To elaborate a bit more on yesterday's post on how to perform a soil test, here are some guidelines you should use if you are sending soil samples off to a lab for testing. You can have your soil thoroughly tested by a local co-operative extension office or an affiliated university lab. You can also check with your local garden center - they might do soil tests themselves, or refer you to the lab that does their soil tests. Follow the same guidelines if you are using an at home soil test kit.

Here are the general guidelines for collecting a soil sample according to the North Carolina State Cooperative Extension.

  1. If you intend to send your sample to the land grant university in your state, contact the local Cooperative Extension Service for information and sample bags. If you intend to send your sample to a private testing lab, contact them for specific details about submitting a sample.
  2. Follow the directions carefully for submitting the sample.The following are general guidelines for taking a soil sample.
    • Sample when the soil is moist but not wet.
    • For each acre of land to be tested, 10 to 15 sub-samples are recommended. Areas that appear different or that have been used differently should be sampled separately. For example, a separate sample should be submitted for an area that has been in a garden and one that has been lawn.
    • Obtain a clean pail or similar container.
    • Clear away the surface litter or grass.
    • With a spade or soil auger, dig a small amount of soil to a depth of 6 inches.
    • Place the soil in the clean pail.
    • Repeat steps until the required number of samples have been collected.
    • Mix the samples together thoroughly.
    • From the mixture, take the sample that will be sent for analysis.
    • Send immediately. Do not dry before sending.
  3. If you are using a home soil testing kit, follow the above steps for taking your sample. Follow the directions in the test kit carefully.
If you would like more information about soil testing and taking soil samples, then you may download the USDA's Nutrient Management newsletter. (Clicking the link will open a pdf file in a new browser window. You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader installed on your computer in order to view it)

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