Soil basics: testing
1. What are you testing for?
Start with a clear picture of what you are looking to learn from testing. Are you starting a new garden and want to know what is in your soil? Are you trying to diagnose a problem? Are there concerns with contaminants at your site?
Use this garden soil sample worksheet (pdf).
2. Collect a good soil sample.
The accuracy and usefulness of results will be compromised if soil samples is not properly collected. Follow these sample collection instruction (pdf).
3. Determine soil pH.
What is pH? (pdf) Agronomy Fact Sheet Series
4. Determine soil texture and drainage.
Consider conducting simple tests critical for your understanding of your garden soil but not available from a lab. Instruction for ribbon test, shaker jar test and percolation test (pdf).
5. Laboratory soil tests.
Nutrient Testing with Cornell Recommendations.
Cornell University’s research-based nutrient guidelines for both soil and plant tissue (tree- and small-fruit leaf and grape petiole) are available through Agro-One Services.
Agro-One website provides more about their services, sampling instructions, submission forms (gardeners choose form H), and pick-up locations throughout the Northeast.
In addition to an analysis of your specific soil sample one of the following nutrient management factsheets will accompany your soil test report is you select the crop code LAW or MVG respectively. They will offer some value even without the specific details of your soil analysis.
Mixed Vegetable Gardens (MVG)
Excessive Soluble Salts
Soil Testing for (some) Contaminants.
If you need to see if your soil has heavy metals or need custom analysis, this can be done through the Cornell Nutrient Analysis Laboratory (CNAL).
Healthy Soil Fact Sheets from Cornell Waste Management Institute
New York Extension Disaster Education Network (NY EDEN)
VIDEO: Soil Testing for Contaminated Sites
Soil contamination is a whole other topic from normal testing for pH and nutrients. Join staff from the Department of Crop and Soil Science to discuss common contaminants, proper sampling procedures, safety measures, and best management practices.