In order to gain accurate soil test results and dependable recommendations, soil samples must be collected properly and at the right soil depth for the plant in question. Here are some tips to consider.
When to collect your samples:
Soil samples can be collected at any time of year without affecting the results
Fall testing turns out to be the best for gardeners in seasonal climates because it leaves plenty of time to have the samples processed, buy the right fertilizers and amendments and work the soil while it is dry prior to planting
In the Spring, samples should be collected several weeks prior to working the soil
If you are submitting more than one sample for analysis:
Make a map of the area and note where each sample was taken
The number of soil samples to submit depends upon the size of the area, uniformity of the soil and if there is a reason to sample an area separately. For instance, an area where you are having plant problems should be sampled separately from other areas
As a rule of thumb, you should collect at minimum one soil sample for every 2,000 sq. ft. of lawn area or garden space and three samples for every acre
Lawns should be sampled separately from flower and vegetable gardens. Tree and shrub samples should also be sampled separately
Lawns and Ground Covers
Remove the top 1-inch thatch layer of lawn debris and any green plant material. Sample to a depth of 3 to 4 inches. Collect samples from 5 to 7 random locations for every 2,000 sq. ft. Mix all samples in a bucket and submit 1 to 2 cups for analysis. Sample front and backyard lawn areas separately as well as any places where the lawn grows poorly or conditions are unique.
Flower Gardens, Roses, Bulbs, Vegetables & Herbs
Remove any loose organic matter in the top one-inch of the soil. With a spade or hand trowel, take samples 6-7 inches deep. Do this in six locations for every 1,000 to 2,000 sq. ft. area. Mix these samples in a bucket and submit about 1 to 2 cups for testing.
Trees, Shrubs, Fruit and Nut Trees
Samples should be taken in the area a few feet inside and beyond where the branches extend to their furthermost point. This is known as the edge of the drip-line where feeder roots are actively taking up nutrients. Remove and discard any surface organic matter. Sample to a depth of 6-7 inches. Take 5 or more samples randomly from the drip zone then mix in a bucket and submit 1 to 2 cups for analysis.
Small Fruit and Vines
Remove any surface mulch and sample to a depth of 6-7 inches. Collect 5 or 6 samples from inside the bed or, in the case of grapes and vines, along the planting row no more than one foot from the main stem. For strawberries, sample at the edge of a plant row just beyond the leaf canopy. Mix all samples in a bucket and submit 1 to 2 cups for analysis.
Remove the plant from the container and shake off about 1 cup of soil for testing. Repot and water well.
Packaging & Shipping: You will receive a soil test kit(s) in the mail after placing a order. This contains a folded, (mailing prepaid) soil box with a plastic bag for packaging the soil sample and sending to our lab for processing.
Soil samples that are wet should be air dried prior to mailing, if possible. This can be done by spreading the soil out in a shallow tray, saucer or pan. The drying process can be speeded up by increasing the air movement, putting it on top of a refrigerator or placing it in the sun. Do not microwave the soil or place it in an oven with temperatures greater than 120 F. Dried samples should be packaged inside the plastic bag; then put into the prepaid and addressed soil box. About 1-2 cups per sample is required.
It is helpful to use plastic packing tape around the soil box prior to mailing. In the case of sending multiple samples at once (Neighborly Test), tape all of the soil boxes together so that only one mailing address is showing. This will guarantee that all samples are received and processed at once.
When finished, simply place the sample in your home mailbox for pickup. Since it is prepaid, there is no need to go to the Post Office, saving you a trip.
Rush Orders: The quickest way to get your results is to select the Rush Order option at checkout. Place a check in the box where it says "Rush Order" and upon submitting an order for payment, you will receive a confirmation and a Rush Order Sample Collection Form. This form must be printed, filled out and placed in the soil box to be sent with the soil sample. Otherwise, we will not be able to process the sample. Then, you can proceed with sampling the soil, packaging the sample in a locking plastic bag (1 to 2 cups/sample) and boxing it for mailing. You can count on $3 to $4 per sample to mail it to our lab. A Rush Order will cut off several days of mailing time you would otherwise wait to receive our kit. There is no additional charge for Rush Orders on our end.