Douglas County’s extension office is at the fairgrounds, 2110 Harper St. The office can be reached at 843-7058 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whether you are trying to grow vegetables, flowers or grass, testing the soil’s pH can make both your thumb and your yard a little greener.
Professional soil testing is available through most county extension offices. These tests typically report pH levels as well as certain nutrient levels, such as phosphorous, nitrogen and potassium.
On a scale of 1 to 14, a pH level of 7 is considered neutral. High acid or alkaline levels inhibit the soil’s ability to release nutrients to the plants. The perfect pH level for grass is 6.5.
Step 1: Contact the local extension office to determine what size of soil sample they wish to work with and what type of container they would like it delivered in.
Step 2: Decide where to test the soil. Divide the yard into areas based on what is to be planted there. Grass needs are different than garden needs, and vegetable garden needs are different than flower garden needs, etc.
Step 3: Start in one section of the yard and collect 10 soil samples from various spots within the area. Use a pipe, trowel, spade or other tool to pull out cores of soil in each spot. For lawns, 3-inch to 4-inch core samples will work, but for gardens, 6-inch to 8-inch deep cores are much better.
Step 4: Place the 10 core samples of soil from the first section into a container, and mix the soil well. Mixing core samples from various spots within the yard will give a more realistic picture of the overall soil properties.
Step 5: Transfer the appropriate amount of mixed soil into the specified soil sample container. The Douglas County extension office requests that two cups of composite soil samples are placed in small, clean containers for testing; quart-size Ziploc bags work well.
Step 6: Label the soil sample clearly and continue sample collection for the remaining sections of the yard.
Step 7: Deliver the soil samples to the local county extension office. Results should be available within two weeks, assuming there is not a backlog of samples waiting to be tested.
Step 8: Once the soil test results have been returned, follow the recommended steps for soil amendment. For lawns with a low pH, lime is traditionally added to raise the pH. If the pH is too high, sulfur can reduce the alkalinity of the soil.