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Soil sampling important for best gardens, lawns

Posted: November 25, 2012 - 12:09am
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Rodney Dye (right) drops off a soil sample with extension agent Tripp Williams at the Columbia County Extension office in Appling.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Rodney Dye (right) drops off a soil sample with extension agent Tripp Williams at the Columbia County Extension office in Appling.

Soil samples provide useful information for homeowners who want to know what nutrients their lawn and gardens need to produce lush grass, fruits and plants.

While soil can be tested at any time during the year, fall is an excellent time for sampling.

“Allow enough time for the analysis and for fertilizer and lime application,” notes a University of Georgia Cooperative Extension brochure on soil sampling. “Lime reacts slowly and, if possible, it should be mixed with the soil two to three months before planting.”

It is recommended that soil be tested every two to three years to ensure that nutrients are at their peak levels.

Information provided by a soil sample includes a reading of appropriate nutrient and lime recommendations compared to the soil tested. A sample report provided by Columbia County Extension Agent Tripp Williams shows the test will provide results on phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc and lime levels, as well as recommendations on how much of each nutrient is needed per 1,000 square feet.

Soil testing can be sent from the Columbia County Extension office on Pollards Pond Road in Appling for $8 per test.

“Over the past five years, we have averaged 752 soil samples per year,” said Williams.

To get an accurate reading, soil samples should be taken from various locations, with each area mapped out accordingly. Areas should be divided according to plant types, plant performances, soil types and drainage. Clean tools should be used when obtaining the soil from well-cleared ground surfaces.

For lawns, soil should be sampled at a depth of 4 inches while garden, shrub and tree plots should be sampled at a depth of 6 inches.

Soil should be air dried overnight, taking care to avoid any contamination, and transferred to a zip closure bag. Results are returned within seven to 10 days.

Other samples the Extension Office tests include plant tissue, water, feed and forage, bio-solids, sludge and non-animal wastes. Animal waste – manure – can also be sampled for nutrient management plans, Williams said.

For more information on soil sampling, call Williams at (706) 541-4011 or email tjwilliams@columbiacountyga.gov.

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