WSU Extension Q&A

April 18, 2013 

Q. Are home soil test kits any good? How accurate are they?

A. It generally was thought that these kits were not accurate until researchers at the University of California, Davis, checked five of the commonly available soil test kits when compared to professional soil lab tests. They tested pH, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium levels and compared the results. For the soil type they used, a Salinas clay loam, they found that the La Motte Soil Test Kit and the Rapitest were the most accurate with more than 90 percent accuracy.

Sounds pretty good, but Colorado University Extension points out that most home soil test kits are designed for use with acid soils and have questionable accuracy if used on the alkaline soils such as those found in our region. However, the Salinas clay loam soils are neutral to moderately alkaline.

Based on all of this, I would recommend getting a professional soil test done every three years to use as a base mark.

Q. I found some vegetable seeds from about five years ago. Will they be OK to plant?

A. Seed longevity depends on the type of seed and how it was kept. Most seeds keep best in a dark, dry, cool area. To test seeds, place several of the seeds on a moist paper towel and insert the moist towel into a plastic container or sandwich bag. Check the seed in seven to 10 days to see how many have sprouted. If more than 70 percent sprout, they should be OK to use. If fewer sprout, discard the seeds, or increase your seeding rate to accommodate for the lack of germination.

Q. What are the steps to become a 4-H volunteer?

A. First, you can call the Franklin County WSU Extension Office in Pasco 509-545-3511 to let them know of your interest, and get the 4-H volunteer leader packet sent to you. This packet includes a 4-H enrollment form, a behavior agreement, a photo release and a Washington State Patrol background screening application. After these documents are submitted, they will be processed in the Pasco Extension Office. Once processed, you will be notified, and depending on your level of volunteerism, you will be able to get training and orientation accordingly.

-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.

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