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Watershed Management: Education

Soil Testing

Do I need a Soil Test?

Fertilizer nutrients

What is a soil test?

A soil test is the process of sampling and evaluating a soil to measure the fertility of a field, lawn, or garden. The results are used to make recommendations on fertilizer use. Some tests can also determine if other treatments are needed to remedy poor soil conditions.

Why should I do a soil test?

By having your soil tested you learn which nutrients a soil needs. Applying excess nutrients can lead to the pollution of lakes and streams. Knowing the nutrient profile of your soil can help determine what type of fertilizer to apply and how much is needed in each application. It can also determine proper timing of applications to benefit your lawn or garden plants. Most importantly, this can save time and money as well as improve the overall health of a lawn or garden.

How do I take a sample?

Using a shovel, trowel, or other clean tool made of stainless steel, dig a hole about 6" deep in your lawn or garden. If the area is large, take multiple samples and mix them together in a clean bucket. While soil samples can be taken year-round, it is recommended to do soil amending and fertilizer applications in the fall to allow time for changes to occur before the next growing season.

What should I do with the soil sample?

Samples should be placed in designated containers and labeled. Some hardware stores sell simple kits for soil testing which provide immediate results and range from $2 to $25. There are many labs throughout Nebraska which provide professional analysis, most of which charge around $15 or $25 for a 'Lawn and Garden' test.

Below is a list of businesses which provide soil testing services or kits:

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Watershed Management: Education