How to Take a Soil Sample
Soil testing is the best way to know if and what kind of fertilizer your lawn or garden need. Early fall is one of the best times to test your soil.
Do you want to check up on the health of your lawn or garden? A soil test is the best way to do that.
A soil test can tell you if your lawn or garden needs critical nutrients and how much.
This way, your plants and your wallet will stay healthy. You won’t waste your money applying fertilizer or lime that your plants don’t need.
While you can take a soil sample any time of year, early fall and late spring are two of the best times. This will allow time for the needed lime to take effect and change the soil pH before planting. Soil samples cost $10 per box.
Soil sampling is easy. Follow these steps to get accurate results:
Decide where you want to take the sample. If you want to test more than one area, you will need to take samples in each of the distinct areas. For example, if you want to get recommendations for your vegetable garden, front yard and a flower bed, each of these areas will need its own soil sample box.
Gather your supplies: soil probe or spade or shovel, plastic bucket, and sample boxes. Soil probes are available for check-out at the local Extension office, but a shovel or spade will also work. Soil sample boxes are also available at the Extension office, but you can also use a quart-size zip-top bag.
Collect 15 to 20 soil plugs from each designated area. Remove any turf, mulch, or other vegetation before you collect the soil plug. Plugs should be taken from the top 4 to 6 inches of the ground.
Place soil plugs in a plastic bucket or container and mix it together. Don’t use a metal container because it can skew your test results.
Fill the sample box or zip-top bag completely full. Then, label each box or bag with the required information. Don’t forget to label the container with the name of the area where you collected the sample.
Register your soil sample through the Extension Portal. The soil testing lab no longer takes paper forms for soil testing. If you don’t have an account, you will be prompted to create one. You can still pay by check, but you must register the sample for testing online. You can find detailed instructions on our website.
Interpret your test results and make any recommended applications. If you need help interpreting the results, you can always contact your local Extension agent. Or you can use an online fertilizer calculator. Get instructions on how to use an online fertilizer calculator on our website.
For more information about soil testing, visit our website.
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