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Ford County

Benefits of Soil Testing

A soil test provides information about the basic fertility of soil. It is the starting point in determining how much and which fertilizers to use. soil testing can help produce better lawns and gardens, as well as save money and prevent runoff of excess nutrients.


Soil Sample Collection

Tests results are as reliable as the sample collected. Proper collection of soil samples is required to obtain a good test result.

  1. To take the sample, you need:
    • A sampling tube, auger or spade.
    • A clean plastic tub/pail.
    • Soil sample containers (such as pint-size plastic bags or a soil sampling bag).
  2. Draw a map of the sample area on the information sheet and divide your lawn/garden into uniform areas. Each area should have the same soil texture, color, slope and fertilization and cropping history.
  3. From each area, sample 10 to 15 cores or slices. Mix thoroughly in a clean plastic pail or tub and fill your soil sample container from this mixture so there are about 2 cups of soil.
  4. Avoid sampling in old fencerows, low spots and other areas that might give unusual results. If information is desired on these unusual areas, obtain a separate sample.
  5. Take soil sample to lab for testing.
  6. Contact extension agent with results to ensure you understand what your results mean.

When to Sample and What to Test

Levels of immobile nutrients in the soil tend to change gradually over time. This means fertilizer needs can be predicted for several years from a single soil test for immobile nutrients. Test for mobile nutrients such as sulfate, nitrate and chloride before planting. soil samples for nitrate testing should be collected in the late fall or early spring before significant mineralization has occurred. If a nutrient problem is suspected, additional sampling is appropriate.