To grow good plants, you need good soil. The only way to tell what your soil really needs is to take a soil test. Applying too much fertilizer could be detrimental to your plants. You could waste money or pollute the environment. Adding too little fertilizer or the wrong fertilizer could produce little or no results. Therefore, for optimum plant growth, it is highly recommended to test your soil pH and nutrient status every 3 to 5 years.
Proper soil sampling techniques are important to obtain accurate soil test results. Purdue Extension publication HO-71 entitled Collecting Soil Samples for Testing provides specific advice on how to take a proper soil sample.
A basic soil test usually measures phosphorus, potassium, soil pH and organic matter. A proper pH is important for nutrient availability to plants. Take the soil sample well before planting, so there is time to add what the soil needs. For the most accurate results, use the services of a commercial soil testing lab rather than a soil testing kit. Purdue does not do soil testing for homeowners. You can get your soil tested in central Indiana by contacting one of the following labs. Generally you need to collect enough soil to fill a plastic sandwich bag. Indicate the type of plants that will be grown in the sampled area (such as lawn, trees and shrubs, flowers, vegetable garden or fruit trees). You may want to e-mail or telephone the soil testing labs prior to sending your soil sample to obtain current soil processing procedures and fees.
Soil Testing Labs
A&L Great Lakes Laboratories, Inc.
3505 Conestoga Drive
Fort Wayne, IN 46808-4413
Phone: (260) 483-4759
Fax: (260) 483-5274
Lawn & Garden Soil Analysis, $20.00. Includes Soil pH, Buffer pH, Available Phosphorus, Exchangeable Potassium, Organic Matter, Magnesium, Calcium, Cation Exchange Capacity, and Percent Base Saturation of Cation Elements. Provides graphic display of results and suggested fertilizer materials for lawn, garden and landscape. Once received, the turnaround time for processing samples is 3 working days.
UMass Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Lab
West Experiment Station
682 North Pleasant Street
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Phone: (413) 545-2311
Fax: (413) 545-1931
Several different tests are offered the University of Massachusetts lab including the following): 1) Standard Soil Test ($10.00) - Provides pH, Buffer pH, Extractable Nutrients, Extractable Heavy Metals (eg. Lead), Cation Exchange Capacity, and Percent Base Saturation. Recommendations for nutrient and pH adjustment are included with results. 2) Standard Soil Test with Organic Matter ($15.00) - Same as Standard Soil Test plus a determination and interpretation of the organic matter in the soil sample.
Other soil testing laboratories are listed online: http://extension.illinois.edu/soiltest/
Reference to businesses here is not an endorsement to the exclusion of others that may be similar. Other commercial soil testing labs are welcome to be included with this information (e-mail).