- Materials Needed:
- Clean bucket
- Clean paper
- Ziploc bags
- Package for shipping
- Cost: $92.15 ($85 soil tests+ $7.15 shipping)
- Time: 30 mins collecting soil + time for soil to dry + visit to USPS for shipping!
- Notes: UMass Extension’s Soil and Plant Nutriet Testing Laboratory is often recommended for home garden soil tests due to its affordability. I’ll be following UMass’s soil sampling instructions.
STEP 1: DECIDE WHICH OF THE TESTS TO GET
Based on our needs (described in an earlier blog, I decided on these two. Each test requires its own sample, so I need to prepare two samples:
- Routine Soil Analysis
Includes: pH, acidity, Modified Morgan extractable nutrients, lead, aluminum, cation exchange capacity, and percent base saturation
- Total Sorbed Metals Test
Includes: Lead, Nickel, Cadmium, Chromium, Zinc, Copper ($55)
Arsenic, Selenium and Molybdenum ($5/each)
I recommend printing out the forms and reviewing the instructions before you get to work. However, I waited until the end to fill them in.
STEP 2: SELECT THE SAMPLE AREA
- Take note of the total square footage of the area to be represented, as this information will be needed later. For example, I am installing two new raised vegetable beds in a 60 sq ft area.
STEP 3: COLLECT THE SAMPLES
- Using a clean bucket and clean spade, collect 12 or more samples from random spots within the specified area.
- Aggregate the samples in the bucket.
- For vegetable gardens, the sample should be taken at a depth of 6 to 8 inches.
- Avoid sampling when wet or within 6 to 8 weeks of fertilizer application.
STEP 3: MIX AND BREAK
- Break up any clumps of soil and remove rocks, roots, etc. I used an old strainer to help remove some of the debris.
- After removing the extras, thoroughly mix the sample.
STEP 4: ALLOW TO DRY
- Do not submit wet samples to the lab!
- Once the sample is mixed, take out appromixately one cup of soil and spread it out on a clean sheet of paper to dry. In our case, it hadn’t rained in weeks, and I don’t water near this area. But I let it sit out on our porch for about 6 hours in the sun just in case.
STEP 5: ZIP IT UP/FILL OUT SUBMISSION FORM
- Pack about one cup into your Ziploc bag(s) and label accordingly. In my case, since I am submitting two samples – “POPPY1” refers to the Routine Soil Analysis sample while “POPPY2” is refers to the Total Sorbed Metals Test sample.
- Fill out the forms. You will need to:
- Select your desired tests.
- Specify details like total square footage of the area and crop code, which you choose from a given list (home garden, flowers, etc).
- Provide your contact information and preferred method of result delivery – via email or regular mail.
STEP 7: MAIL
- I stuffed the samples, check and paperwork into the Priority Mail Small Flat Rate Box ($7.15). I assume this is a most secure (since it comes with tracking) and affordable option for bags of soil, but if you know differently please leave a comment below!
With hands to soil,