I called my county extension office and was told that they would charge me $50 to test my soil.
Seems a bit steep, don't you think?
These guys will do a better job, more testing, better testing, better explanations, for $35.
Here is a link that might be useful: Texas Plant and Soil Lab
Each state has its own price structure and some, it seems to me, are trying really hard to price themselves out of business. Michigan State University USDA Cooperative Extension Service charges $12.00 per sample for homeowners, farms and commercial growers are charged different fees.
Penn State University in Pennsylvania charges $9.
You must have asked them about organic matter and micronutrients. Their standard charge for the 'usual' things is $10.00. The $50.00 fee is for the 'super-duper' test. ;-)
When I called, I didn't know there were differents tests.
Now that I've looked up the extension's soil testing services online, I can see that the guy I spoke to simply quoted me the most expensive...the 'super duper' as you called it, Rhizo.
Must have been his idea of a little joke. Turns out a routine test is only $10. When I have one done, I'll bypass my local office and send it directly to A&M.
Thanks all, for your imput. -- Carol
I'd call and 'suggest' to your local office that they should make the cost breakdown known to all of their clients. Clients such as YOU!!! ;-)
Here in SoCal I called our extension agent, he said he could not help me. Something about a non-compete agreement with commercial testing labs.
Commercial testing lab said $35, but $50 if I wanted recommmendations. Since I have several growing beds, this seemed prohibitive.
This was a while ago, don't know present situation but don't imagine any breakthrough.
So anyone know of a $10-15 basic test that a SoCal resident can take advantage of? Will a university in another state accept me as a client?
I know the Texas Plant and Soil Lab (mentioned above) tests soil from around the world.
Do not bypass your local office, go there and get to know them. Ask questions that will cause them to find organic, envirnmentally friendly answers. The only way to change what is normally a very eco unfriendly CES system is if we go there and push them. Your taxes help support that system and you are entitled to use it and get good answers from the people there as anyone else is. But if we ignore them, stay away and allow only those that chose evironmentally unsound practices to use them thhat will be the only answers given to questions.
The horticulturist in my local office has seen the light and is, as much as MSU allows, eco friendly.
I've wondered about this for a while. I've also wondered if I need a test for each of my beds, since I tend to throw different things in my beds and plant different things in my beds. For that matter, wouldn't an area of the garden that had legumes in it have a different test result than an area of the garden that had corn in it? And how often does one need to test?
Anyway, I surfed the LA county extension service website and found this list of testing labs:
You can find a test in the 10 dollar range or in the 50 dollar range, depending on what you want. I didn't look for other details (like, if they test for home gardeners) but it looks like a good start.
Here is a link that might be useful: PDF summary of five testing labs in California
I've read your discussions regarding soil testing costs and thought I'd give you a bit of background that accounts for some of the differences -- it's not necessarily that someone is trying to give you only the most expensive (although like any business, that will occassionally happen). I've worked in soil testing /soil fertility for about 20 years, 15 as the director or manager of a public service laboratory on the east coast. Managing costs and setting prices that are reasonable are issues I deal with on a regular basis.
Basic soil tests vary widely in price because the components of the test vary. Some tests include only pH, P and K while others are more comprehensive. In addition, specific soil tests have been developed for specific types of soils -- what works for the soils in one region of the country may not be appropriate for soils from a different part of the country. The costs associated with these tests are different and that is why there are some regional differences in price -- costs on the West Coast are often more expensive than those here in the east because the test that is often used (e.g., saturated paste) is more labor intensive. Likewise, other laboratory costs (labor, operating costs, supplies) also vary in different parts of the country and influence the cost of the tests. Add in whether or not you get recommendations and the cost can again change.
Although people often complain about the cost of a soil test, when compared to the dollars they often spend on plants, nuturients (organic or otherwise) and other garden expenses, not to mention their time and labor, the cost of the soil test every 2-3 years is only a small part - whether its $7.50 or $50 per sample.
Speaking of which, I was wondering how many samples I should have tested...
Am I wrong thinking that it would be more accurate if I test each "micro-climate" separately? Specifically being my front-yard lawn area, my back-yard lawn area and the area I plan on dedicating as a shade garden under a copse of cedar trees.
I'm familiar with gathering from multiple locations per sample, but I'm thinking multiple samples would be more valuable since each location will be targeted for different purposes. <shrug> You tell me...
I live in West Virginia and the county extension office tested my soil for free. When I lived in North Carolina they did not charge to test my soil either.
I'm sure I didn't get the Super Duper test results but still . . . . free is good!
Here in Middle Tennessee the rates are broken out by types of tests done but the basic pH,N,P,K tests are $6.00 each.
klsg: Thanks for the explanation. Things usually turn out to be more complicated than they seem to those who don't know anything about them...like me & soil testing!
Unles you have a specific need to have one planting bed tested, ie you plan on a plant that normally needs an acidic soil, there is no need to have each planting bed tested, and the people at your Extension office will help you with that providing you visit and ask questions and that is why they are there, to help you. There is also no need for the average homeowner to have the soil tested every year, although you could have Bed A tested this year, Bed B tested next uear, and so on testing one bed each year to be able to see the soil improvement over time.
Or you could wait until your plants are dying and try to determine why and fix that.
I was just reading a book that said plant tissue tests are much more accurate than soil tests. They actually find what nutrients are getting into or not getting into the plant. Says many commercial orchards use them. I have no idea how much they cost or who does them.
Tissue testing can be useful, if interpretations have been developed for the plant that you're growing. They've been developed for many commericial crops but not as many have been done for ornamentals. In many cases, they can be used to identify a problem like a deficiency or toxicity, but may not be as useful if you want to know now much fertilizer to apply.
Many ag testing labs offer tissue testing as well soil testing. A typical test for plant analysis is often in the range of $15-20 per sample. There are specific guidelines for collecting the sample (how many leaves, what type of leaf (new growth, fully mature leaves, etc). Its important that the correct type of sample be collected so that the results are meaningful. Collecting the wrong type can give you results that don't mean much.