Step by Step: How to take a soil sample

October 22, 2014 -  By

Many challenges associated with unhealthy turf and landscapes can be traced to soil problems. Soil tests are the place to start to correct these problems. Experts recommend that turf managers test soils every three years or more to check for fertility needs, pH levels, organic matter and/or soluble salts. Fall and spring are traditional times to test soils, but any time is a good time if it’s needed.

-Conduct separate soil tests for each component of the landscape, such as front, back and side yards and ornamental beds. Avoid areas that are likely influenced by pets; contaminated by fertilizer and/or chemical spills; or altered with fireplace ashes. These factors can skew soil test results. Also avoid taking samples when soil is very wet.

-Use a digging tool, such as a soil probe, trowel, shovel or spade, as long as you can get 3 in. to 6 in. deep. Use a clean plastic bucket, and collect 10 to 20 samples from a stair-step pattern across the area. Collect ribbons of soil about 2 in. wide and 1 in. thick of the proper depth. Remove surface thatch, leaf litter and/or mulch from the surface and any rocks from the soil. Mix all samples together in the bucket.

-Place a pint of soil from the bucket into a sample bag or clear plastic bag. Where to send it? Contact your county extension agent or a private soil-testing lab to obtain the proper forms. The resulting soil test report will come back with fertility recommendations, among other insights.

Step 1: Start with a digging tool, such as a soil probe, trowel, shovel or spade. Be sure you can get 3 in. to 6 in. deep. You’ll also need a clean bucket.

SoilTest1_rev

Step 2: Collect ribbons of soil about 2 in. wide and 1 in. thick. A soil probe is ideal for obtaining samples of this size.

SoilTest2_rev

Step 3: Remove any debris from the soil and combine all the samples together in the bucket. Next, put a pint of the mixture into a soil sample bag or clear plastic bag.

SoilTest3

Visit LandscapeManagement.net/StepbyStep to download a PDF of this page to use as a training tool for your team.


Illustrations: Fiverr.com/artist_team

Source: Virginia Cooperative Extension, “Soil Testing for the Lawn and Landscape;” Texas A&M University Turfgrass Program

This article is tagged with , , , , , and posted in 1014, Step by Step

Comments are currently closed.