Details about how to test soil of your garden

  1. Perform a soil test prior to any major new planting such as a lawn, vegetable garden or landscaping. Problems are much easier to correct before plants are in the ground.
  2. Contact your county cooperative extension office to see if it performs soil tests. In some states, you'll have to use a private soil lab. (Find one in the yellow pages under "Soil Laboratories.")
  3. Ask the person who will perform the test to send you instructions and materials needed to collect the sample.
  4. Perform the test several months prior to planting. That will give you plenty of time to improve the soil before you plant.
  5. Collect samples of soil from 5 to 10 different areas of your yard. Using a shovel, pick up a scoop of soil, creating a hole 6 to 8 inches deep. Discard this soil. From the back of each hole, cut a 1-inch wide, 6- to 8-inch deep slice of soil.
  6. Place all the slices of soil in the same bucket. (An exception: If your yard has several areas with obviously different soil types or varying terrain, collect separate samples from each area. Label the bags accordingly to keep track of where the soil came from.)
  7. Thoroughly mix all the samples together with your hands or a trowel.
  8. Remove about 1 pint of soil from the bucket and place it in a plastic bag. Seal the bag.
  9. Label the bag with your name, the date and the area of your garden where the soil was taken.
  10. Send the sample to the soil lab, along with any other information requested.