Soil tests can provide basic information about pH and soil fertility.
A soil test is a good place to start when planting fruits and vegetables, planting turfgrass or adding specific plants like gardenias to your landscape.
You’ll need this equipment to take a soil sample:
- Trowel or shovel
- Newspaper (if soil is wet)
- Zip-top bag or soil sample bag
- Appropriate soil testing forms
Labs outside Florida offer soil testing, but there are benefits to using a Florida lab such as the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Lab. The UF lab calibrates samples and the soil extractants – and corresponding results – are appropriate for Florida soils.
To take a soil sample:
- Take samples from 10 – 15 different spots using a trowel or shovel.
- If sampling for lawns, dig down into the upper 2” – 4” only because this is where the turf roots will be growing.
- For vegetables & landscape plants, dig down 6” – 8”.
- Place all the samples in a bucket.
- Mix the samples together.
- Next, take out about ½ pint or a cup from the soil in the bucket. This will be your representative sample that you send to the lab.
- If the sample is wet, dry it out first on newspaper.
- Place this soil sample in a zip-top bag.
- Contact your local Extension office or the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Lab to find out where to send the sample, which tests are provided and the costs for each.
After you receive your soil pH or soil fertility results, your local Extension agent can help you interpret the results.
Soil tests provide basic information about the availability of nutrients of nutrients in your soil.
For example, if you have a high pH, you may want to pick a turfgrass that tolerates alkaline soils. If you plant vegetables and your pH is too high, you may want to keep an eye out for micronutrient deficiencies. Or, use raised beds, container gardens or pick a different location.
When buying bulk soils, it is a good idea to test the pH first. Ask the company if they test their soil pH and if you can take a small sample to check the pH before purchasing large amounts.