Farmer or Gardener? Start with a soil analysis

Old man winter has finally released his grip on Coffee County, so we can get outside and enjoy the warm sunshine. Cool, wet soils have kept growers out of farm fields and gardens untended, but finally it has dried up and we are getting planting done. We recommend producers and home gardeners start the growing season with a soil analysis before applying lime or fertilizer.

The UT Extension Soil, Plant and Pest Center provides soil analysis, which includes lime and fertilizer recommendations, for the fee of $15 per sample.

This is a small investment if you consider the return you stand to make from increased production of your forages, crops or garden vegetables or even from enjoyment of a beautiful lush lawn. Soil test results and recommendations allow you to apply correct and sustainable amendments to your lawn, garden, pasture or field crop.

The sampling process is incredibly easy to do and will save you money and headaches. The first thing you will need is a digging tool such as a trowel or shovel.  A soil probe works great, too, but one is not necessary, follow these steps to collect a soil sample:

* Collect soil through the 6-inch depth from at least six to eight (subsamples) in your lawn or garden. If you are sampling for pasture or row crops, collect enough samples to represent no more than 10 acres. 

* Mix subsamples together and submit one cup of the soil mixture for analysis. If the soil is wet, allow it to air dry overnight (do not heat). This will help with mixing and make the mixture less expensive to ship.

  Because soils in a relatively small area can vary, some property owners might need to sample multiple areas separately, especially if areas exhibit changes in soil color or texture or have measured production differences.

Analysis results are normally available within 1– 5 days of sample receipt. Our UT-TSU Extension Office in Coffee County can provide soil boxes for shipping and can also assist with your sampling or production questions.

To learn more about collecting and submitting soil samples and the other services of the UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center, visit the center’s website at ag.tennessee.edu/spp. You may also visit our UT-TSU Extension Office in Coffee County for soil sampling kits and instructions.