Knowing the pH and nutrient content of your soil is important to successful growing.

Knowing the pH and nutrient content of your soil is important to successful growing.

How To Take A Soil Sample

1. When should soil be sampled?

Soil samples can be taken at any time during the year; however, avoid extremely wet soil conditions unless absolutely necessary.

2. How often should I have my soil tested?
For home gardens, every 2 to 3 years. Sampling from any given area should be done at about the same time as in previous years.

3. What tool shall I use for sampling?
Use a garden spade or shovel.

4. What is the proper sampling depth?
For home gardens
, sample at 8" depth.
For lawns,
a sample from the upper 6" is satisfactory; remove plant residue.
For trees and fruit crops, sample at 8" depth.

5. How do I go about collecting the sample?
With a shovel, dig a hole to the sampling depth. Cut a ½" slice from the face of the hole and trim the sides so you have a vertical slice of soil.

Repeat the sampling process in about 6-10 locations throughout the garden or field. Mix the samples in a plastic bucket to obtain a representative composite sample. Avoid sampling in unusual areas if the objective is to estimate average fertility levels over the entire area.

6. What if I have an area of poor crop growth?

If you have a trouble spot, a separate sample taken from this area may be necessary.

7. Should the sample be dry?
Do not bring in wet samples. If it is necessary to sample wet soil, spread the sample on a sheet of newspaper and allow it to dry at room temperature.

8. How much soil is needed for each composite sample?
About two cups are required.

9. Where do I bring samples?
Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County, 203 North Hamilton Street, Watertown, NY between 8:30 0a.m. and 4:00 p.m. on weekdays. Testing for pH alone is done on-site. Nutrient and specialized tests are sent out to an area laboratory.

10. What information needs to accompany the samples?

Site characteristics
Crop to be grown
Age of crop
Fertilizer used, if any

11. How long will it take to get test results? 

pH tests are conducted at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County and take from 1 - 3 days. Complete nutrient tests take about 1 - 2 weeks. Results are mailed from the lab directly to you, and a copy also is sent to our office.

12. What if I have questions about the results?
Call us at (315) 788-8450.

13. How much does the test cost?

pH test (for up to 3 samples) - Free
pH testing kits - $15
Standard nutrient test - $15.00 per sample
Payable when sample is submitted to Cornell Cooperative Extension of Jefferson County.


Sue Gwise
Horticulture and Natural Resouces Educator
315-788-8450 ext. 243

Last updated June 20, 2017