Published on 08/11/16

Atlanta's only soil festival digs into second year of fun on Aug. 27

By Merritt Melancon

Great soil is the foundation of any good backyard vegetable patch or community garden, but it’s hard to know how your soil is shaping up without a soil test.

On Saturday, Aug. 27, the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories (AESL) will be accepting soil samples for testing at “Love Local: A Soil Festival to Grow Healthier Communities,” an event produced by the Food Well Alliance and hosted by the Truly Living Well Center for Natural Urban Agriculture.

“Healthy plants start with healthy soil,” said Becky Griffin, community and school garden coordinator for UGA Extension. “Learning how to create healthy soil is imperative to garden success."

The festival, held from 2 to 6 p.m., will showcase community garden and urban agriculture groups from across metro Atlanta and will feature composting workshops and other resources for improving soil health.

Griffin and UGA Extension agents from across the metro area will be on hand to answer questions about gardening and pollinator protection, and to explain how to access UGA Extension’s wide-ranging collection of gardening resources.

Soil testing will be provided free of charge to representatives of metro Atlanta community gardens who preregister for the festival, and testing starts at $6 for other interested gardeners. Soil tests provided by the AESL analyze samples for fertility and organic composition of garden soil as well as contaminants like lead and arsenic, if requested. Each test report comes with per-cubic-yard recommendations for improving soil health.

While it may be hard to think past that last summer harvest of tomatoes or squash, fall is one of the best times to test your garden soil for next season, said Jason Lessl, program coordinator at UGA Extension’s Soil, Plant and Water Analysis Laboratory.

Some soil fixes, like adding phosphorus, are relatively quick, but others, like lowering or raising the pH of your soil, can take weeks or months. Testing in the fall allows gardeners to make adjustments that take effect before spring planting.

Representatives of the soil lab will be on hand at this year’s festival to provide soil “counseling” to gardeners who are concerned about issues they observed in their gardens this year.

Attendees are encouraged to bring samples of their garden soil to the festival.

The festival will be held at Truly Living Well's Collegetown Farm and Educational Center, located at 324 Lawton Street SW in downtown Atlanta.

For more information on the festival visit For access to Georgia-specific gardening help from UGA Extension, visit

Merritt Melancon is a public relations manager with UGA's Terry College of Business and previously served as a public relations coordinator for the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and UGA Extension.

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