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Soil Test

Posted by gardengirl36 8b (My Page) on
Wed, Jul 24, 13 at 12:34

I live in south Texas and recently decided to get into veggie gardening and put in some raised beds this past year. I know my soil is not the greatest due to the performance of some of the veggies I attempted to grow this past year. I want to get a soil test but do not know where to start. I know that there are some kits you can buy online or you can ship in a sample to a lab. I just do not know where to begin. Any suggestions?

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Soil Test

I was just about to post this same question. What is the best soil test kit / device that I can buy and do myself?

RE: Soil Test

As a horticultural consultant and soil educator, I would advise you not to waste your money on home test kits. With the possible exception of pH testing, home testing kits simply do not provide accurate information. Not only that, they provide no interpretation of the results nor recommendations for amending.

There are literally thousands of soil testing labs in the country. Originally, land grant universities - those that sponsor the extension services - provided free soil testing. Many are no longer able to provide this service but it never hurts to check.

If you are in Texas, TAMU has an excellent soil testing lab:

Otherwise, check out the attached link. The University of Mass is also highly recommended. There is no problem about going out of state for testing.........IOW, the lab does not have to be local to provide quality information. It is important to contact them before you send, either by phone or reviewing their website, as different labs have different requirements for obtaining the soil samples.

Here is a link that might be useful: soil testing labs

RE: Soil Test

Gardengirl, your very best bet is to call or visit your local A&M Extension and ask them about how to prepare and ship soil samples to the university soil testing lab. You can download all of the information from their web site but I did not see detailed info about HOW to properly collect each sample.

I think that it would be wise for you to develop a relationship with your local county chapter, if you have one.

For very little cost, you can have a very good soil test done. The typical 'at home ' test kits aren't worth a nickle.

Fleet, the same goes for you. UMass Extension also offers laboratory testing and a wide range of other services.


RE: Soil Test

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Wed, Jul 24, 13 at 18:47

In TX, see the link below. For home samples, be they veggie, lawn , or landscape use the Urban Soil Submittal Form - on the homepage click on Our Submittal Forms link, then find the Urban form. On the second page of the form you will find instructions on sampling and where to send it. If any of the instructions aren't clear you can also look at the standard "Soil Submittal Form" on the second page (that one is for agriculture).

It is best to use a regional soil laboratory. Soil tests are developed and optimized for regional soil characteristics. The extraction methods used, for example, by U. Mass were developed for NE acidic soils and are quite different from those that have been optimized for TX calcareous alkaline soils. The upshot is you will get very different results between the two, and the guidance from U. Mass will have been developed based on their regional soils. I strongly encourage you to use the TAMU lab.

In what county are you located?

Here is a link that might be useful: Texas A&M - Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory

This post was edited by TXEB on Wed, Jul 24, 13 at 21:12

RE: Soil Test

The home soil test kits might test for soil pH but they do not tell you how much Calcium and Magnesium is in your soil. If your soils pH needs correction that test will be of little to no value since you do not know what you may need and how much to make that correct.
The test for Phosphorus and Potash is the same. They may indicate too little or too much but do not have values that help you understand what might be needed to make any corrections.
Your Texas A & M Cooperative Extension Service county office will help you know how to sample for the soil test and provide some information about what you might need to do to correct any problems that soil might have.

RE: Soil Test

Ummmmmm........did anyone read my post? I referenced both the TAMU and UMass soil labs in my response. I sometimes wonder why it is necessary to repeat the same thing someone has posted earlier, almost as if the source was the determining factor on veracity. Sorry to be snarky but this seems to happen rather frequently and its offensive. If the posts were hitting simultaneously I could understand - like minds think alike! - but they are not.

Dorie, please don't think I am picking on you (I'm not), but a good many of the extension services, certainly most of them here on the west coast, no longer offer soil testing services. That appears to be a very common response with states that have a heavy agricultural presence - they just don't have the staffing or funding to keep up.

RE: Soil Test

  • Posted by TXEB 9a (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 19:15

gal - following your post I was trying to direct OP to the TAMU option, that you identified, because it will be far better suited to her soils for the reasons stated, and at the same time trying to offer guidance on directions (where they're found) following rhizo's post. I apologize if that offended you. But, I share your sentiments - some seem to read the OP, but nothing that followed, and then reply as if nobody else had. Such is life in public forums.

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