Soil tests are beneficial for your property. Before creating new beds or adding to your existing plant material a soil test should be conducted. A soil test is simply the overall composition of minerals, trace elements, and products found in the ground being sampled. You can determine the pH and nutrient levels as well as which soil amendments need to be applied for optimal plant growth. Soil tests should not be implemented if the ground has recently been applied with lime or fertilizer. In that case the soil sample should be collected at least six to eight weeks afterwards. Research the needs of each particular plant species and existing soil can be modified accordingly.
Regular soil tests will keep your landscape healthy by providing necessary levels of fertilizer and nutrients throughout yearly growing seasons. In most areas your local cooperative extension office will provide free laboratory tests. You may have to collect and deliver the samples. Each sample will be tested accurately and you can determine what amendments are applicable for your landscape.
Collecting soil samples requires clean and uncontaminated storage containers, stainless steel or chrome plated trowels, and samples should be at least four to six inches deep (for lawns, vegetables, perennial and annual gardens). For more accurate sampling, use a coring tool for soil collection. You should collect sample boxes from your local cooperative extension office and place each soil sample for a particular area in one sample box. There are different forms for specific lab tests such as: Soil Sample Information Sheet (form AD1) and Diagnostic Soil Sample Information Sheet (form AD2). Samples boxes should be labeled according to area (SYARD, NYARD, BFLYGD). Specify which lab reports you want based upon the form you send in with your soil sample.
Most home and garden soil sample test kits provide the soil pH, but will not accurately rate how much lime or fertilizer is necessary for a healthy lawn or flowering gardens. Sandy soils should be tested every two to three years, while clay soils may be tested every three to four years. Obtaining accurate reports of nutrient levels in your soil will help your lawn and gardens be more productive throughout the growing seasons and provide a flourishing landscape for years to come.