We all took tests in school but have you ever taken a soil test?  Now is a great time to be soil testing your gardens, lawns and pastures in preparation of spring planting and fertilization.  A soil test is the sure way to determine nutrients present or lacking in your specific soil type.

There are a number of laboratories across Texas that can analyze your soil.  Most basic soil samples help determines the pH of the soil, macronutrient levels, and micronutrient levels.   A routine soil sample typically cost around $10 at most soil testing labs in Texas.  If your soil report calls for lime, now is a great time to add limestone to your property to change the pH as needed prior to the spring growing season.

To take a soil sample, it is important to sample the entire area.  When taking these core samples, be sure to pull these samples in the root zone of the plant or in the top four to six inch zone.  Deeper subsoil samples may be taken in some instances but are usually not necessary for most routine analysis.

As you pull these core samples, put them in a clean plastic bucket.  Mix the core samples together, removing large organic material from the sample.  Obtain a soil sample bag and information sheet from the Erath County Extension Office. 

When sending samples to the laboratory, do not use old vegetable cans, glass containers, match boxes, or other similar type containers.  Send your samples in the soil sample bags or other suitable pint container.  Label each sample bag and correspond this to the information sheet when sending multiple samples.

When completing the soil information form, provide as much information about the site as possible.  The laboratory will usually provide the results on a per acre basis for pastures and hay fields.  For garden spots, the results may be reported on a hundred square foot basis.  For lawns, the results may be reported on a thousand square foot basis.

We have different informational forms for various samples.  For pastures and hay fields, there are forms specific for those analyses.  For lawns and gardens, there are forms specific for those analyses as well.

There are numerous tools that can help in obtaining core samples.  Soil test probes, shovels, garden tools, PVC pipe in soft soil.  For more information on soil sampling, access the following website http://soiltesting.tamu.edu/ .  Once you obtain your soil test report from the laboratory, we would be glad to help interpret the results. 

For more information contact the Erath County Extension Office at 965-1460.

Lonnie Jenschke is an Erath County extension agent.