processing and mailing instructions are available online at http://soilplantandpest.utk.edu/.

Results are returned to you within a short time and will tell you how much lime to add to your soil should acid levels be too high for the garden plants that you want to grow in the sampled area. Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium fertilizer recommendations for your garden are also provided on your report.

Lime will work quicker if mixed into your garden soil but it can also be surface applied with good results. Agricultural lime is available in bags at most garden and farm supply stores. "Don't delay," says Savoy. "Soil test today and lime if needed."

For more information contact your local county UT Extension Office.

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