Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN


April 21, 2014

How to collect and submit soil sample

CROSSVILLE — Garry, a new resident in Crossville, emailed to ask how to gather a soil sample and where to take it to have testing done. Your local University of Tennessee Extension office is the place to go. Those in the Crossville area should call UT Extension Cumberland County at 484-6743. A staff person at the office can explain how to collect soil samples. (Those new in town who may not know where the Extension office is located may also call for driving directions.)

Collecting and Submitting Soil Samples: The basic idea is to get many small portions of soil (each at least two tablespoons) from lots of different locations within the lawn or garden area where you want the pH tested and for which fertilization and liming recommendations are needed. Just how many small samples are required depends upon the size of the area

In a large field for a single crop or a large pasture, take soil from about 20 different locations selected at random. Take soil to be tested for a lawn or a garden from a depth of about six inches below the surface in about eight or 10 different spots. Fancy soil probes are sold for taking samples, but a sharp spade used to lift out a wedge of soil serves the purpose just as well. Do not include leaf litter, sticks and twigs or pieces of live plants in the sample. Too many non-soil contaminants may throw test results off.

As soil portions are obtained put them into a clean, plastic grocery bag or clean bucket. Mix these small portions to get a composite sample which represents the entire area. If testing soil for both a lawn and a garden, put the small portions of soil from the turf grass area in one container labeled "lawn." Put soil from any different growing area such as a vegetable plot or flower garden in another labeled container. Each mailing box holds 3/4 cup to 1 cup of soil, so no need to collect much more than that for any one test area.

Bring the container with each composite sample to the Extension office. Fill out the form, F394: Soil & Media Information Sheet, indicating what plants will be grown in that soil (example: “tomatoes, green beans and squash” in garden) or use the standard crop codes. Put an ID for each sample on the information sheet and on the mailing box (examples: “front lawn” or “vegetable garden”).

There is a fee for each soil sample when multiple mailing boxes are submitted. Choose from various options for receiving the test results (including email). If you opt to have a copy of your soil test results sent to the Extension office from which the sample was mailed and another one sent to you, questions about the lime and fertilizer recommendations can more easily be discussed by telephone. If you receive the only copy, a trip to the office with the soil test report in hand may be necessary for your question and answer session.

Wet soil adds weight making shipping charges higher. A soggy soil sample may be held a few days in the office to allow it to dry out (another option is placing soil on a paper plate to dry it before coming to the Extension office — do not microwave). Dry samples are usually shipped within 24 hours. Processing time depends upon the volume of soil samples arriving at the UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center laboratory to be tested.

2014 Flower & Garden Show Seminars and Clinics — Friday, April 25, at 4 p.m., Sarah Johnson of Johnson’s Nursery and Garden Center, "Refurbishing Our Winter-Damaged Gardens & New Plants;" Saturday, April 26, at 10:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 4 p.m., Jeff Poppen, The Barefoot Gardener from PBS TV; Sunday, April 27, at 2 p.m., Dr. Sue Hamilton with "Great Conifers of UT Gardens."      

UT Gardens-Crossville /Plateau Discovery Gardens May 2014 Classes and Events — Saturday, May 3, from 9 to 11:30 a.m. — "Growing Tomatoes Successfully." There is no charge. Register at 484-0034. Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., UT Gardens-Crossville Plant Sale (Friends of UT Gardens pre-sale on Friday, May 2, from 1 to 5 p.m. (membership card required).

Event details are available at

• • •

Plateau Gardening is written by Master Gardeners for gardeners in Tennessee’s Upper Cumberland Region. Contact UT Extension Cumberland County at P.O. Box 483, Crossville, TN 38557 (931-484-6743) answers to horticulture questions, free publications and to learn about the Master Gardener program. Send email comments or yard and garden inquiries to Master Gardener Rae (

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