Simply put, soil sampling is the process to determine the ability of the soil to produce plant life.
Soil tests provide information on the soil’s actual nutrient status. The results of soil tests are then used to calculate the amount and kind of nutrients that should be added for the best growth wildlife food plants, garden plants, lawn grasses or hayfields.
But the tests results obtained are only as good as the sample submitted for analysis.
Steps for getting an accurate soil sample
The following steps can help you get an accurate and meaningful soil test.
•Use a soil probe (borrow from the County Extension Office), auger, spade or trowel to take a thin slice from the soil surface down to the desired depth. Avoid taking wet samples. Lawns samples – 4” deep
Pasture samples – 4” – 6” deep
Garden samples – 6” deep
Plowed fields – plow depth
•Take 10 -12 cores or slices from many different areas in the lawn/ garden/ pasture. Mix the cores in a plastic bucket and submit 1 pint of soil to your local Extension Office for testing at the University of Georgia. Inexpensive soil test kits are available from gardening catalogs but provide unreliable results. The old saying “You get what you pay for” is very true for soil testing. There is an $8 fee for soil tests for home gardeners.
•Avoid taking samples from small areas that might have a soil type different than the rest of the area tested. Avoid taking core samples from wet sites, fence rows, burn sites or other areas that might be vastly different from the rest of the sampled area. Please do not bring in samples from fire ant hills. Yes, some folks have actually done this.
•Soil samples can be taken at any time of the year, but fall is a good time so that limestone, if needed, can be applied and have adequate time to react in the soil. It should be noted that the pH and soil nutrient levels are at their lowest in the fall and the levels do change during the year. To be most accurate soil samples should be taken at the same time of the year every 2-3 years.
For most crops and plants testing is done to determine the level of soil pH, phosphorous, potassium, calcium and magnesium. The soil tests analysis should give you an easy to understand report so you will know the current level of nutrients as well as what type and how much limestone/ fertilizer is needed for the crops or plants you plan to grow.
You get results back within 7 -10 days depending on if you want your results sent via mail or email. Please call our office for more information at 770-307-3029.
Britt West is the county extension agent for Barrow County. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.