Here are links to information about soil-testing services in each state in our region; most are offered through the Cooperative Extension system. The price is for basic tests, which include pH. Testing your soil is well worth the small amount of time, effort, and cost.
North Carolina Free
South Carolina $6
Virginia $7 in-state
Clever Gardening Technique
Invite a Bird Symphony
I rarely walk down the 1/3-mile-long gravel road that becomes our driveway because it ends at a busy, four-lane, sidewalk-less thoroughfare. However, last week as I walked back from the auto repair shop, I was struck by something. Along the gravel road where a developer recently cut down all the trees and packed in a bunch of small houses surrounded by struggling lawns ... silence. Further on toward our house, surrounded by trees, shrubs, and, yes, lots and lots of weeds, there was music in the air. Birds!
They flitted and fluttered and sang and chirped. There were cardinals, chickadees, wrens, mockingbirds, and all sorts that I didn't recognize or couldn't see. The difference was startling. And wonderful. If it's at all possible, set aside an area of your landscape just for the birds. Leave it a bit unkempt, with a few berry-laden shrubs and small trees, and allow flower seedheads to remain instead of cutting them back. Add a feeder or two. You'll attract a symphony of birds to your yard and, if you're like me, a smile to your face.