Soil testing can help you learn more about your soil, including levels of lead and other metals. Testing is especially helpful if the results can help answer a question that will inform your next steps. Sometimes it makes sense to skip the testing step and focus on healthy gardening practices instead.
Our FAQs can help you decide if testing your soils is likely to be helpful.
If you decide to test your soils, think about the questions that the results can help answer. You can then use that idea to help guide your sampling plan — there is no one sampling strategy that is best for every situation.
A few things to remember:
- Keep your questions, goals, and budget in mind.
- It’s best to have more than 1 soil sample. Levels of lead and other soil properties can be very different across a site, or even in a small area.
- Composite (or combined) samples are often a useful way to sample a larger area.
- Check with the lab where you’ll be sending the samples to find out if they have any specific instructions.
- “Guide to Soil Testing and Interpreting Results.” Cornell Waste Management Institute fact sheet. 6 pg (PDF), April 2009.
- A list of labs certified by the NY State Department of Health Environmental Laboratory Approval Program can be found at https://www.wadsworth.org/regulatory/elap/certified-labs. Using a certified lab is important when testing has implications for public health or may be used in legal proceedings.
- The Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory offers Total Elemental Analysis (package 2021 on the Soil Analysis Submission Form), which is often a good choice for gardeners.
- The NYC Urban Soils Institute offers testing through the Environmental Sciences Analytical Center at Brooklyn College for heavy metals, lead screening, and other soil properties (see http://www.usi.nyc/soil-testing.html).
- The Cornell Soil Health Testing Laboratory offers several packages and add-on services for measuring soil health (see http://soilhealth.cals.cornell.edu/testing-services/comprehensive-soil-health-assessment/).