About testing, sampling and laboratories

Testing, sampling and soil laboratories

Soil laboratories are necessary to provide accurate analysis and meaningful recommendations. Many kits and test methods—some of which we mentioned earlier—are available that allow you conduct crude analysis for various nutrients, as well as pH, texture, density and other factors. However, you should consider these only rough indicators of soil quality. A laboratory analysis is necessary for you to get a good grasp of your soil’s condition.

For small landscapes, the cost of testing may not be justified unless serious problems are occurring. However, for larger landscapes and golf courses, the cost of testing is trivial compared to the benefits. The information labs provide allows you to take the appropriate management steps to maximize plant growth. Otherwise, you’re just guessing at how much and what type of material to apply if you wish to amend soils.

The results from any kit or lab are only as good as the sample taken. Therefore, ensure that you follow instructions on the soil-test form. Pay particular attention to the suggested number of subsamples per unit area, sampling pattern, sampling depth, mixing procedure and whether to include thatch as part of the sample. Take care not to contaminate the sample with fertilizer, lime or any other substance that may influence results.

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