by Bryan G. Hopkins, Soil Scientist
PDF Download: Soil Sampling Instructions for Homeowners
1. Choose Unique Sampling Areas
Combining soil from different areas of your property can invalidate your soil analysis. In other words, when submitting soil for analysis, DO NOT combine soil from your garden with soil from your lawn. Common areas to sample include your: front lawn, back lawn, vegetable garden, orchard, and flower beds. Any areas that have received the same fertilizer application over the past two years, have the same vegetation, and have the same type of soil may be combined into one sample. However, be sure to keep problem areas separated from the rest of your soil for diagnostic purposes.
2. Determine Budget Constraints
Each unique area that is sampled will typically cost $15- $30 plus shipping to analyze. Prioritize areas that are most problematic in order to fit within your unique budget constraints.
3. Obtain Proper Sampling Equipment
Visit your local garden center to obtain sample bags and a soil probe. Clean cloth bags are best for soil because they allow the soil to "breathe", but paper bags will work if the soil is not wet. Plastic bags are acceptable if the samples will arrive to the lab within 24 hours and will be kept cool. We have cloth bags available for you to use. Contact us if you need a bag for your sample.
5. Collect Soil Cores
For each unique sampling area, collect 8 to 20 soil cores by moving in a zig-zag through the area and retrieving soil cores at random. Depending on the type of soil in the area you are sampling, you should insert the soil probe at different depths according to the following table:
| Turf, Pasture,
and Other Permanent Sod Areas
and Flower Gardens
|Tillage Depth (8-12 in.)
Generally, it is easier to sample soil when the soil is moist, and has been compacted. We recommend stepping on each spot where you will be inserting the soil probe before sampling. Additionally, you may disregard living or dead vegetation when sampling.
6. Mix the Soil
Using clean hands or clean gloves, mix the soil in your sample bucket. DO NOT use objects with fertilizer dust on them (gloves, spades, etc.), nor objects made of rubber or non-stainless steel metal to mix the soil.
7. Mark the Soil Sample Bag
Write your name, address, unique sample ID, and average sample depth for the area the soil came from on each sample bag. The unique sample ID should be some way for you to identify where each distinct bag of soil came from. For example, you may want to a bag with soil from the front yard as "FRONT YARD", and a bag with soil from the back yard "BACK YARD". This helps you and us remember which soil corresponds to which results upon completion of the analysis and allows you to respond accordingly.
8. Transfer Soil
Transfer about 2 cups of soil from your bucket into the sample bag, and seal the bag shut using strings, zip ties, or tape.
9. Deliver Soil
Send your soil samples to the BYU Environmental Analytical Lab as soon as possible. If you need to store the soil before submission to the lab, keep it cool (preferably frozen), and avoid allowing the soil to be exposed to long periods of heat. Additionally, DO NOT allow your soil samples to come into contact with anything that could contaminate the soil (fertilizer dust, solid contaminants, liquid contaminants) while in storage.