Garden information

Obtaining the best results from soil testing

Collecting garden soil samples

Reading garden soil reports

Measuring garden areas

Request a garden soil sample kit

For more information on gardening with The Mikhail System, click here, or contact us.

Services for Gardeners or Farmers?

There are certain important differences between gardens and farms. For one thing, farms apply fertilizers and other materials by kilograms or even tonnes per hectare, but most gardens will be measured in square metres and so need to apply materials only in grams. To deal with this, we have converted our recommendations to g/sq.m. For gardeners outside Australia, simply multiply these figures by 0.03 if you need them in oz/sq.yd. For larger Public Gardens, multiply the recommendations by 10 if you want them as kg/ha and then by 0.89 to give lb/acre.

Another difference is that, a farmer may want recommendations for "Apples", whereas a Gardener may want something more general to cover a range of different "Fruit Trees". In fact, Gardens can have hundreds of different species and varieties of plants - both productive and ornamental - so how can you get useful information to suit them all?

To ensure they are appropriate to the needs of the various plants found in the garden, recommendations on reports generated for either the Standard and Complete tests will cover each of three plant groups, depending on the report version selected:

Vegetables version provides recommendations for leaf, root and fruiting vegetables

Fruit version provides recommendations for pome and stone fruit trees and berries

Ornamentals version provides recommendations for lawn, trees & shrubs and flower beds

These versions only require one soil sample submission, but with up to three (3) versions of the report that can be generated for any sample; there is the potential for recommendations for a total of nine (9) plant groups for one sample. Additional plant group reports are $20.00 each + GST (if applicable).

However, you can still get recommendations for specific plants if you need them. Once you choose the relevant report version, you can also type in the name of a specific plant to replace one of the groups. For example, if you sampled the soil from your vegetable garden, but particularly wanted recommendations for (say) Asparagus instead of fruiting vegetables, then simply choose the "vegetables" version and type "Asparagus NOT fruiting veg" in the "Extra Options" box.

Likewise, you may want the Fruit version of the test, but in your garden there is an Apple tree a Pear tree (both Pome fruit), a Cherry (Stone fruit) and a Lemon tree, but no berries. In this case you would choose the "Fruit" version and type "Lemon NOT berries" into the box.

If you want more than one of the report versions, you can order additional reports and in such cases you can always ask for recommendations on one specific plant type. For example, if you wanted the lemon tree recommendations in addition to pome, stone and berries, then in the extra options box you simply need to specify "+ Lemons" or, "AND Lemons". An extra charge of $10 +GST will apply in this situation.

If you need to specify more than one specific plant type for any given report version, you should use additional reports of the same version. In these cases you can specify up to two plants per additional report.

NB. There must always be at least one of the default plant groups on each report.

To help explain this a little better, lets look at an example. Suppose you ordered two versions of the report - one Fruit and the other Ornamentals. As above, the fruit version includes Lemon and lets say the Ornamentals report included Camellia, but you also wanted to recommendations for Roses and Daphne. In this case, you would order the Fruit version (specifying 'Lemons'), then go to Additional Reports below and order the Ornamentals version (specifying 'Camellia'). Having done this, return to the Additional Reports section again and order another Ornamentals report, but this time specifying the 'Roses and Daphne'. If you wanted still more specific plants, simply repeat the process.

Making the best use of Soil tests

When most people hear the words "Soil Test", the immediately think "Fertilizer". We have become conditioned to believe that all we require for optimum productivity is good plant nutrition. This is certainly very important, but it is not ALL we need.

SWEP Analytical Services are used in a wide variety of situations, major applications include Organic and Biodynamic production as well as other forms of Biological/Sustainable Farming, Land Reclamation, Environmental Remediation and Protection of Soil Biodiversity.

The key to achieving the best results from any of our soil tests is to remember that we treat soil as a Living System comprised of three components - Structure, Nutrients and Biology - according to The Mikhail System that provides a reliable stepwise strategy for soil improvement:

  1. Cations First: Applying the appropriate amounts of Lime, Dolomite &/or Gypsum will help improve the physical environment in the soil. With good structure and friability, the soil will be more tolerant of cultivation; it will retain moisture, but drain more easily and remain well aerated; it will provide better access to roots and availability of the nutrients they need. However, both time and moisture are needed for these changes to occur, so after this step it is important to wait and then...

  2. Apply Nutrients 6 Months Later: With proper soil function, you can now look at providing Balanced Plant Nutrition. That is, meeting the requirements for all essential nutrients throughout the period of the growing season. Of course, whenever we apply anything to the soil, irrigate, cultivate, plant or harvest, we impose some degree of disturbance to the biological community.

  3. Stimulate Biology after every disturbance: Following these activities with the appropriate stimulants such as Kelp extracts or Fish Emulsions will help minimize this disturbance Naturally enough, the trick is knowing what are the appropriate stimulants to use.

  4. Monitor and Fine-tune: This is the part most people overlook. There will always be changes that occur over time and maintaining the health of the soil and the garden it supports will require us to be aware of any such change and respond to them appropriately.

So which is the best test to choose? The following notes should help you.

Standard Garden Soil test

This is by far the most popular and widely used of the SWEP soil tests. It covers both exchangeable cations and essential plant nutrients and so is valuable for general garden planning and development, where a once-a-year soil test forms the basis for programming of both soil management and fertilizer inputs over the following 12 months.

Examples of other situations in which the Standard Soil Balance Analysis can be used include:

  • Condition assessments prior to purchasing a property

  • Planning and developing a new garden

  • Rejuvinating an older garden

  • Ensuring the highest possible quality from garden produce

Complete Garden Soil test

This test package represents the sum of 45 years research into soil function and management and covers all three functional components of The Mikhail System - Structure, Nutrition and Biology.

Its main use is in situations where Complete management of Soil Health is required. Once complete soil balance has been achieved, the sensitivity of soil biology to any disturbance makes this test valuable in monitoring changes that occur over time for effective maintenance of soil balance.

The results and recommendations are organized into each of the three Soil Balance components - Structure, Nutrients and Biology to make the report easy and straightforward to use.

Three sets of recommendations are provided:

  • Cation Balance corrections to optimize soil structure and other physical attributes.

  • Balanced plant nutrient requirements relative to the needs of the Land use and what is presently available in the soil.

  • Balanced Soil Biology, using various bio-active materials (eg. Humate, Kelp extract, Fish emulsion, etc.) to help manage the relative proportions of five key Indicator Groups.


Ordering Instructions

After clicking on one of the Add to Basket buttons you will be directed to the Secure PayPal site (that opens in a New Window) and a simple 5-step process:

Step 1: Purchase details. The details of your purchase will appear in this Window and you have two choices - either proceed with the payment process or (if you want to add more items) close the window and return here to continue selecting other tests or additional reports.

Step 2: Payment method. Once you are ready to proceed you can either use a PayPal account, or your credit card details.

Step 3: Your details. Here you will be asked for your postal address details (the place you want us to send the test report) and either your credit card or PayPal account details (depending on your choice in step 2). It is important to complete all details.

Step 4: Review details. Here you can check the details you have entered and make corrections if necessary. Once you click Continue, you will be returned to the SWEP website.

Step 5: Confirmation email. You will receive notification of your purchase details by email.

Important: Please print a copy of your email notification from PayPal and enclose it with the sample(s) as proof of purchase.

Please note: Since not everyone needs a sample kit to send their samples, we do not automatically send a kit when orders are received. If you are ordering tests from within Australia and would like a sample kit, please follow this link to request one. .


A range of garden tests are available from SWEP to take the guesswork out of growing healthy plants.

The links on this page will help you to solve the mysteries of your garden - from the compost and soil, right up to the tips of the leaves. Let SWEP help you find your way to truly sustainable gardening.

Garden Soil Tests for Organic Gardening

For Organic garden tests please click here to go to the SWEP Organic Services page, or contact us to discuss your requirements.


Soil tests

To be sustainable, gardeners need to do more than just apply fertiliser and water their plants. As with agricultural practices, garden soil should also be managed as a Living System. This requires an understanding of how it functions to support plant growth and the overall health of the garden. The Mikhail System can help you to understand these functions and achieve optimum soil balance.

Garden soil submission form

or Order online:

Garden Soil Test Packages
Choose an Option
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Plant tissue tests

Should you need to diagnose a nutritional problem where plants are showing signs of nutrient deficiency, SWEP plant tissue tests provide rapid results to diagnose and treat nutrient imbalances in your plants.

Plant tissue submission form

or Order online:

Plant tissue Test $100.00

Plant Tissue Test Options

Water Tests for Garden use