Frequently Asked Questions

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How do I order a DIY Soil Health Test Kit?

Dig-It Yourself Soil Health Test Kits can be purchased online by visiting SOILHEALTH.CA where you can also find lots of useful information that will help you decide which type of soil health test is right for you. Kits are shipped using CanadaPost XpressPost and will arrive in 1-2 business days. Delivery progress can be monitored with the provided tracking number. Kits contain all the supplies necessary to collect samples and to ship them for testing. If you have any questions send us an email at info@soilhealth.ca or give us a toll-free call at 1-833-DIG-SOIL (344-7645).

How much soil do I need to send?

Dig-It Yourself Soil Health Test Kits contain all the materials you need to collect and send your samples for testing. Sampling instructions are included with each order. A minimum of 30 grams of soil is required to complete laboratory testing. We recommend that customers collect a total of 7 to 8 soil samples (about 35-40 grams), spaced roughly equal distance apart, gathered from a 1m2 sampling area.

Can I send wet soil?

Moist soil is acceptable but do not send wet soil. The easiest way to know if the soil contains the correct amount of moisture is to complete what is known as a “squeeze test”:

  1. Take a handful of fresh soil;
  2. Form a fist and squeeze the soil tightly;
  3. Inspect between your clenched fingers;
  4. If moisture collects between your fingers and does not drip, the soil is ready to send;
  5. If the soil remains in a clump when you open your hand, the soil is ready to send;
  6. If water seeps between your fingers or water drips from the soil, the soil is too wet for shipping.

Contact us for speciality instructions to send riparian soil samples at info@soilhealth.ca or give us a toll-free call at 1-833-DIG-SOIL (344-7645).

Can I send compost?

AB-SOIL-UTELY!
Collect and send samples of compost using the same method for collecting soil samples. Identify an area about 1m2 at the compost pile site and collect 7 to 8 fresh compost samples (about 35-40 grams) spaced roughly equal distance apart. Compost can be tested using the Qualitative and Quantitative testing methods. We also recommend Compost Maturity testing which is a special test designed exclusively for compost. Compost Maturity testing measures both carbon dioxide (CO2) and ammonia (NH3) emissions which can be used to correlate information about the composting process. Compost that has properly matured contains non-volatile, plant-available nitrate (NO3) and is not phytotoxic to plants.

Can I send manure?

We do not accept manure samples. We only accept soil and compost samples.

What is the difference between the Qualitative and Quantitative assessment?

Soil Health Qualitative Test (Ql) is useful for new gardens and home landscape projects. Know if your soil is healthy for plants and learn how to improve the health of your soil.

Soil Health Quantitative Test (Qn) is useful for organic gardeners and gardeners who want to help reduce climate change. Know your soil health PLUS know how well your soil is performing and what would grow better there. Learn how to improve your soil health to grow nutrient-dense foods.

Some soil microbes are dormant and others are active. Active soil microbes perform the ecological functions necessary for soil health. Dormant soil microbes may indicate poor soil conditions. Soil Health Quantitative Test (Qn) permits active and dormant soil microbes to be distinguished.

To illustrate it, let’s imagine a library full of books stacked floor to ceiling and numbering in the millions that you need to count and organize all by yourself.

Qualitative testing (Ql) is a lot like counting every single book in the library and organizing them all by the author’s surname. We gain a lot of useful information about the books the library contains. For example, if our review of all the books in the library indicated that there were none written by Ernest Hemingway, we would know that in order to have a comprehensive collection, the library would need to find and add some of his works. Using this approach to organizing the books we gain a lot of information about what is found in the library but we haven’t taken any time to learn about the subject matter of the books and we have not assessed the condition of each of the books and noted which ones are damaged or missing pages. We have a lot of data on the “total” contents of the library but there is a lot more detailed information that could be collected and used to understand the books in the library.

Quantitative testing (Qn) is a deeper probe into what is actually contained in the books in the library. We’ve already counted all the books and have organized them by the author’s surname, but now we’re going to collect even more information so we can sort them more usefully. Using this approach we’re going to carefully examine the physical condition or state of each book and identify if it is damaged, missing pages, or illegible. We’re also going to read the plot summaries of each of the books and maybe even read a few chapters from each piece of work so that we know their contents. Now we have so much more information about the books in the library. We know how many there are, who wrote them, what they’re all written about, and we know which books are damaged and which books are ready or “active” for borrowing and lending.

In reality, the books in our example represent soil microbes, and the counting and organizing is being done using specialized microscopes. Qualitative testing (Ql) is completed using phase contrast microscopy which is needed because most specimens examined in soil are often colourless and have characteristics so fine that they cannot be observed without the specialized equipment. Quantitative testing (Qn) is completed using epifluorescence microscopy and specialized specimen staining techniques. Using this method allows the observer to distinguish between dead and living metabolically active organisms (particularly fungal hyphae). Fungi play a major role in mineralization processes in soil so they are of significant importance when assessing soil health.

Overall, it is the metabolically “active” soil microbes that perform the ecological functions responsible for naturally managing soil health. While knowing the total biomass is useful information for assessing soil health, it is the assessment of active biomass that provides insight into the soil cycles and processes that influence soil health.

How will my test results be shared with me?

Customers are emailed a digital Soil Health Report (PDF). Our Soil Health Report presents data in easy to read visuals and features photographs of living soil microbes found in your soil. Our Soil Health Report also shares recommendations for improving soil health and provides plant care information based on your unique test results.

How long does it take to get results?

After receiving the soil sample, we guarantee test results will be emailed within 2 weeks.

When should I have my soil health tested?

We recommend that gardeners test their soil health 3 times in a single calendar year to gain the most information possible about their garden’s soil health cycling functions. The 1st test is done around the time of the final frost and is used to establish a soil health baseline measure. A 2nd separate soil health test is recommended around 8 to 10 weeks later in which natural increases in soil microbe activity will be observed if soil cycles are performing naturally. A 3rd separate soil health test is recommended after the first frost has fallen in which natural decreases in soil microbe activity will be observed if soil cycles are performing naturally. By completing three separate soil health tests, the best understanding of the soil health functions and processes taking place can be investigated, and gardeners will have a more holistic understanding of their soil health.

Why is CO2 Burst Analysis a soil health test add-on I should consider?

Soil Health CO2 Burst Analysis Test is useful for gardeners who want even more soil health information. It can be used as a standalone method to detect life in the soil or to supplement microscopic assessment. The test is also useful for estimating soil carbon sequestering potential so that gardeners can help the fight against climate change. Measurements of CO2 emissions from soil are an accurate indicator of biological processes taking place in healthy soil and indicate a microbial biomass is present in the soil samples. The test also provides key measures such as soil biological fertility and N-mineralization potential.

Are you going to try to sell me products next?

No. We empower our customers with data and knowledge about the health of their soil so that they can make informed decisions about how they want to proceed. Our soil health improvement recommendations do not promote, endorse, or market products. An educated customer is better able to find and purchase products and services that best meet their own gardening needs and support local businesses.

Do I need to pay shipping when I purchase the kit online?

For a limited time, customers can enjoy FREE shipping!

Have Any Questions?

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