Soil Testing

When was the last time you had your playground or landscape soil tested? Never? Soil testing is one of the most important, and overlooked, things you can do to better understand your soil needs. It also is the best way to find if the soil has been contaminated, as it can be tested for lead and other toxins. Fortunately it's not very difficult and doesn't cost much either. Your county extension service probably offers soil testing for a nominal fee. If you decide to have your soil tested at the extension office simply follow these guidelines for getting a good sample for them to evaluate (note: soil should be dry or nearly dry):

  1. In the area you want tested take a garden trowel and plunge it at least six inches into the soil.
  2. Rotate the trowel 360 degrees creating a tapered column of soil.
  3. Lift the column of soil out of the ground and place it in a large container.
  4. Repeat the above for every 25 square feet in your garden.
  5. Thoroughly combine the samples.
  6. Remove rocks, grass, roots and other "non-soil" debris.
  7. Put about one pint of this soil in a clean container and mark it with an identifying label.
  8. Take the sample to your county extension office for evaluation. It may take several weeks before the results are available.

You may want to have several soil tests performed - one for each distinctly different space on your property. If you decide to amend the soil be sure to look at the most organic way to treat soil imbalances.