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Soil Testing
Written by Elizabeth Wood
Editor In Chief, United Home Improvement

When done accurately, soil testing gives the most accurate assessment of the nutrient environment for your plants. Also, with proper research and interpretation, a soil engineer can give the best estimate of fertilizer needs and advise on preventive solutions for problems that may arise from expansive or unsuitable soil, saving the homeowner much time and money.

A soil engineer's main job is to inspect anticipated construction sites to work out soil and foundation conditions by conducting drilling and sampling programs. They are responsible for managing and designing irrigation, foundations, flood and erosion control systems, dams, earth-retaining structures and water conservation projects. A soil engineer can be contracted directly or through the architect. Soil engineers should always be registered and professionally licensed through the state.

Expansive soils are one of the most crucial hazards, in addition to earthquakes and land slips. Expansive soils are naturally occurring materials found in low lying regions and flood plains. They are subject to swelling and shrinkage of the soil, varying in part to the amount of moisture present in the soil. The effects of expansive soil include patios, driveways and walkways cracking and heaving as the underlying expansive soils become wet and swell. Millions of dollars are lost each year due to damage caused by them.
Not only can a soil test protect against any environmental hazards resulting from excessive fertilizer applications, but it is also be used to determine the nutrients in soil that are essential for plant growth. Nutrients for healthy plant growth are divided into three categories: primary, secondary and micronutrients.

In addition, a soil report will tell you the pH value (how acidic or basic) of your soil, and it will make a recommendation for the amount and type of fertilizer and/or lime you need to add to the soil for optimal plant growth. This allows you to tailor your soil fertilizer and lime applications to your plants' needs.
Keep in mind, soil testing is usually required by building permits as well. This is because soil testing also looks at the soils ability to support a structure and the absorption and drainage rate of the soil or how well it will accommodate septic and water. A soil test can be ordered through a real estate agent or home buyer.

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