Plants need quality soil to thrive. Unfortunately, we can't always gauge soil quality by inspecting it. When sight alone isn't enough, many gardeners try a soil test.
Soil tests determine the nutrients available to plants, which can help us choose the proper fertilizers. When we know what our plants need, we can reduce the amount of fertilizer washed away as runoff. Through soil testing, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension — Soil Testing Lab provides research-based analysis and non-biased recommendations for landscapes, gardens, and farms.
To register for your soil test:
1. Visit soiltesting.tamu.edu.
2. Choose "Our Submittal Forms" and "Urban Soil Submittal Form."
3. Print and fill out the top portion, payment info, and sample information.
Most homeowners can have their soil tested for as little as $12 to $19. Directions for collecting the soil sample are on the last page. Limit samples to one 10-by-10-foot area for best results.
Collecting your sample is easy:
1. Remove organic material, like leaves, from the sample area.
2. Using a trowel, dig about 6 inches deep and scoop the soil into a bag.
3. Take 10 samples to make up one profile, mix the dirt, and then seal it into a bag.
You can use a bag provided by the extension service or a quart-sized plastic storage bag. Before mailing your sample, label it as directed and include payment if you have not paid online. Results are usually emailed within a week or two. Soil tests are recommended every three years.