How to Take a Soil Sample


We have a good general understanding of the soil profile, of why soil pH is important, and even the importance of the different nutrients that make up most fertilizers but the most important step on the way to having a healthy and productive lawn or garden is to take a soil sample and have it tested.

The soil analysis can be no better than the sample you submit and it should be representative of the area sampled. The first step is to get a clean plastic or stainless steel bucket, a paper or plastic bag; zip lock bags are good, a metal or plastic shovel: no zinc or brass tools, or better still a soil probe if available. When taking a sample with a shovel, remove excess grass clippings and organic matter from top of the soil; dig a v shaped groove in the soil to a depth of 3 to 5 inches, for gardens or flower beds the sample should be taken to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. As a general rule take one sample per 1000 square feet for a small lawn and at least 10 to 15 samples for a large lawn and at least 10 or more samples from a garden or flower bed. Do not include unusual areas; low spots, mulch, or composted areas, wet spots, and areas with obviously differing soil types if testing is needed in these areas a separate sample should be taken.

After your composite sample is taken, mix the contents in the bucket together thoroughly and take approximately 1\2 to 1 pint of mixed soil as your sample. The bag should be marked with your name and a short description of the sample area; it is also a good idea to make a simple sketch of the sampled area. The sample, if taken wet, should be air dried for best soil test results.

Once you have your soil test results back, you will see what your pH reading is and what the nutrient requirements are and you will then be able to begin your management plan for a more beautiful lawn and productive flower bed or vegetable garden.

Russell Kelley

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