Soil Sampling and Analysis

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Soil sampling with bucket and probeHealthy soil is literally the foundation of successful gardening. The first step in cultivating a healthy soil is having your soil tested.

Collecting soil samples takes only a few minutes, and is time well spent. It can save you money in your lawn, garden, and landscape. Soil sampling and analysis can result in healthier plants by letting you know which nutrients are already present in your soil and which nutrients you need to add. Soil sampling can protect water quality by preventing unnecessary fertilizer applications. Soil testing is the only accurate way to know if you should add nutrients to your lawn or garden.

What will soil testing tell me?

The most important things the soil test measures is soil pH, or how acidic or basic your soil is. Soil pH levels in North Carolina range from 3.5 (very acidic) to 8 (basic). Most ornamental plants, vegetables, fruits, and lawns prefer to grow in soils where the pH is 5.5 to 6.5. Acid-loving plants like azaleas, camellias, gardenias, and blueberries prefer soil between 5.0 and 5.5. Know what conditions your plants prefer, and the conditions you have before planting.

Soil testing is the only way to know if your soil is too acidic, if you need to add lime to raise pH and how much lime to add. Many people apply lime unnecessarily which can raise soil pH too high which results in poor plant growth. Soil test results will also tell you which nutrients you need to apply for the type of plants you are growing.

The analysis will be sent to you via email.

soil sample map

Where can I find soil sample boxes?

Boxes and forms for sampling are available at the McDowell Center, 60 East Court Street, Marion, 2nd Floor. Soil sample test kits can also be found at Spencer’s Ace Hardware, 1612 Rutherford Road, Marion.

Costs of analysis.

Soil testing is FREE April through November for NC residents.  The cost is $4 if you have the analysis performed  in December through March. You will have to cover the costs of shipping to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s lab in Raleigh. If any staff are traveling to Raleigh from April to November, they may be able to deliver your samples to the lab. Ask.

Extension Agents can assist you.

If you have any questions about soil sampling and analysis, Extension Agents are here to help you. Our location is the County Services Building, 60 East Court Street, Marion, 2nd Floor. Our phone number is 828-652-8104.