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What’s in your soil?

NOTE: This post, originally written May 07, 2015, has been updated to reflect changes in the soil testing procedure. – UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County, Dec. 02, 2020

Post by Bob Mertens; Horticulture Program Specialist

Before installing plants, starting a garden or planting a lawn, it is important to obtain a soil test.  Many problems can occur when plants are growing in soils with a pH to which they are not adapted.  Some plants need low pH acidic soil while others will tolerate a wide range of pH.  Very few plants grow well in alkaline soil with a high pH.  The best solution to pH problems is to grow only plants that are adapted to your particular type of soil.

The UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County can test soil for pH and soluble salts.  Learn more about testing available at our local office, or more extensive analyses available at the UF/IFAS Extension Soil Testing Laboratory in Gainesville, at https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/sarasota/how-do-i/get-soilirrigation-water-tested/

4 Comments on “What’s in your soil?

  1. Hello! I have bought property in North Port Florida and plan to have 2 horses and a donkey. How do I know if the grass is safe and healthy for grazing? Thank you for checking! 😀

    • Hello Gena – and great question! I am the Sustainable Agriculture Extension Agent with the University of Florida in Sarasota and DeSoto Counties. I frequently help people with questions just like yours.

      This is an excellent publication about the best management practices for horse pastures in Florida: https://floridadep.gov/file/9394/download?token=TL8XsQCA. One of the things that you will read about in this publication is the number of horses that typical Florida pasture can handle without becoming severely over-grazed. A good rule of thumb is that you need 2 to 5 acres per horse to maintain a healthy pasture. If you do not have enough land, it is important to note that you will need to provide your horses and donkey with supplemental feed. Over-grazed pasture is problematic on many levels, including that it can quickly fill in with weeds, many of which are toxic. This is a great resource for identifying the weeds growing in your pasture and quickly determining whether or not they are toxic: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/toxicplants/#/tabs/plant-gallery/gallery.

      If you would like to talk about your pasture, you are welcome to reach out anytime. My email address is sarahbostick@ufl.edu

  2. I’d like to have my tested before I lay sod. The land has been recently cleared of Brazilian pepper trees and I’ve been told that the soil is no longer suitable for any other vegetation.
    Where can I deliver this sample in Sarasota?
    What do you require?
    Thank you,
    Dan Ventura

    • Hello Mr. Ventura,

      Thanks so much for reaching out to UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County with your question about soil testing. It is great to hear that you have had all the invasive Brazilian pepper trees removed from your yard.

      There are a few different ways that you can go about getting your soil tested before planting sod. If you would like to test only for pH and salinity, you can make an appointment to drop off samples at our office in Twin Lakes Park by emailing mgorman@scgov.net. However, since you had some major tree removal recently done, I would recommend also testing for micro- and macro-nutrients. A quick web search on a term like “soil testing lab near me” will show a list of firms that provide analyses (make sure to select a lab that is actively testing soils).

      You can also mail soil samples to the University of Florida soil testing lab, in Gainesville. This is a quick and inexpensive option, if you don’t mind making a trip to the post office (or have the ability to send from home). Here is a link to UF’s soil testing form, including instructions for collecting, preparing and shipping samples: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SS/SS18700.pdf. (Note: If you choose to use UF’s soil testing lab and need help filling out the form, just let us know and we can help.)

      Best,
      Sarah Bostick
      Sustainable Agriculture Agent
      UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County

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