Lawn & Garden Soil Test
Proper collection of a representative soil sample is important for accurate analysis and test results. Follow these steps to obtain a good sample.
You Will Need:
- Clean plastic bucket
- Soil probe, trowel, or shovel
- Container for the soil sample: sturdy plastic bag, plastic container of any kind with a lid, metal container (e.g. coffee can) if not testing for metals.
Identify uniform areas to be tested. For example, separate soil tests should be done on different garden beds or a garden and a lawn, or between the front lawn and back lawn if there are noticeable differences. Avoid sampling areas that might give misleading results. If information is desired on these unusual areas, obtain a separate sample for these areas. Avoid areas that have recently been fertilized.
From each area, take enough samples to properly represent the area – 4 to 5 cores or slices are adequate for the average garden or lawn. Collect a vertical sample starting at the surface of the soil and digging 3 inches deep for lawns, 6 inches deep for flower/vegetable gardens, and 10-12 inches for trees and shrubs. Remove all plants, sod, or thatch from the sample.
Samples should be dry. If wet, air dry. Do not use heat to dry samples.
Thoroughly mix all the samples from one area in the bucket. Bring two cups of that mixed soil to your local Extension Office in a resealable plastic bag or another plastic container. Samples may also be brought or shipped directly to the KSU Soil Testing Lab.
At the Extension office you will fill out the Soil Information Sheet with your contact information, the source of your sample (lawn or garden type), and the soil analysis requested. If you prefer to fill out the Soil Information Sheet online, that is also available further down on this page. A price sheet is also available for other types of Soil Tests. Keep in mind that we charge a shipping fee that the prices on the "Farmer & Gardener Price List" sheet do not include. (Cash, check or credit card is accepted. Make checks payable to Douglas County Extension Council.)
Office hours: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Samples are sent to the Soil Testing Laboratory at Kansas State University. The results will be analyzed by our Horticulture agent here in Douglas County, and a report will be mailed to you.
The average time required to complete the analysis for lawn or garden samples is 2 to 3 weeks. During the spring or fall lawn renewal season, this turn-around time may take longer due to the increase in the volume of samples. Please take this into consideration in your planning.
K-State Soil Testing Lab
Many different analyses for soil samples are conducted at the KSU Soil Testing Lab. The most common analyses requested include tests for pH, phosphorus (P), potassium (K), nitrate (NO3), and organic matter. However, other analyses are performed on a daily basis including: calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), cation exchange capacity (CEC), iron (Fe), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), manganese (Mn), ammonium (NH4), sulfate (SO4), chloride (Cl), aluminum (Al), texture, soluble salts, and salt alkali.
Samples that come into the lab are dried in an oven overnight and ground with a pulverizing-type grinder the next morning. The bulk of analysis will be completed after grinding or the following day. Once the data is complete and has been reviewed, sample information sheets are printed and mailed to the producer. Samples are kept on storage shelves for a time so samples may be available for additional analysis at the producer’s request.