Why guess; test your soil

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By: Steve Rickman

The month of February is a great time to take your soil samples, if it ever stops raining. Okay, well, maybe it might be March this year. Seriously, the sooner the better, if you are planning on having the most abundant crop this year, be it a garden, lawn, pasture, hay field, cotton, corn or soybean field. Soil testing is the only practical means to adequately determine the fertility status of what you are testing in order to prescribe the correct lime and fertilizer recommendations. Why guess; test your soil.
Now that you have made the decision to soil test, what’s next? The best way to pull a soil sample is with a probe. The reliability of soil test results depends on the quality of the sample submitted to the soil testing laboratory. Poor sampling can result in inaccurate soil test results and produce unreliable lime and fertilizer recommendations. Collect the sample when the soil is moist so that the soil probe will easily go in the ground. We all know that will not be a problem in Chester County these days. You want to pull your sample from multiple sites to represent the whole area. The next step is to dry the soil before shipping to the lab. This is best done on a sunny day, when you can spread the soil out on hard surface. Afterwards, you will want to move all debris and crumble the soil up before placing in a soil sample box. The cost for a basic soil test is $15 with the University of Tennessee.
Information sheets, soil sample boxes, and sampling instructions can be obtained from your local UT Extension office here in Chester County. You can also go online at ag.tennessee.edu/spp and you will find lots of helpful information from the UT Soil, Plant & Pest Center located in Nashville. Stop by and see us at the Extension office and pick up all your soil sampling needs. We even have a couple of soil probes that can be borrowed at no charge. If you have questions, we can be contacted at 989-2103.