Soil Deficiency

Q: I have some sort of a soil deficiency in my coastal garden that causes vegetable leaves to grow in a mottled pattern - light green and dark green. Eventually the light green portions die and turn brown. I have amended the soil with lime, seaweed, compost and Rotted manure and still the problem persists. Does anyone know how I can find out what is missing without paying for an expensive soil analysis?

Rene from Coastal Northern Canada

A: Hi Rene,

It's possible you have 1 of 2 problems: a deficiency in potassium (amended by seaweed), or an insect problem like mosaic, which is spread by insects like aphids and causes mottled leaves. You can rule out the insect infestation by examining your plants, but without a soil test there is no good way to determine whether or not you're dealing with a deficiency.

I would recommend biting the bullet and having your soil analyzed. It might seem like a bargain compared to the potential loss of plants, the cost of additional amendments and endless frustration of trying to blindly balance the nutrients in your soil. In your area, you can contact the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Quality Evaluation (laboratory services section) to request a test kit.


The test will give your soil's pH, organic matter content and recommendations for what nutrients you need to balance it. The cost per sample is $12.50 and they recommend at taking at least 6 samples ($72.00). As an alternative, you can try a simple pH test available at most garden centers. These tests are not as accurate, but they will indicate which side of the pH scale your soil falls on, which will point you toward possible deficiencies.

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July 7, 20040 found this helpful

This shouldn't cost you a cent if Canada has a Govt. Soil Conservation Dept or Agriculture Department like the US does. Just take a few samples from different areas in your yard-garden in a ziploc bag.

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