Many times I am evaluating someone’s yard and they ask me questions like, “Why is this half of the yard not growing?”, “Why is this area not green like the rest of the yard?”, “How come this bush just sits here and doesn’t grow like the other ones?”. I usually cannot give them an answer, because the answer is in the soil. In any given yard, no matter the size, there can be a big pH difference that needs to be corrected. In these instances, a soil test is a necessity to find out truly what is going on. So what is involved in a soil test is what you want to know? Let me help you with that question.
I am going to use information from the UT agriculture extension website because it can’t be said more clearly or precisely than this. Each state should have their own agriculture extension agency to take care of the testing for you. The link to this page is, http://extension.tennessee.edu/county/williamson/soil_testing.htm. Here is what they have to say about getting a soil test and how to take the samples…
Soil testing can provide useful information on the proper amount of lime and fertilizer needed for lawns and gardens, etc… Soil testing can also diagnose nutrient deficiencies or toxicities for poorly growing plants.
It is very important that the soil be collected properly for sampling.
To collect samples use a soil probe, hand garden trowel, shovel or spade. Mix soil or sub-samples in a clean, plastic bucket. If fertilizer and/or other chemicals have been used in the bucket, wash and rinse thoroughly before using it for soil sampling. Residue from fertilizer or lime can contaminate the sample and produce inaccurate results.
Areas to avoid testing are small areas where soil is obviously different from the rest of the landscape such as, low lying wet areas, yard or landscape borders, ditches, severely eroded areas and fence rows.
If the lawn has healthy and poor growing areas, soil test both areas separately. By comparing the results, the soil test may point out troubles that exist due to lack of nutrients and /or incorrect pH.
Dig down, at an angle, about 6 inches dig right behind the first cut and use the slice of soil, as in the example. Take approximately 15 to 20 sub- samples within each acre. Mix these sub-samples together and bring to the soil lab approximately 1/2 pint. You can bring it in a plastic baggie(and transfer it into the box) or you can stop by the Extension Office and pick up a soil test kit which consists of an information sheet and a soil sample box. Fill out the information sheet as complete and accurately as possible. Fill the box with loose soil and label it with your name, and sample identifier. Choose a unique identifier that will help you remember the area it corresponds to. Such as GARDN, FLAWN,BLAWN, ROSE. Bring it to your local Extension Office, 4215 Long Lane, Ste. 200, Franklin, TN 37604.
The fees for soil testing start at $6.00 for a basic test. Providing which different factors you are looking for there will be additional fees.
You should receive your results in approximately 7 to 10 days depending on what time of the year it is (early spring is when everybody tests soil) therefore, the soil lab becomes over loaded which results in a longer turn around for patrons.
For more information contact University of Tennessee Extension at (615) 790-5721. Useful information can also be found at University of Tennessee’s Soil Testing Lab.