What Careful Soil Testing Revealed About My Level of Patience

Soil testing in my garden accurately measured the level of my patience.

Listen to me read this post:

Dave tested his soil and found out that it was very low in phosphorous. He went to a seed plant, bought some, and added phosphorous to his garden. Now his potato plants are three feet tall.

“Do you want to borrow my kit?” he asked and so I did. I went out to the garden and dug down about four inches into what I considered to be the most depleted soil in the garden plot. I brought a trowel full of soil into the house to dry overnight.

The next morning and according to instructions, I mixed one part of the soil with five parts of water, swirled the mixture gently in a jar, and waited for the dirt and water to separate out a bit so that I could retrieve a small, fairly clear sample.

Dave’s phosphorous-filled garden soil produced beautiful vegetables.

The instructions included with the kit said that this separation could take as little as half-an-hour (Perfect!) or as long twenty four hours. “Twenty four hours!” I cried out in disbelief and felt the impatience start to gnaw. The next morning the soil still hadn’t settled to the bottom of the jar and the water was murky as heck. Still, I took a sample using the eyedropper provided and filled the plastic tube to the fourth line with the muddy water.

I was testing for phosphorous first hoping this might get me three feet tall potato plants like Dave’s.

Carefully separate the two halves of one of the capsules. Pour the powder into the tube.

Step 2 of the phosphorous test sounded pretty easy. I retrieved a conveniently coloured-coded blue capsule, grabbed each end and gave it a gentle twist. This caused a bend in the plastic, but the capsule didn’t open. Next I tried to snap the capsule in half at the spot where the two halves had been originally joined. Again, the capsule bent but didn’t open.

Finally, I took out a cutting board, placed the mangled blue capsule on it, and started stabbing at it with the pointy end of a sharp kitchen knife. This made a hole large enough for me to expand the opening by twisting the knife blade farther into it. By now, the only thing about the misshapen capsule that resembled its former self was its colour.

I held the capsule over the tube which held the water sample, turned it over, and spilled most of the powder on the kitchen counter. I muttered a phrase of which my mother would not have approved and spooned as much of the powder as I could off the counter and, bit by bit, into the tube.

After placing the colour-coded cap on the tube, I gave it a gentle shake, and placed the tube in its holder. Almost immediately this experiment determined two things:

  1. Our garden soil contains almost no phosphorus.
  2. My husband is in charge of opening any remaining capsules needed for testing.

Following this single test, we went away for a week. I put the jar containing the dirt and water mixture in the fridge hoping that the soil would settle and the water would rise while we were gone. When we returned home I flung open the fridge door to see my jar of test water as muddy as before. Impatience visited again. “It’s been a week!”

Still, I thought I might as well use the sample to try another test. I filled one more tube with murky water and asked my husband kindly to open an appropriately colour-coded capsule.

Cap the tube and shake thoroughly.

I got a bit dizzy but the motion really relaxed my muscles. Then I realized that the instruction’s author was referring to the tube. Shake the tube thoroughly. After I regained my balance, I did.

Allow colour to develop for 10 minutes.

Ten minutes. That sounds about right. I set the timer on the stove and counted down. When the timer went off, the water had not changed colour.

“I bet the cold fridge killed whatever was supposed to show up in this test!” I proclaimed with no science to back my theory. Science doesn’t matter these days. No one with a different education knows more than me. What matters is what I believe in my gut and I believed that the soil sample was ruined. I’d have to gather a new sample and wait twenty four hours before doing anymore testing.

And so I tossed the soil and water mixture into the garden with disgust and rinsed out the jar. Then I saw that the liquid in the tube had turned green. Soil testing proved that our soil is full of alkali and I am full of, among other things, impatience.

Speaking of patience…

I received a note in my mailbox recently to inform me of an upcoming inconvenience. The brief notice closed with this:

Thank you for your patients!

Editors always notice things like this. Mostly I think it’s funny but I don’t laugh too long because it’s also humbling. I’ve made my fair share of mistakes when writing and I plan to continue.

This topic reminds me of my second year of university during which I did not give a hoot about academics. Obviously. One morning, I wandered into my English class to see that the professor had scrawled across the whiteboard a very embarrassing phrase I’d misused in my most recent essay. Mercifully, she didn’t reveal the identity of the student who produced that phrase which, in turn, produced a lot of laughter.

Partly because of this experience, I laugh shortly and correct gently.

If you’re writing something, a piece as short as a newsletter or a project as long as a memoir, I can help. I work as both a content writer and as an editor.

Thanks for reading. Take care and keep safe. ~ Lori