While looking over a soil test for a lawn, the thought hit me that I have never written an article on soil testing.

If you have ever been to any of our lawn clinics, livestock meetings, or pasture walks, you know that is one subject that is always discussed. There is no way you can know what your soil fertility levels are without soil testing. I have had some folks come in and ask if they should spread some lime, because the garden just doesn’t seem to be growing. The answer is the same, why not do a soil test and let’s see if you need any or what amount you should apply. Soil test results will provide you with not only what nutrients are available, but also the soil PH, which is an important factor in any fertilizer recommendation.

The best time to do a soil test is at the end of the growing season. Warm season grasses will begin to go dormant shortly and most of us are tired of gardening, so that season is also coming to a quick end. Sounds like a good time to do some soil testing.

I also like testing at this time of the year as it allows us to look around and see if there are any other issues that we need to address.

Soil sampling is not hard to do. Our main objective is to collect a good representative sample from the area. The best way to do this is to first stop in at the Extension office and borrow one of our soil probes. A soil probe makes it much easier to get a soil profile thus a better sample. We will also discuss how to get a good representative sample along with some soil bags. The best method to sample is to do a zig zag pattern across the area and then a zig zag pattern back, taking between 8 and 15 samples along the way. Our goal should be to get a completely random group of probe samples then mix them together resulting in a very good random sample.

Please remember that it might be best to take more than one sample. Your lawn may have a completely different recommendation than the garden. At $8 a sample, it is money well spent. As I mentioned a bit earlier, when the results come back we will know the soil PH and what major nutrients are in the soil. There will be a liming recommendation as well as a fertilizer recommendation for the crop you are growing. It is so much better than guessing what to use and how much to use.

If you would like additional information about soil testing, please feel free to contact McDuffie County Extension office at 706-595-1815 and we will be glad to help.

Mark Koenig

UGA Extension Agent ANR

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