How to Do a Soil Test via a Third Party
Why Do a Soil Test?
There are many reasons to do a soil test on your lawn. First, it is the best indicator of how your plants are growing. Without knowing what quality level your soil is at, you may not know exactly what’s causing your grass to wither or flourish.
Second, if the pH of the soil is too high or too low, you may need to change your feeding methods. If you’re already using a fertilizer on your lawn, keeping regular track of the pH should be a regular task so you can adjust it according to what the soil actually needs.
A soil test may also indicate other nutrients your lawn may need. For example, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are all necessary elements that can be depleted through soil erosion or inconsistent watering.
Ultimately, you may even be able to save yourself from incurring high costs on your lawn by spending on nutrients and fertilizers that your lawn actually needs. This enables your lawn to remain in better condition over a longer period of time. Having the results of a soil test can help you get started in taking the steps necessary to build a healthy lawn.
Who Does Soil Tests?
You may hear about soil tests, but may be unsure of how to go about doing it.
One way is through a university extension. These are programs at local universities that specialize in researching and experimenting with soil. These are typically associated with the land grant university with a school of agriculture. In most cases, one free soil test a year is available through them, but policies may vary.
Another way to have a soil test done is through your gardener who can go to an extension office at a university to request a soil sample box and forms to submit materials for a soil test. If you live far from one, you may be able to request that one be mailed to you.
Professional lawn care companies are also a great way to get accurate soil test results. Locally-based companies will often have the experience and a deeper knowledge about the soil and grass types in your area.
How Do You Take a Soil Sample?
In most cases, the soil should be tested at the beginning of each gardening seasons. This generally means spring for cooler regions and fall for warmer regions.
If you decide to go through a lawn care service, soil samples need to be obtained. These are fairly easy to do you have the right tools, most of which aren’t complicated or difficult to use.
- To obtain the most comprehensive results for your soil, be ready to prepare samples from all areas of your property, including the front yard, backyard, and gardening areas.
- Take four to six shovels full of soil from each area and place them in clearly marked labels. The best soil should come from just beneath the grass.
- Wait for the soil to dry in the buckets and then stir them around. Then, follow the instructions on the kit on dividing samples and submit them.
- Fill out the paper work and wait as different tests are run by the experts.
Reading the Soil Test Report
Although different organizations include varying details in a soil test result, there are some common themes:
- Amount of available elements, including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – the three most important elements of soil health.
- Soil texture. A sandy, clay-like texture is what you want to look for.
- Organic matter. Organic matter contributes to nutrient and water-holding capacity, an important aspect of healthy soil.
- Acidity/pH. This will determine the levels of acid and alkaline in the soil. Soil pH also affects how plants grow and nutrient availability.
- Calcium and magnesium. While not found in most soil test results, they may be important if you plant vegetables around your home.
If you’re unsure of what your results mean for your lawn, speak with a professional. Much like an annual check-up with your doctor, doing the occasional soil test can help put your lawn back on track to a healthier state.