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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Is a soil test worth it?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Last week, we covered some of the basics about soil.

One of the questions educators often get asked is, "Is a soil test really worth it?"

And the answer is yes.

Soil tests are a valuable asset to homeowners, gardeners, and farmers.

It is definitely worth the time to take the sample, take it to a place to be tested or ship it to the test site, and do so before adding anything to your soil. Therefore this week, I want to talk about some of the basics of taking a soil test.

A soil test should be done at least every three years to ensure that your plants have the available nutrients they need.

Additionally, tests should be done before adding any large quantities of lime or fertilizer to your yard, garden or field.

In order to get a soil sample ready to be tested, you need to use either a soil probe, auger or spade.

A soil probe can be borrowed from your local extension office if you would decide to use it over either of the other tools.

Additionally, you will need a clean plastic pail and a sample bag.

The sample bag can be obtained from your local extension office or your local farm co-op.

Next, you should decide where you will be taking your samples from and record that on a piece of paper.

Once you have the places located where you want to take your sample from, go ahead and obtain the samples using either a soil probe, auger or spade. Once you get the sample, place it in your clean plastic pail.

Thoroughly mix all the samples from similar locations (i.e., all the samples from your garden or all the samples from your lawn) together.

Remove any large rocks or roots from the sample. If the soil is muddy, dry it before mixing.

Once you have mixed it, place it on a clean paper towel to dry some more.

Finally, fill the sample bag to the line with the air-dried soil. Label the bag so that you know which sample it is (i.e., garden or lawn).

Here are a few final helpful hints about obtaining your soil sample. When testing your lawn, take the sample from 2-3-inches below the surface. For gardens and flower beds that are rototilled or plowed, take the sample from 4-8-inches below the surface. Avoid taking samples from field borders. Also, avoid any other area that is distinctly different than the rest of the area.

Those locations would include potholes, sandy ridges, or eroded spots.

If you would like to run a test on that location, do not mix it in with any other sample locations before bagging it.

To complete the process, take your sample to a local farm co-op to be tested. Please remember to tell them whether the sample is from your lawn, garden or crop field.

Other locations where you can have your soil tested at can be accessed by visiting www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/soiltest.html.

Prices for soil tests vary from location and depending on wht tests you have ran on your soil.

How long it takes to get your test results back varies between labs, but most are within a few weeks.

Once you get your test results back, remember to ask to help with any part of the results you are confused about.

If you took your sample to a local farm co-op, they will often help you understand your results. Additionally, you can seek help from Purdue Extension. Please remember that each plant has particular requirements in terms of fertilizer and pH. Most plants like the pH to range from 5.5-7.5.

Testing your soil is a rather inexpensive thing to do when you think about all the heartache you can avoid by not having to deal with poor performing plants.

Therefore, it is best to take a soil test every three years to make sure there are available nutrients in the soil for your plants and before making any large changes to your landscape.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about agriculture, horticulture or natural resources, contact your local Purdue Extension Office at 448-9041 in Clay County or 812-829-5020 in Owen County or reach me directly via e-mail at smith535@purdue.edu.

Upcoming opportunities available to you through Purdue Extension include:

* Saturday -- Clay County 4-H Council Fish Fry,

* March 30 -- Area Township Trustee Meeting, 7 p.m., Ivy Tech Community Room, Terre Haute, and

* April 1 -- Clay County Cultural Arts and Sew Now applications due.