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Soil Testing Kits As A Christmas Gift Idea
by Ben Dungan
by Ben Dungan

December 17, 2000

1pt.gif (86 bytes)Christmas is coming, and it will not matter if you are ready for it or not. Christmas will still go on whether your shopping is complete or not. Most of you are probably in one of three situations by now.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)With a little over a week before the big day, very few of us have completely finished all of our shopping duties. Some have been finished before Thanksgiving. Another portion of us are a little over half done. I will admit that I fall into this category too. If you are like me, you have gotten the majority of your shopping done, and now you are just looking for those last few presents. And rounding out the last sector of the population are the "Last Minuters." They haven’t done a lick of shopping yet, and plan to go to one of those stores that advertises their one stop shopping advantage.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)For those of you who know gardeners or knows someone who likes to grow vegetables in the summer, knows how hard it is to find them a good present during the winter months. You can’t go and buy any vegetable transplants now, nor can you find a good selection of plants in the stores during the winter months. Plain and simple, gardening is not a high priority for many stores during the winter months. You have probably ended up buying them garden tools, gardening books, and other little knick knacks to help them get through the winter season.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)By now, they got a stack of books and a slew of garden tools that have never used. However, I may have the very gift you are looking for. It can make a great stocking stuffer, or can even compliment another gardening gift such as a book or tool. This gift can be given and used now, and will help them next spring and summer when they get the itch to be outside again.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The best part about it is that this present will not cost you much at all. For the most part, you could even say it is free. North Carolina is one of the few states that makes this gift available at no charge to its citizens. The funny thing is that it is often overlooked and is even taken for granite.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The NCDA (North Carolina Department of Agriculture) offers free soil testing to all North Carolina residents, if sent through their county extension agent. And believe me folks, we got plenty in stock. There will not be any shortages, resulting in any black eyes or pulled hair. The soil testing kits aren’t quite in the same league as the Tickle Me Elmo dolls or the Cabbage Patch Kids.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Most people know about the soil tests. Some have actually taken one at one point. Taking a soil sample is as simple as can be. The hardest thing about taking a soil test is actually making yourself go outside and do it. The actual event of taking the soil sample and mailing it off is the easiest part of all.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The soil test results is like a recipe. Only this recipe is for good quality soil for your plants to live and thrive in. The soil test will tell you bit by bit what is needed to amend your soil to make it beneficial to your plants.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Gardening without a soil test is like cooking a dish without a recipe. Unless you have been cooking all of your life, not having a recipe handy would make it quite difficult to get a finished product that the whole family will want to eat.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)The soil test lets you know your pH levels, nutrients needs, and how much lime you may or may not have to put out. Not only can the soil test can you save you money in the long run, but it can also benefit the environment.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)A healthy plant is a happy plant. A plant that has too much or too little nutrients can be very vulnerable to insects and diseases. The more pest problems your plants have, the more pesticides we will want to spray. The soil test will give us what the plant wants, therefore eliminating many pest problems, which in the long run will reduce our pesticide uses.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)Winter will end, and with that will bring spring. That is a fact. Guessing what the soil needs this spring is only a matter of opinion. For this Christmas and into 2001, stick to the recipe. The first thing the recipe calls for is getting a soil kit. It will put well on your way to successful present shopping, and a head start to having a successful 2001 gardening season as well.
1pt.gif (86 bytes)To find out about soil testing, contact your local county extension office.
Some states charge, whereas North Carolina offers it free of charge.

Ben Dungan, Horticulture Extension Agent
North Carolina State University
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
N.C. Cooperative Extension Service
Ben also writes for write for Gaston Gazette on a
weekly basis.


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