Best Practices for Submitting Your Soil Sample

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?

Yes, using the correct form is important! For example,  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 soil testing forms.

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.

Did you receive my soil test?

All soil tests sent to the Barton Hall and 34 Sage Way address  will be delivered to the lab. We ask that you please check the tracking on your package for delivery updates. Once your package has been delivered to UNH it will take a day or two in our internal mailing system to make it to the soil lab.

My check was cashed, but I have not received my results.

To keep your payment secure, all cash and checks are sent to our business office during sample intake and checks are cashed soon after. Cashing of your check does not correlate with completion of testing.

I forgot to enclose payment with my soil test. Where do I send payment?

If you forgot to enclose payment don’t worry! Just send an email to to let us know and send payment to the same address you sent your soil test. Once we receive payment, we will process your soil test.

How long does it take to get my results?

Our turn-around time is approximately 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?

 The lab is accepting sample in-person and by mail! Samples can be dropped off or mailed to Barton Hall 34 Sage Way, Durham, NH 03824. In addition we have a soil drop-box at the front of the Sage Way visitor parking lot just to the right of Barton Hall. 

Can I receive my results both in an email and by U.S. mail?

No, you have to chose one method. 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:

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 leave a message at 603-862-0509 or