Saturday, September 29, 2007

Soil Test

I took my first soil tests this year. The soil test packets can be picked up at a county extension office or some local nurseries. Information on how to obtain a soil test in Lehigh and Northampton Counties is available at

Taking a soil test takes a little time and effort but it was much easier than I imagined. Am I absolutely sure I’m getting a perfect sample? – not really. But I think it’s adequate. I’ll try to describe what I did for a small rose bed – 3’ x 12’.

The test packet contains a sealable plastic test bag, a soil test information form and a lab-addressed mail envelope. Each piece of the kit has the same assigned number.

It is recommended to take 12 to 15 soil sample plugs 6 to 10 inches deep for gardens and to zig zag through the bed – following the line of an imaginary W.

Since the bed is small and there are 5 roses in it, I took only 5 samples 8 inches deep with a hand trowel. Too many roses for this small bed? - but I had to have them. There were only so many places to dig a sample. I have managed to get the recommended amounts of sample plugs in the larger beds.

The samples were mixed together in a clean bucket and then spread on newspaper overnight to reduce moisture. Stones were removed. I put a cup full of soil in the sample bag.

The information form for gardens is the last (green) page of the form. I filled in my name and address and picked a “crop code” from the back of the form for my sample, i.e., 5510 for “Roses Maintain”. I put the soil sample and form into the mailing bag and took it to the post office.

The cost for the sample kit was $9.00 and postage about $2.50. I received the analysis and recommendations by mail about a week and a half later. In the case of the rose bed maintenance, it was suggested I use 10-10-10 fertilizer at the rate of 1.5 pounds per 100 square feet. No limestone, magnesium (Epsom Salts) or gypsum is needed. Soil pH is in the optimum range. Organic matter is above minimum acceptable CEC number.

I have two more beds I’d like to test this fall. In spring, I would like to test the lawn soil. We’ll see how much time (and energy) I have in spring.

No comments: