Farmers who don’t test fields and pastures can only guess at fertility needs. Estimating how much fertilizer is needed often results in applying more than necessary. And this is an unnecessary expense, not to mention the negative environmental effect.
The Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service has soil sample bags, details on taking accurate samples and other pertinent information. There is no fee for this service.
Your soil analysis report is based on that little pint of soil you submitted. For the most accurate report, take the best soil samples possible. These tips will help.
You’ll need to take different samples for various land uses such as agricultural fields, lawn, garden, fruit trees, ornamental shrubs and azaleas because these may have distinct fertility and acidity or alkalinity requirements.
Take a sample from poor growing area and from adjacent areas of good growth. Mark each sample with a letter, or numbers on a field map. Collect at least 10 soil cores for small areas and up to 20 cores for larger fields.
How deeply you take cores for farm use depends on the tillage system used. For tilled areas, take cores from the surface to plow depth, usually six to eight inches. Take cores down to a 4-inch depth in no-till fields and pastures.
For home lawns, take cores from the surface down to four inches. For gardens, ornamentals and fruit trees, take cores down to six to eight inches.
Be sure to take all cores from an area at the same depth. After you’ve collected soil cores, put them in a clean, dry plastic bucket, crush the soil and thoroughly mix it. Allow this to air dry in an open, contamination-free space.
When it dries, fill the sample bag and completely fill out the information sheet. A separate sheet is needed for agricultural soil, home gardens, lawns and turf grasses and commercial horticultural crops.
It’s a good idea to take core samples around the same time each year to compare results from year to year.
Jerry Little is Boyle County extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.