NC State University Soil Sampling
Lee County N.C. Extension Service
It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it! No, I’m not talking about taking out the trash. I’m talking about soil sampling, something that you should be doing on a regular basis to insure the health and beauty of your landscape.
Soil sampling provides information about the nutrients available in the soil for plant use. This helps us recommend the amount of fertilizer or lime that you need to apply to your landscape. In turn, your flowers and lawn will create a dazzling display.
You can soil sample at any time of the year, but in order to be useful, you should take a sample 3 to 6 months before starting any new landscape project. Established areas, such as lawns and flower gardens, also need to be sampled, about once every three years.
You have almost all of the equipment needed available at home: a trowel and a clean bucket. The other two necessary items, a sample information sheet and a NCDA sample box, are available at our Center in a soil sample kit. Use the trowel to dig four inches of soil (or 6-8 inches for gardens). Be sure to remove any grass or thatch present. Sample 6 to 8 random locations in the area that you want analyzed and mix thoroughly in the bucket. Use your soil to fill the box to the red line indicated on the side of the box. Take different samples from areas with different use patterns, such as backyard, front yard, and garden.
Be sure to fill out the information sheet and the box, so that appropriate recommendations can be sent to you. Use a sample ID that will remind you of the area you sampled, such as LAWN or FLWR. You also need to fill in the crop code. No need to fret, a list of crop codes is conveniently located on the back of the sample information sheet. And of course we can also help you when you bring in your sample. Now, just drop your box and information sheet off at our office! It’s free!
At this time of year the analysis may take only a week or so to process. In the winter, the soil lab becomes extremely busy processing farmer samples and the wait time may be a few months. Regardless of when you soil sample, it is well worth it, as you will save money and help the environment by applying correct amounts of fertilizer. Recommendations are available online, so be sure to include your e-mail address on the form. As of November 1, the NCDA will no longer mail printed copies of your analysis in an effort to cut down on the amount of paper being used. If you have problems interpreting the results, I will gladly help you to understand what it all means. Well, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and get dirty!
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-Brenda Larson is the Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County