Best Practices for Submitting Your Soil Sample

Gardening spade in soil

Cooperative Extension’s soil testing service dates back to 2005. The number of samples we process averages more than 3,000 a year. The following list is compiled from 12 years of answering questions and processing soil. We hope you will find it helpful.

General sample taking information

Specific directions for collecting a sample can be found on individual forms. In general samples should be collected as follows:

  • The soil sample should be representative of the area for which you want recommendations.
  • Avoid areas that have an obvious difference in soil type, drainage, or plant growth.
  • Take samples from 6-8 spots in each garden or lawn area you want tested. Mix these 6-8 spots together to create a representative sample of the area.
  • Each sample should be taken from a depth of 6" for gardens, 6"- 8" for trees and shrubs, and 3-4" for lawns.
  • The sample can be taken with a spade, shovel, trowel, soil probe or auger.
  • Air dry, remove stones and other debris.
  • Submit ONLY 1 cup of dry soil in a clean zip-lock bag, labeled with a name unique to that sample. (e.g., Front lawn, Vegetable garden.)
  • If you are requesting a texture class analysis, we need 2 cups of soil.
  • If you are testing compost, we need 4-6 cups of soil.
  • Make sure you include the crop to be grown on the form.

Does it matter what form I use?

Using the correct form is important! For example, if you are a home owner and want recommendations for a hay-field, do not use the Home Grounds & Garden form, use the corn, forage, pasture & hay form. If you are a commercial blueberry grower, use the commercial fruit form. If you are a homeowner and want vegetable garden recommendations, use the Home Grounds and Garden form and check the box for vegetable garden. If you want lawn recommendations, use the Home Grounds and Garden form and check the box for lawn.

For every crop you choose on the Home Grounds and Garden form, you will receive recommendations specific to that crop. Other forms may limit you to one or two crops, please read carefully.

Fill out the form as completely as possible. The more complete your answers, the more complete your report will be. A crop code is always required. We cannot give you fertilizer recommendations unless we know what you are growing. Some forms ask for field size in acres, this is important. Please do not leave blank. An estimate is better than leaving the space blank.

Which test should I choose?

The Standard Gardening Test on the Home Grounds and Garden form includes both conventional and organic fertilizer recommendations. It also includes soil pH, organic matter content and a lead screening analysis. For a complete list of all the tests we offer, refer to our Pricing List for all Soil Test Options.

Will my report have fertilizer recommendations or just the soil analysis?

Your report will include the amount of extractable calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus in your soil. Recommended N-P-K fertilizer amounts will be given for each sample. Soil pH is included and recommendations for adjustments using lime, if needed, will be given.

How long does it take to get my results?

Our turn-around time is three weeks from the day we receive your sample. The process makes it impossible to get your results in less time. Please plan accordingly. April and May are our busiest months.

Want to help us maintain our turnaround time? Consider the following:

  • If possible, enter your sample and contact information prior to printing the form. If this is not possible, write your e-mail address legibly as well as other required information. The most frequent reason for a missing report is a misunderstood e-mail address.
  • The county is important. If you do not provide it, we have to take the time to look it up. Not sure what county you live in? Click here.
  • Remember to include payment (check or cash) for the correct amount with your completed form and sample(s). We cannot process your soil until we have payment.

Do I have to mail in my soil sample or can I drop it off?

Samples can be dropped off in person or mailed to our office on the UNH campus in Durham.

UNH Cooperative Extension Soil Testing

G28 Spaulding Hall

38 Academic Way

Durham, NH 03824

Directions to G28 Spaulding Hall, 38 Academic Way

Most vehicle GPS systems and driving direction sites such as Map Quest will not get you to our door. There is a combination of the written directions and the campus map available on our site. If you find yourself lost, you can call 603-862-3200. If we are in the office, we will guide you to us.

Office Hours

We are open Monday through Friday, 8 am to 4:30 pm. There is a box outside the door for before and after hours drop offs. The building is locked on Saturday and Sunday.

Can I receive my results via email and US Mail?

No, your results can only be sent to you one way. Either via e-mail, or US mail. Please check one box only. If you do not check a box, and have included a legible email address, your report will be emailed to you.

Questions about your report?

Home Gardeners can contact the Infoline at 1-877-398-4769 or send them email: answers@unh.edu.

Commercial growers can contact the field specialist or state specialist who reviewed and released the report. Their name and contact information will be located in the upper right hand corner.

 And finally, from our Lab Staff:

  • There is no need to use duct tape, electrical tape, scotch tape or any other kind of tape.
  • Zip-lock bags are the best way to package your sample.
  • You may staple all the pages of your submission form together, but, there is no need to staple the check to the form. Folding it in with the form is sufficient.
  • Do not put your check and/or the form in the bag with the soil, or in an envelope taped to the outside of the box.
  • A padded envelope or a small box is a good way to send your sample. Business envelopes are not strong enough and have left trails of soil through the mail system.
  • Use a sharpie to write the sample name on the outside of the bag.
  • There is no need to cut apart the sample information section of the form and tape or staple it to each sample.
  • Thank you for taking the time to read this! We hope it has answered your questions. If not, feel free to contact us at 603-862-3200 or soil.testing@unh.edu.

 

Anna Boudreau Supports Extension

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Anna Boudreau
State Advisory Council Chair, Natural Resources Steward and NH Coverts Cooperator