Farm (or yard) Soil Samples


OK people this is not rocket science.  I know it is not because even I can do it.  It is pretty simple straight forward and even has pictures.  I like pictures they make it easier.  That is why I borrowed it from A&L Laboratories.  I’ll even give you their address here in a bit if you want to visit them direct.  The other reason I copied it direct is it is a lot easier for me.  Me and this new keyboard don’t get along well but I have my speed up to about 39 mistakes per minute now.  Go ahead you can laugh, one of us should!  You will note that these instructions are for landscaping purposes.  Don’t let that bother you the principles are the same.  Just a couple of things I wanted to point out here.  Take your samples from different locations around your pasture and yard as well.  I say yard as well because as you can tell from several of my post mine is used as a back up food plot in a pinch.  For example  .   Also note that the word sample is always used in the plural form, samples.  Take multiples.  Your soil will change area to area depending on the conditions there.  Keep track of and mark each sample as to location.  Your Ag agent or Co-op, wherever you are going to get the test done may well have sample sheets to help with your record keeping here.  They may even loan you a tool made to take samples with.  Make it easy on yourself.  (Sounds like a good song title doesn’t it?)  Also when taking samples.  Remember you are testing the soil not the grass that is growing on top of it, or last falls leaves that are still there, or even that cow, goat or rabbit droppings deposited there.  In that case brush it off, or better yet move over a few inches.  You will get a better reading that way.

Also remember, you don’t have to do this.  If you are satisfied with the pasture in it’s present condition go with it.  After all you did not start this adventure to spend more money but hopefully figure out how to spend less.  Or at least get better quality for your expenditures.  This process is to benefit you if you think there is a problem.  Here again this is a good time to compare yours pasture to your close neighbor.  Maybe even talk to them to see what if anything they have had to do.  You might even make a friend in the process.

OK that address I promised you.  Have a good day now I have to go try to finish up that hog pen I started a month ago.  Already got the hogs though.  Another time for that.




Beneficial results of a soil test depend on a good sample. The sample should represent the area it is taken from. A soil sample must be taken at the right time and in the right way. The tools used, area sampled, depth and uniformity of the sample, information provided, and packaging all influence the quality of the sample.

Correct Sampling Time

  • Take a soil sample a few months before initiating any new landscaping—whether it be laying sod, starting a vegetable garden, putting in a flower bed, or planting perennials. This way, if the soil test report recommends lime, you will have enough time to apply it and have it adjust the soil pH before you plant.
  • Sample established areas—lawns, trees,shrubbery, and other perennials—once every three or four years. You can sample at any time of year; however, mid-August through mid-September is an ideal time to take samples for cool-season grasses, such as fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass. By sampling at this time, you can be ready to apply lime in the fall.
  • If an established area exhibits abnormal growth or plant discoloration, take a soil sample right away. You may want to submit matching plant tissue samples or separate soil samples for nematode assay. For areas recently limed or fertilized, delay sampling at least six to eight weeks.

Use Clean Sampling Equipment

  • Use a soil-sampling probe, an auger, a spade or shovel. (check the supply order form)
  • Tools should be either stainless steel or chrome-plated. Do not use brass, bronze, or galvanized tools because they will contaminate samples with copper and/or zinc.
  • If a shovel or a spade is used, dig a V-shaped hole to sample depth (4-6’’), then cut a thin slice as shown on the right.
  • Mix soil cores for each sample in a clean, plastic bucket. If the bucket has been used to hold fertilizer or other chemicals, wash it thoroughly before using it for soil samples.
Soil Sampling Image

Sampling Area

  • Each sample should represent only one soil type or area—for example, a lawn, vegetable garden or perennially landscaped area. For each unique area, take at least six to eight samples. Place all the samples for one unique area in a plastic bucket and mix thoroughly. Use the mixture in the bucket to fill a soil sample bag about two-thirds full. Look for the fill line on the bag.
  • If one area of your yard seems healthy and another has bare or yellow areas, sample healthy and unhealthy areas separately even if both are lawn grasses or flower gardens, etc.
Sampling Area Image

Sampling Depth

  • For lawns, sample to a depth of four inches, excluding any turf thatch.
  • For vegetable and flower gardens, sample to the depth that you plan to incorporate lime or fertilizer, usually four to six inches.
  • For shrubbery, remove any mulch or surface debris, then sample to a depth of four to six inches around the base of plants. Avoid zones where lime or fertilizer has been recently applied.

Submitting Samples

  • Put samples in A&L sample bags or medium zip-lock bags.
  • Use a ballpoint pen or water proved marker to label each sample bag and complete the soil submittal form. Do not use felt tip pens since most of them do not contain waterproof ink. Bags labeled with a pencil can be very difficult to read if they become dirty.
  • List the crop code shown on the back of the information sheet in the appropriate column.
  • Do not put information sheets inside sample bags. Attach information sheets to the outside of the shipping bag or put them inside the shipping box next to or on top of the samples.
  • Do not use sample bags as mailing containers.
  • Samples should be shipped in a sturdy, corrugated cardboard box.
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