soil test is an excellent measure of soil fertility. It is an inexpensive
way of maintaining good plant health and maximum crop productivity.
Soil fertility fluctuates throughout the growing season each year--the
quantity and availability of mineral nutrients are altered by the
addition of fertilizers, manure, compost, mulch and lime or sulfur,
in addition to leaching. Furthermore, a large quantity of mineral
nutrients are removed from soils as a result of plant growth and
development, and the harvesting of crops. The soil test will determine
the current fertility status. It also provides the necessary information
needed to maintain optimum fertility year after year. Some plants
grow well over a wide range of soil pH, while others grow best within
a narrow range of pH. Most turfgrasses, flowers, ornamental shrubs,
vegetables and fruits grow best in slightly acid soils with a pH
of 6.1 to 6.9. Plants such as rhododendron, azalea, pieris, mountain
laurel and blueberries require a more acidic soil to grow well.
A soil test is the only precise way to determine whether the soil
is acidic, neutral, or alkaline.
soil nutrients are readily available when soil pH is at 6.5. When
pH rises above this value, nutrient elements such as phosphorus,
iron, manganese, copper and zinc will become less available. When
soil pH drops below 6.5, manganese can reach a toxic level for some
soil test takes the guesswork out of fertilization and is extremely
cost effective. It not only eliminates the waste of money spent
on unnecessary fertilizers, but also eliminates over-usage of fertilizers,
hence helping to protect the environment.
can be done at any time, but late October or early November is usually
preferable. Avoid sampling when the soil is very wet or recently
limed or fertilized.
Soils that look different or have been used differently should be
sampled and tested separately. Areas where there is poor growth
should also be tested separately.
a trowel or spade, take thin, vertical slices of the soil as indicated
in the table below. For small areas, use fewer slices; for large
areas, use more slices.
of slices to sample
||10 or more
Top 3-4 inches
|Flowers, Vegetables & Small
||10 ore more
||Top 6-8 inches
||3 or 4
||Top 10-12 inches
slices of soil into a large, clean plastic container or bag and
mix thoroughly. Take about one cup of soil mixture and dry it at
room temperature (do not dry samples in an oven or on a stove or
radiator). Put the dry soil in a sandwich size "zip" type plastic
bag and close tightly. Label each sample on the outside of the bag.
University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension, in cooperation
with the University of Massachusetts Cooperative Extension, Soil
Testing Laboratory, offers a variety of soil test options for home
gardeners and commercial growers."
The "Standard Soil Test" checks for:
pH and lime requirement
b) levels of available plant nutrients
c) abnormally high levels of several toxic elements
Based on this test, the client receives recommendations on the
amounts of lime and fertilizer to add to the soil and what action
to take should an unusually high level of lead be present.
pH: This test is the same pH test performed as part of
the standard soil test
Soil Textural Class Analysis: This test provides percentages
of sand, silt and clay in the soil and determination of the USDA
Soil Textural Class
Organic Matter: This test provides the percentage of organic
matter in your soil
(includes pH and extractable nutrients)
Soil Test plus organic matter
and print the order form and send with your soil sample(s) and the
proper fee. A fee for each sample must be enclosed, samples received
without the proper fee will not be tested.
Soil Test Order Form (PDF Format) Now
the completed form with your soil sample(s) and check made payable
to the University of Massachusetts to:
West Experiment Station
North Pleasant St.
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
more information, call the Soil Testing Laboratory at UMASS (413)545-2311
from Gary Gao,Joe Boggs and Jim Chatfield, Ohio State University
Extension, and the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension