I hope you are all enjoying this beautiful day here in SC PA! I decided to finally get out and collect my soil samples to be tested by Penn State Extension.
Whenever you are creating a new garden, you should have your soil tested so you know for sure what you're working with. When planting natives, our goal isn't to find out how to amend the soil - the recommendations you get from your soil test are for traditional horticultural practices and generally involve soil amendments. Our goal is to find out what kind of soil we're working with so we can match plants to those conditions.
I'm guessing my soil is slightly acidic mesic to dry-mesic silt/clay. I was surprised that the soil towards the bottom of my hill was much less compacted, contained less stones, and was darker in color than the rest of the area. It will take a few weeks to get my test results back. You should always combine about six samples from your garden, mix them together, sift out any rocks and organic matter, and then send in about a cup full to be tested.
Now is a great time to get your soil tested for any new areas you plan to create next year. You can get the form and instructions on the Penn State Extension's website: Soil Testing (psu.edu) . It's only $9 - collect a separate sample for each different area you want tested.
Total time spent: about 17 hours
Total cost with soil test: $188