Though we often think of soil testing as a spring chore, fall can actually
be a better time. Soil-testing laboratories are often very busy during the
spring resulting in a longer turnaround from submission to recommendations.
Also, soils in the spring are often waterlogged, making taking samples
difficult. If your soil test suggests more organic matter, fall is a much
better season because materials are more available than in the spring, and
fresher materials can be used without harming young tender spring-planted
Begin by taking a representative sample from several locations in the garden
or lawn. Each sample should contain soil from the surface to about 6 to 8
inches deep. This is most easily done with a soil sampler.
Many K-State Research and Extension offices have such samplers available for
checkout. If you don’t have a sampler, use a shovel to dig straight down
into the soil. Then shave a small layer off the back of the hole for your
sample. Mix the samples together in a clean plastic container and select
about 1 to 1.5 cups of soil. This can be placed in a plastic container such
as a resealable plastic bag.
Take the soil to your county extension office to have tests done for a small
charge at the K-State soil-testing laboratory. A soil test determines
fertility problems, not other conditions that may exist such as poor
drainage, poor soil structure, soil borne diseases or insects, chemical
contaminants or damage, or shade with root competition from other plants.
All of these conditions may reduce plant performance but cannot be evaluated
by a soil test.
By: Ward Upham