Submit a soil sample now, before the busy season

  • Posted: Friday, August 23, 2013 12:17 a.m.
Danell Cutting
Danell Cutting

SALISBURY — Soil testing is a very important tool for gardeners, homeowners and farmers alike. It could possibly be the most important task a gardener should do throughout the year. One of the first questions most Extension agents ask gardeners when trying to solve a horticulture problem is if they have taken a soil sample.

Taking a soil sample and testing it can save time, money and a lot of frustration when plants, soil or crops do not work the way they should. Taking a soil sample is fairly easy and just requires some time to get the best sample possible. Complete instructions and the soil sample boxes are available at your local Cooperative Extension Office, 2727 Old Concord Road.

The tools that are needed for a sample is a 5-gallon plastic bucket (do not use galvanized metal since it can skew the results), use a soil probe, hand trowel or shovel.

Once the tools are in place, visualize the area. Think about the problem areas, slopes, hills, etc. Take the soil cores from the corners, middle, problem areas, and take about 4 to 6 inches of soil for each sample. To get the best sample take as many samples as possible. Place all of the soil in the plastic bucket and mix thoroughly, out of the mixed soil fill the labeled soil box. Make sure to complete the soil sample form properly then mail the completed sample.

The best time to sample is during the spring and summer. This will enable you to get your results in a matter of days instead of weeks. However, as of this year, a fee of $4 per box will be assessed during the peak months of December to March. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture will accept soil samples free of charge until 6 p.m. on Nov. 27, and any soil samples arriving after 6 p.m. will have the $4 assessment.

The assessment is to encourage growers, gardeners and homeowners to submit samples during the off season. The monies collected during the peak season are for lab improvements, hiring additional staff and making the lab more sustainable. For more information on soil sampling, contact your local Cooperative Extension agent.

Danelle Cutting is an Extension agent in local foods. Contact her at 704-216-8970.

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