The health of your soil -- including its composition, its nutrients and its ability to hold water -- is all essential to the lives it supports. If your garden or lawn isn't looking so great, maybe it's time to see how your soil is doing.
Soil testing can be done in the fall or in the spring before the lawn greens up. The University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers homeowners free soil testing. Soil testing isn't complicated and the soil samples you dig up can be taken to your local county extension office for testing.
How to Gather Your Soil Sample
Sample areas around shrubs separately from turf. If you have a large lawn or garden, sample areas separately that have been managed differently or will be managed differently.
Use the following procedure in collecting your soil sample:
1. Rake aside mulch or surface litter like leaves.
2. Take soil with a soil probe or shovel from at least 12 spots in each area to obtain a representative sample. A zigzag sampling pattern is preferred. Fertilizer and lime recommendations are no better than the sample taken.
3. Take samples in gardens, lawns, and around shrubs to a depth of about 4 inches and for mature fruit trees at a depth of 12 inches.
4. Mix soil thoroughly from a sample area. Keep different areas separate. Discard rocks, gravels and roots.
5. Allow the soil sample to air dry. Spread the sample on newspapers or large paper bags for a couple of days. Do not heat the sample in an oven to speed drying.
6. Remove one pint for the laboratory sample and place in a clean container or zip top bag. Label each sample with a name that you would recognize.
7. Bring sample(s) to your local County Extension office. Office hours are 8:00am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday.
For Arkansas Taxpayers, there is no fee for us to process and run your samples. Out of State samples will be charged $10.00 per sample.