Extension@YourService: Soil Sampling

— Written By and last updated by Leeann Crump

It’s that time of year again when it’s starting to warm up a little. Summer activities are among us. It’s also a great time to get your soil ready for the fall season. The first step is to pull a soil sample from your yard, pastures, and fields to send it to the North Carolina Department of Agriculture laboratory in Raleigh. You can come into our office and checkout a soil probe to borrow or you can use a shovel (not as accurate).

What you need to do is get several samples throughout your yard or field (4-8 inches deep depending on the root area of the grass or crop), mix them together, and then put some of the soil into a box that we have available in our office. We can also help you fill out the necessary paperwork to send with your sample. You can then mail the box of soil and paperwork yourself or you can bring it into our office and we will mail it for you. If you send your sample in between now and before the end of November, it is still a free service. At the beginning of December through March, the soil lab in Raleigh will charge you $4 per sample. This is because it is their busiest time of the year for samples, so they would like to encourage everyone to mail their samples in the off-season. Results are normally accurate for 2 years, so there is no need to wait!

After the lab analyzes your soil, they will then put your results on their website. You can go to the website to see what how much lime and fertilizer that you will need. If you don’t have a computer or a printer, you can call us for help and we can print or mail a copy for you. If you do have a computer and don’t understand the results, you can ask us for help. It also helps to take your report to your local farm store and they can help you find the fertilizer that your soil needs depending on what type of grass or crop you have or will plant. The reason why it is a good idea to get your soil samples in now is because most of our soils require lime. Lime needs around 6 months in order to break itself down so that it is available for your grass or crop to use. You can go ahead and get the lime out now so that it can start working for you before your fall planting. Soil testing helps you to save money by only putting out the amount of lime and fertilizer that is needed.

You can also borrow our forage probe and cordless drill if you would like to test your hay. For only $10, you can get your sample analyzed to find out how much protein, energy, and minerals are in your hay. You can then substitute feed for whatever the hay may be missing. If your hay is high in nitrates, you can find that out also and make management decisions such as limiting the amount of hay your animals get each day or not feeding pregnant animals the higher risk hay.

If you need help testing your soil or hay, we would be glad to help you. Please call our office at 997-8255 for assistance.