Soil sampling is one of the most basic and informative tools an individual can use to take care of their crops, garden and lawns. From one little bag of soil we can find out if our plants have access to basic nutrients, whether the pH of our soil is where it needs to be, or if we have too much salt or lead in our soil.

And just how easy is it to take a soil sample? Well, here are the basic instructions.

• Dig a small hole and place the soil in a bucket.

• Walk to the next random location in your field, lawn or garden.

• Repeat steps 1 and 2 about 7-9 times.

• Mix all the soil together and place a small sample in a bag.

• Mail the sample bag to the soil testing lab and wait for results.

It really is that easy. And furthermore, we have the tools for taking the samples and the bags to send the samples in just waiting for you at the local Extension office.

As I write this I can hear what some people are saying, “Mike, I have been gardening for years and have never taken a soil sample. I seem to do alright without one.” More power to you to, but at best what you are doing is winging it. And winging it never truly works. Let’s say that you add fertilizer to your garden/lawn every year and you get desirable results. So all the nutrients you need must be there, right? What are the chances that you are over applying and losing nitrogen or phosphorus to local water sources? Kind of a big deal considering the karst topography of the region.

Long story short, there is no way to be sure if your soils are at the correct pH, if nutrients are available to your crops, or if you have other basic issues if you do not do a soil test. Many crop producers now contract out this service and couple this work with other services like variable rate application of fertilizers. For those who do not contract out their soil sampling, consider taking a sample the next time you are adding fertilizer or diagnosing a problem with your lawn. You just might save yourself some time and money while at the same time reducing your impact on the environment.

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