How To Test Your Garden's Soil

If your garden's soil has never been tested, now is the perfect time. Testing your gardens can help determine the amount of nutrients and the pH level. It’s an inexpensive way to maintain plant health and maximum crop productivity. Testing will indicate whether you need to apply more or less fertilizer to your soil, keeping your garden and our waters healthy.

The best time to test your soil is from September to December or from February to April. Testing should be done every three years to ensure proper nutrient and pH levels. Before taking a soil sample, be sure to contact a soil testing lab to get more information.

How To Test:

Usually a soil sample is taken with a soil probe or auger, but if neither are available a spade, knife or trowel would work.

  • Remove top debris or residue from the area where you are going to take the sample.
  • Using the soil probe, auger or other tool, take the sample six to eight inches below the surface.
  • Take samples from multiple locations, according to the instructions in your kit.
  • Air dry samples, then mix well and crush lumps until they are no bigger than wheat grains.
  • Take the amount of composite soil specified by your kit and put it in the sample bag provided with the kit.
  • Follow all instructions for submitting soil samples. Be sure to fill out all paperwork, including the types of plants you grow or will grow. Payment will usually need to be included with the paperwork.

Where to send your sample:

Michigan State University offers soil testing services with a kit that can be ordered online. Once your kit is received you should be contacted within 10 days. Other laboratories in Ohio include Alloway testing, Brookside Laboratories, CLC Labs and Holmes Lab. For a full list of laboratories and other information visit Ohio State Soil Testing Information, Michigan State Soil Test or contact us for more information.

Leave a comment


Sign Up

Get email updates from the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District.