close-up photo of soil after tilling

Knowing the pH and nutrient content of your soil is important to successful growing.

How to Take a Soil Sample

ONEIDA COUNTY RESIDENTS. HAVE YOUR SOIL pH TESTED IN OUR LOCAL LAB IN ORISKANY.  WE ACCEPT UP TO 3 SAMPLES AND THERE IS NO CHARGE.   LEAVE 1/4 CUP OF DRY SOIL PER SAMPLE IN A BAGGIE WITH YOUR NAME ON IT IN THE BIN MARKED pH TESTS ONLY IN FRONT OF OUR BUILDING AT 121 SECOND STREET IN ORISKANY.  YOU MUST FILL OUT THE TOP OF THE FORM THAT IS IN THE BOTTOM OF THE BOX (ONE FOR EACH SAMPLE LEFT)  A CLEARLY PRINTED EMAIL CAN BE ADDED TO EXPEDITE YOUR SAMPLE RESULTS.

If you are interested in more extensive testing you can handle your own pH AND NUTRIENT TESTING THROUGH THE MAIL.  Here is the form you fill out, print it out, fill it out, then ship 1 pint of dry soil with this form to the address on the form  Homeowner Soil Test Form

1. When should soil be sampled?

Soil samples can be taken at any time during the year; however, avoid extremely wet soil conditions unless absolutely necessary.

2. How often should I have my soil tested?
For most crops, every 2 to 3 years. The soil under intensive cultivation may require annual testing. Sampling from any given area should be done at about the same time as in previous years.

3. What tool shall I use for sampling?
A soil probe or auger is best; if not available, use a garden spade or shovel.
For cultivated crops and gardens, samples are taken to the tillage depth (6-10")
For no-till or minimum-till, take one sample at 0 - 1" and another at a 1 - 6" depth.

4. What is the proper sampling depth?
For cultivated crops and gardens
, sample at 0 - 1" and another at 1 - 6" depth.
For lawns and pastures
, a sample from the upper 6" is satisfactory; remove plant residue.
For tree and fruit crops, 2 samples should be submitted, one taken at 0 - 8" depth, the other at 8 - 16" (subsoil layer).

5. How do I go about collecting the sample?
With a shovel, dig a hole to the sampling depth. Cut a ½" slice from the face of the hole and trim the sides so you have a vertical slice of soil.

6. How many sub-samples should I collect from each area?
Repeat the sampling process in about 10 - 15 locations throughout the garden or field. Mix the sub-samples in a plastic bucket to obtain a representative composite sample. Avoid sampling in unusual areas if the objective is to estimate average fertility levels over the entire area.

7. What if I have an area of poor crop growth?

If you have a trouble spot, a separate sample taken from this area may be necessary.

8. Should the sample be dry?
Do not bring in wet samples. If it is necessary to sample wet soil, spread the sample on a sheet of newspaper and allow it to dry at room temperature.

9. How much soil is needed for each composite sample?
About two cups are required.

10. Where do I bring samples?

For pH testing only cooperative: CCE Building 121 Second Street, Oriskany, NY.  Weekdays 8:30 am- 4:30 pm.  Nutrient and specialized testing must be are sent to a lab in Ithaca.

For more details and links to forms visit our page on "Soil Testing Services".

11. What information needs to accompany the samples?
For cultivated crops
:

Soil name and map symbol from soil survey (available at the Cooperative Extension Education Center)
Tillage depth
Past crops
Future crops to be grown
Cover crops
Manure rates, if applied

For gardens, lawns, trees:

Site characteristics
Crop to be grown
Age of crop
Fertilizer used
Manure rates applied

12. How long will it take to get test results?

pH tests are conducted at the Cooperative Extension Education Center and take from 1 - 3 days.Complete nutrient tests take about 1 - 2 weeks. Results are mailed from the lab directly to you, and a copy also is sent to our office.

13. What if I have questions about the results?
Call us at (315) 736-3394. Leave a message at ext. 100.


14. How much does the test cost?

pH test (for up to 3 samples) - $2.00 each (this charge is currently waved for Oneida County Residents)
pH testing kits - $20.00 normal range; $20.00 expanded range (from 4.0 to 8.6)
Payable when the sample is submitted to the Cooperative Extension Center.
Standard nutrient test - $13.00 per sample price varies; you can pick up a soil box and forms and mail your soil sample, paperwork, and payment to the lab.

Contact

Linda Wimmer
CCE Aministrative Assistant/Master Gardener
law287@cornell.edu
(315) 736-3394 Ext. 100

Last updated June 16, 2020