How do I take a soil sample?
The best practices for taking a soil sample are explained best in this video:
Why Do A Soil Test?
Like a blood test, a lab-based soil test measures nutrient levels in your soil and, based on decades of research on crop nutrient requirements, determines the exact amount of each your specific crop needs for optimal growth. The total amount of each nutrient you need depends on the size of your growing area. You can see the video on this topic here.
What does SoilKit test for?
Soilkit tests for pH, Buffer pH, phosphorus(P), potassium (K), magnesium (Mg), calcium (Ca), boron (B), zinc (Zn), manganese (Mn), iron (Fe), organic matter, cec
What sort of recommendations do you make?
SoilKit test results will make lime, sulfur, fertilizer, and other nutrient recommendations.
How large of an area is the test valid for?
SoilKit is valid for up to 10,000 square feet. Larger areas may require more than one test kit, and problem areas should be tested separately from otherwise healthy areas.
What makes SoilKit different from other versions of soil testing?
After years of listening to customers describe their experiences with traditional soil testing options, we understand the frustration customers endure when they don’t know where to find their local extension office or a private lab, don’t have the time to drive to the facility, don’t have time to figure out postage, are intimidated by a commonly misunderstood registration form, and the are surprised with test results that don’t make sense to the average homeowner or gardener.
We created SoilKit to alleviate these frustrations. The kits can be purchased online, in many lawn and garden shops, and now, even offered at Alabama Cooperative Extension System offices. The registration process is all automated using scanning and satellite technology and processed online on desktop or mobile devices. The postage-paid mailer can be dropped into your mailbox and is pre-labeled. The results arrive digitally via email within 1-2 business days of receipt at our labs. The report includes easy-to-understand recommendations distilled down the products and bag quantities needed for your crop, size of growing area, and type of crop.
What is overseeding?
Overseeding is a process of planting different season-type grass seed on top of soon-to-be dormant lawns. You could overseed a warm-season lawn with cool-season grasses in the fall so that you would have a year-round green lawn. More information can be found in our blog on this topic:
What to do with all those fall leaves on my lawn?
The fall leaves have many great uses, so before you bag them and kick them to the curb, read our blog:
What should I do to prepare my Zoysia lawn for winter?
Warm season grasses like Zoysia need some preparation for winter dormancy. Read about it in our blog:
Do I need to do a fall soil sample? And if so why?
Fall soil testing is critical to a great green up in the spring. Read about it in our blog:
How best to care for my centipede lawn?
We have an entire blog just about how to care for centipede lawns:
Is composting important for my garden?
Composting is a great way to get rid of unwanted vegetative waste and create food for your garden. Read all about it in our blog:
How is SoilKit different from the extension office?
If you have done lab-based soil testing before, you probably used your local university system’s extension office for this purpose. This blog explains the differences:
Why don’t you measure nitrogen?
Many people ask us why we do not test for nitrogen in soil samples. Here’s why:
Signs of potassium and phosphorus deficiencies
As two of the 3 macro-nutrients critical to all crops, potassium and phosphorus, when deficient, can be a real problem. Learn about the signs in this blog post:
How frequently should you take soil samples?
We all know the USDA recommends annual soil testing, but how frequently is ideal? You can learn more about that in this blog:
Can you water your lawn too much? How much is too much?
We offer two blogs about watering your lawns. Best practices can be found in this blog:
Signs of overwatering are spelled out in this post:
How to calculate square footage of your growing area
Knowing the size of your growing area is extremely important for calculating the exact quantity of nutrients you need based on your soil’s deficiencies. But most people don’t know the easy way to do it; read about that in this post:
Could a dog be killing your grass?
We love “spot,” but could he be causing lawn problems? Learn about the signs in this blog:
Can you have too much phosphorus?
Yes! Phosphorus is often overapplied by unwitting lawn owners and home gardeners. That’s because unlike other macronutrients like Nitrogen, phosphorus is relatively stable meaning it hangs around a long time. Moreover, most organic fertilizers have a moderate level of phosphorus because of how they are made. Without soil testing, it’s impossible to know if you already have too much. Ironically, many organic growers do. And phosphorus is the leading cause of water pollution from agricultural runoff.
Is organic fertilizer better than synthetic fertilizer?
Not really. Both fertilizers contain the same chemicals as indicated on the bag in what is called the “guaranteed analysis.” Some fertilizers DO include pesticides and herbicides, and if so those products WOULD be “worse” than organic fertilizers from an environmental standpoint. Ironically, because organic fertilizers all contain a robust percentage of phosphorus (due to their source), they can actually be deleterious to crop growth and the environment in high concentrations. To our surprise, every day we discover extremely high phosphorus concentrations in organic farms. If you test your soil, you will know your nutrient levels and can back off on the organic fertilizers if your phosphorus is too high by choosing a synthetic fertilizer with a “0 in the middle.” This refers to the three numbers on all fertilizers (N-P-K) where the middle number represents phosphorus. Organic fertilizers by their very nature do not come with a “0 in the middle”
What is CEC?
CEC stands for cation exchange capacity and indicates the soil’s ability to retain water and nutrients. Low CEC values like in sandy soils don’t hold onto water or nutrients for long, while high CEC soils do. This will affect both your watering regimen and fertilizer application program.
How do I add micro-nutrients?
As the name suggests micro-nutrients are usually only needed by plants in small quantities. Spreading a small amount of a recommended micronutrient can therefore be challenging since you will be asked to spread a very small amount of something across a potentially very large growing area in relation to the product to be spread. One way to solve this problem is to look for fertilizers that contain small amounts of the micronutrient in question. Another way is to mix that micro-nutrient into another amendment, like an N-P-K fertilizer, that you are spreading at the same time.
What are extraction methods and what type do you use?
Extraction method refers to the chemical process used to break down soil samples so that the different nutrients can be extracted and measured from the rest of the soil. Labs use different methods. Our independent lab uses Mehlich III. Our partner at Auburn University uses Mehlich I.
What is the purpose of phosphorus?
Phosphorus aids in root development. Too little phosphorus and roots growth will suffer and the plant will suffocate. Too much phosphorus, however, can be toxic to plants and cause damage to the environment via runoff.
What is the role of Nitrogen?
Nitrogen provides the fuel for your plants to grow. Without Nitrogen, plants will die, or their growth will be retarded. Nitrogen is also a very unstable nutrient which means that it is used up quickly either by way of runoff, evaporation, or plant uptake. You almost always need to add nitrogen to your lawn or garden every year as a result. This is why we typically do not test for nitrogen.
What is the role of pH?
Your pH test gives you the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. This is critical to plants’ ability to absorb nutrients, and different plants have different pH requirements. If your pH is wrong for your lawn, all the fertilizer in the world will make no difference in your lawn’s health.
What is organic matter and why is it important?
Unlike organically made products like organic fruits and vegetables which refer to an environmentally friendly farming regimen, organic matter describes a key material in soil. Read about it in this blog:
What is buffer pH?
Buffer pH is an indication of the soil’s ability to resist a pH change. Higher buffer PH readings require less lime to raise the PH or less sulfur to lower it. Lower buffer PH numbers will demand more lime to raise PH and more sulfur to raise it.
What are micronutrients and what role do they play?
Micronutrients are those elements essential for plant growth which are needed in only very small (micro) quantities. They are also called minor elements or trace elements. The micronutrients we test for with SoilKit are Copper (Cu), Iron (Fe), Manganese (Mn), Zinc (Zn) and Boron (B).