UF/IFAS Extension Orange County offers soil testing services to help you identify basic issues with your lawn and landscaping. At our office, a free pH test is available that measures the acidity or alkaline level in the soil. The UF/IFAS Soils Lab can conduct more in-depth, nutritional content analyses for a fee.
It can be important to know the soil pH, especially if you are diagnosing a problem with the lawn or landscape plants. Soil pH affects nutrient availability. In urban landscape soils, especially where new development has occurred, alkaline soils have often been brought in. Many plant problems result when the recommended pH for plants and the actual pH of the area in which they are planted don’t match.
Generally speaking, neutral soils are in the 6-7 pH range; acidic soils are below pH 6; and alkaline soils are above pH 7. If the soil pH is lower than recommended, lime can be added to raise the pH. If the pH is higher than recommended, there is no permanent solution. Elemental sulfur can be added routinely to lower the pH, but it is a temporary fix only. The better solution is to select plants that tolerate alkaline soils.
How to Take a Soil Sample
1. Identify the area(s) to be sampled. Turf areas and ornamental beds should all be sampled separately.
2. Using a shovel, trowel, or soil probe, remove soil from several spots in the sampling area. Select several soil samples at random, place in a container, and mix together. Remove any plant material or mulch dug up with the sample. Avoid adding samples that show different characteristics. These may need a separate test.
3. Soil should be removed from 2-4 inches below the surface for turf and 6-8 inches below the surface for landscape plants.
4. Remove approximately 1 pint (2 cups) of soil and spread it out on newspaper or a paper grocery bag. Allow the soil to air dry thoroughly.
5. Place it into a bag or jar to submit for testing at the Extension Office. The soil will be tested for pH for free. Keep in mind that we use a reactive test and results can vary by ½ point. This reading can be enough to tell you if the pH is okay or if an exact pH reading is needed.
6. If you want to have nutrient content tested or have an exact pH reading, you will need to send your samples to the Soil Laboratory in Gainesville. There will be a nominal charge for this service. More information here: http://soilslab.ifas.ufl.edu/.