Fall is a Good Time for Soil Testing

Andrea Burns
Special to the Globe

If you are looking for a good reason to get outside and enjoy this nice Indian summer weather we are enjoying, it might be a good time to think about taking a soil sample.

Though we often think of soil testing as a spring chore, fall can actually be a better time.

Soil-testing laboratories are often very busy during the spring resulting in a longer turnaround from submission to recommendations. Also, soils in the spring are often waterlogged, making taking samples difficult.

If your soil test suggests more organic matter, fall is a much better season because materials are more available than in the spring (tree leaves), and fresher materials can be used without harming young tender spring-planted plants.

Begin by taking a representative sample from at least six locations in the garden or lawn.

Each sample should contain soil from the surface to about six to eight-inches deep. This is most easily done with a soil sampler. Many K-State Research and Extension offices have such samplers available for checkout.

If you don’t have a sampler, use a shovel to dig straight down into the soil. Then shave a small layer off the back of the hole for your sample. Mix the samples together in a clean plastic container and select about 1 to 1.5 cups of soil. This can be placed in a plastic container such as a resealable plastic bag.

Take the soil to your county extension office or local soil testing laboratory for analysis.

A soil test determines fertility problems, not other conditions that may exist such as poor drainage, poor soil structure, soil borne diseases or insects, chemical contaminants or damage, or shade with root competition from other plants.

All of these conditions may reduce plant performance but cannot be evaluated by a soil test.

For more information or assistance on understanding your soil sample results, contact the Ford County Extension Office at 620-227-4542.

Have a great weekend!