A soil test gives you an estimate of the supply of plant food elements in the soil and tells you if the soil is in the correct pH range (too acid or too alkaline). The soil test recommendations will include the plant food needed at planting or greenup and the lime required to offset harmful soil acidity. Your soil composition can change over time and it is suggested that you have one done every four years.
You will want a clean bucket in which to collect your soil. A soil probe is the ideal tool for sampling. Various augers can be used to pull up a plug of soil as well. But, a good ol’ shovel is what most of us have and will use.
With your shovel, dig a hole about 6″ deep. Toss the loose dirt aside. Using the shovel blade, slice into the smooth wall of the hole and pull a small strip for your sample bucket.
Do this in about twelve different locations. Taking soil in a zig-zag pattern is the best way to get a good representation for your sample.
Now mix the soil together. Remove any rocks and roots. You want to submit soil without debris. The soil sample needs to be dry. You can spread it out on a newspaper in a garage or in a work area to dry. Do not put it in the oven to “speed” dry. The heat may deteriorate nutrients, resulting in an inaccurate reading.
Once your soil sample has dried, package a pint and send it to your county extension office. If you’ve taken more than one soil sample from your yard such as your lawn area, you can label it lawn or number one. If you’ve taken a second sample as well from your flower bed, you can label that as number two. If you’re taking it from your flower bed, be sure to remove the mulch from the bed and dig down into the soil to take your sample.
You should receive the results from your soil sample in 3-4 weeks. If you have any questions, you can contact extension office or ask Terry, here at Gregg Farm Services. You can also look online for University of Arkansas soil fact sheets for more information concerning your soil sample.