Mote: Now is good time to sample your soil

January 22, 2014 

Now is a great time to soil sample your lawn, garden or field to get it ready for spring. Sampling this time of year allows for enough time for fertilizer and lime to get incorporated into the soil before spring planting. Developing and maintaining productive soils begin with soil testing. Soil tests provide information on the soil’s actual nutrient status and pH. Test results are used to determine the amount and kind of nutrients that should be added for the best growth of lawn, garden and other types of plants.

To begin, map out the sampling area based on different plant types, plant performance, soil types and drainage. Use a zigzag pattern when collecting samples. Collect eight to 10 samples per sample area. For trees and shrubs, take soil samples from six to eight spots around the drip line of the plant. For lawns, sample to a depth of 4 inches. Everything else, sample to a depth of 6 inches.

Always use clean tools and containers when collecting samples to avoid contamination. Tools like trowels, spades, hand probes, soil probes and hand augers can be used to take a soil sample. When taking a sample, clean the ground surface of thatch or mulch. Push the tool into the ground to the recommended depth. Slice a section of soil that is about1/4-inch thick and 2 inches in width. Collect several samples and mix them in a plastic bucket. Take about a pint of the mixed soil, and place it into a University of Georgia soil bag. If you don’t have a UGA sample bag, place the sample in a quart bag, and we can transfer the sample into a UGA sample bag when you bring it to the extension office to be shipped. Be sure to label your sample for identification purposes. If the soil is wet, allow the soil to dry overnight before placing it in the bag.

After you have collected your sample, bring it by the extension office for processing. We ship the samples to the soil, plant and water lab in Athens. Routine soil samples cost $7. The $7 covers the lab fee and shipping cost. We prefer to send soil test reports by email, but if you do not have an email address, we can mail them to you. Reports are usually available one week after shipping. The soil test report not only shows the nutrient level and pH of the soil but also provides recommendations based on the crop. If you are having trouble interpreting your data, please contact your local extension office.

Source: UGA Publications

For more information on any program area, contact Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or drop by our office in the old courthouse, downtown Perry, 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit our website at for more news about your local extension office.

Dates to remember

Jan. 22: Georgia Cotton Commission 2014 Annual Meeting

Jan. 24: Georgia Ag Forecast, Macon

Jan. 29: Georgia Ag Forecast, Tifton

Production meetings for the Houston/Macon/Peach County area:

All meetings will be held at the Macon County Extension office at noon.

Feb. 17: Corn production

Feb. 19: Weed management

Feb. 25: Cotton production

The soybean meeting is still in the planning stages.

Feb. 7-9: 4-H SW District Project Achievement, Rock Eagle

Feb. 19-23: Junior National Livestock Show, Perry

Charlotte Mote is the Houston County agricultural and natural resources agent. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or

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