Soil Testing & Fertilizing
Soil Testing Procedures
A soil test provides information on the basic fertility of soil. It is the starting point for determining how much and which fertilizers to use on a crop. Without a soil test, you are just guessing at your level of soil fertility.
Proper collection of a representative soil sample is important for accuracy and analysis of test results. Follow these steps to obtain a good sample:
You Will Need: Soil Probe, Trowel or Shovel, Clean Plastic Bucket and Soil Bags
Step 1: Identify uniform areas to be tested.
- Decide if your field can be treated as one sample or needs to be broken down into smaller samples. If you believe the soil type, previous crop and fertilizer treatments are consistent across the field, treat as one sample. If soil type and topography change across the field, different crops have been planted on different parts of the field, or there are problem spots, break the field down into smaller units to sample.
- A separate soil test should be done on a garden or lawn, or between the front lawn and back lawn if there are noticeable differences. Avoid sampling areas that might give misleading results. If information is desired on these unusual areas, obtain a separate sample for these areas.
Step 2: Using a soil probe or shovel, dig vertically to a depth of 6 inches for row crop or garden samples, 4 inches for pasture samples, and 3 inches for lawns. Remove all plants, sod or thatch from the sample. If an available nitrogen, chloride, or sulphur test is desired, a subsoil sample to 24 inches is necessary.
Step 3: Take at least 10-15 samples from the field and mix the samples together in a clean, plastic container to create a representative sample. The more sub samples you take, the more assured you'll be that the soil test results are representative of your field. Bring approximately two cups of mixed soil to one of the Midway Extension District Offices. If subsoil samples are desired, samples from the 0-6" depth should be kept separate from the samples 6-24" depth.
Step 4: Samples should be dry. You can let samples air dry but do not use heat to dry your samples.