Taking A Soil Test

Growing plants successfully, requires proper soil nutrition. So you will need to know what your soil’s nutrient levels are and its pH (acidity/alkalinity). pH is an important part of plant nutrition because it determines the plants ability to use other available plant nutrients to produce photosynthesis. So before you feed your plants try to determine the PH and nutrient level of your soil. You can determine PH using a soil test kit or meter or do a complete soil test. Some soil test kits will also test for basic soil nutrients such as nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus. Applying fertilizer and other chemicals when not needed can actually make things worse and injure plants. So don’t guess–do a soil test! Clemson bulletin on soil PH

How to do a soil test:

  • Use a clean garden trowel or shovel to collect the samples. It is important to use clean sampling tools. If you have recently fertilized or applied Pesticides wait a few weeks to take the sample as this will impact the results. Try to gather soil from the surface to a depth of about 6 inches(2 to 3 inches in a lawn area) from several spots in the area to be tested 10-12 is ideal. Keep track of which area of your property you are testing (front lawn, north border, vegetable garden etc.). Its also best to sample specific areas separately such as vegetable garden, lawn etc. as they have different needs.
  • Mix the samples in a clean container. The sample should not be wet if so wait for a drier period to take it. Place at least two cups of the mixed soil in a plastic ziploc bag. Write on the bag when the sample was taken, where taken and what is being grown(vegetables ,lawn etc.)
  • Take your sample to the Aiken County extension office(803/649-6297) 1555 Richland Ave. East, Suite 500 Aiken, South Carolina 29801. There is a fee of $6 per soil sample.
  • The results will be mailed to you and a copy sent to the extension office in a couple of weeks with detailed nutrient levels and recommendations on adding soil amendments.
  • Here is a Clemson bulletin with complete information on the soil test process.