Sunday, July 22, 2012


Greetings from Baker Heritage Farms;

We would like to welcome anyone that is new to our blog as well welcome back our regular followers. It has been rather hot in southeastern Oklahoma but, due to our past pop-up showers, we are still fairing a little better then some of the surrounding areas. We actually had to mow our test garden this weekend and will most likely have to mow our horticultural section again before long.

This Saturday we took soil samples to be sent off to the lab on Monday. For those of you who have never taken soil samples (we hadn't), it is a fairly easy process, and is highly recommended if you plan to use bio-intensive rotation and cover crops to improve your soil and control weeds and insects.

Process For Obtaining Soil Samples

You want to get a good sampling of the soil you will be planting in. You should try to get initial samples from 10 (small area) to 20 (large area) random locations within the planting area. While you will only be submitting about 4 ounces of soil for testing, you want a good cross-section of soil to test.

If possible, avoid small areas that are different (such as dead furrows, corners, end rows, and/or poorly drained areas) and try to stay at least 50-feet away from barns, roads, lanes, or fence rows (this may not be possible for backyard farmers). Take an even number of samples from upland and bottomland (this was not a problem for us as our horticulture section is all pasture, we did not include the test garden, which is essentially bottom land, in this test).

Save yourself some money. You do not need soil probes and tips for your coring process (these run from $50.00 on up). All you need is a clean plastic bucket (these run about $5.00 at Walmart) and a clean shovel.

Before taking the sample, scrape away plant residue (we used our weed eater to make a clear area). Your sample should be at least 6 inches deep (or primary tillage depth if deeper). Our samples were taken about 8 inches deep.

You should plan to take soil samples for testing every year at about the same time to (1) ensure that you are progressing towards healthy soil, and (2) to document your progress. Each new test will further guide you in ensuring that you are building healthy soil.

Obtaining Soil Samples

1. Dig a V-shaped hole to sample depth;
2. Cut a thin slice (approximately 1 inch) of soil from one side of the hole;
3. Slice off the sides and the top leaving a slice of approximately 1 inch and put sample into pail;
4. Continue until the desired number of samples are obtained, mixing the soil after each addition;
5. Once you have all of your samples, mix the sample soil well and place approximately 4 ounces into a sandwich baggie for shipment (most labs will accept this method, though some will provide shipping containers.
6. Send sample in.

We will be using A & L Laboratories ( for this sample. We will be testing for the following: Organic Matter, Phosphorous, POtassium, Calcium, Magnesium, pH, Buffer pH, Sodium, Sulfate-Sulfur, Boron, Zinc, Manganese, Iron, and Copper. We will need this information in order to plan for our cover crops, which will need to be planted soon. The cost of the testing is estimated to be about $20.

The next problem we already know we will be encountering is braking up the soil. The horticultural section consists of just over 1.5 acres and is virgin pasture (it has never been broken up to our knowledge) and the ground is very hard. Donald and David visited the local John Deere dealership to discuss possible tractor implements to assist in this job; however, the dealership did not have a tremendous amount of knowledge on the subject. In our area, equipment needs are generally related to cattle operations or very large crop operations, with little or no exposure to smaller acreage operations.

Implements we are looking at include a moldboard plow (from $800 - $1,300), middle buster ($250), or subsoiler ($300). The only thing that we have learned is that we would destroy our tiller if we tried to use that. Donald is hoping that Kerr Center will be able to provide some input when he takes the soil sample test over to them for evaluation.

In the meantime, the test garden seems to be doing as well as can be expected. The first planting of corn now has some ears that have begun to tassel; unfortunately, they are about six inches off the ground and will be less than six inches long (in other words, worthless). Our other plantings of corn may do somewhat better. Our squash is doing very well. They are blooming and bees are busy pollinating (at least that is what we hope they were doing in there). We have at least two rows of beans that seem to be doing ok. Our watermelon also seems to be doing ok, as are our pumpkins; however, our cucumbers seem to have disappeared. We still have three tomato plants, but no blooms and the season is about over, so they will most likely not produce.

The yellow tape and computer disks seem to be doing their job of keeping deer out of the garden. A few of our sunflowers even appear to be recovering from being salad for the deer.

All in all we are very satisfied with the progress of the garden. The purpose was not as much for production as it was for learning.

Our next step is to determine what crops we will plant in the main horticulture section this coming spring as well as what we will be planting in the test garden next year. These plans, along with the soil test results, will help us determine what winter cover crops we need to plant.

Until next week,

Blessings from Baker Heritage Farms

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