Tips for a Proper Soil Sample
The reliability of a soil test is only as good as the sample you submit. The small amount of soil in the sample container you send to the Agricultural Testing Lab, or your local lawn and garden center (Country Visions Co-op), must represent the entire area to be fertilized.
- Avoid unusual areas such as those where fertilizer or lime has spilled. - Take samples before lime, fertilizer, or manure are added.
- Use only clean equipment for collecting soil samples.
Where to Sample
The area to be sampled should be as uniform as possible in terms of soil type, cropping and fertilizing history. For practical purposes it should be an area you expect to fertilize as a unit. This means you should have separate samples for areas that will be used to grow different types of seed and may have different fertility needs. If you have a problem on part of a lawn, garden, or plot area, you may wish to determine if soil fertility is the cause by taking one sample to represent the “good” and the other to represent the “poor” area.
Take a Good Sample
Collect a number of cores or slices by walking in a zig-zag pattern over the area. Mix cores thoroughly in a clean pail for a composite sample. The greater the number of collected cores mixed together, the better the sample will represent the average condition of the sampled area. Consider 4-6 cores as the minimum for home gardens, lawns, and deer plots up to 10,000 square feet in size. Larger areas should be represented by at least 6 to 10 samples.
Choose one of the following tools:
Soil Probe or Auger – A soil probe or auger is the best tool for sampling. Soil probes may be available for use from some Country Visions locations at minimal or no charge. An auger will be needed if the soil is very stony or gravelly. Simply push the probe (or push and turn the auger) into the soil to the desired depth, lift up to remove the core, and place it in the clean pail. Sampling depth should be 4 to 6 inches deep for lawns and turf or 6-10 inches for annually tilled crops such as deer plots.
A Garden Trowel or Shovel - A garden trowel or shovel may be used if a soil probe or auger is not available. Collect your sample by pushing the blade of a garden trowel, shovel, or spade into the soil to the desired depth. Cut out a triangular wedge of soil and set it aside (to be replaced after sampling). Now slide your blade into the soil again taking a thin (half inch) slice from one side of the hole. With a knife, trim the slice to about a 1-inch strip of soil down the center of the spade – top to bottom. Save this “core” as part of your composite sample. Mix the sample and fill the sample bag or container. Make sure that all the cores are thoroughly mixed together. Bring the samples in to be tested as soon as possible. DO NOT let them sit in a vehicle or other warm enclosed area for too long. This may damage the integrity of the sample.
Country Visions (De Pere) can have the results of your test within a day or two of it being dropped off. The Mishicot and Reedsville Country Stores are now offering soil sampling, too. Contact any of these stores for more information on soil testing.
Information provided by:
Assistant Store Manager, De Pere