Learning Center


Winter Soil Samples

Collecting Soil Samples

Winter is a great time of year to take soil samples in to your county University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension office.  Dig down 6-8 inches deep in the area you would like tested, and get a variety of samples from each area. For example, take samples from several areas in your lawn and mix them together, or several areas in your landscape beds and mix them together.  Sift through the soil and remove organic matter that can clog the machines.  For more details on how to collect soil samples, follow this link and watch the video.

Soil Sample Analysis

Within days or weeks of dropping your soil sample off, you will receive a report or analysis of your soil. This will include information on a variety of things such as macro-nutrients Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, as well as pH. While the entire analysis is important, today, we are going to focus on soil pH.  The reason we are, is that if soil pH gets too acidic or alkaline, nutrients can get ‘tied up’.  This means that if the pH is off, these valuable nutrients can be present in the soil but are unavailable to plants.

It can take a bit of time for pH adjustments to take affect, and the spring season is fast approaching. That’s why winter is a great time to address any potential issues.

Soil pH

The soil pH scale stars at 0 and goes up to 14, with neutral soils being 7; values less than 7 are acidic and over 7 are alkaline. Like discussed above, at certain levels, nutrients are tied up and unavailable to plants. When that happens, it’s important to adjust the pH into a desirable level for whatever plant you are trying to grow.

Not adjusting the pH can get expensive; for example, your lawn looks yellowish instead of green and you apply Nitrogen to green it up.  Nothing happens.  You apply more Nitrogen.  Same thing, nothing happens.  By not testing and adjusting pH, you can see where this cycle could go on for years.  And you will spend way more than needed if the pH had been ‘right’ from the beginning.

More Soil Testing

As Jeff says in this video, it’s not a one and done kind of thing.  Because different things such as excessive rainfall or irrigation can impact pH, this testing should be done every year if there is an issue to resolve.  If soil pH is good now, check again every other year to make sure it stays that way.  There can also be turn overs in the soil sub surface and different compnents can work themselves up into the root zone of your plants.

Once you find out your soil pH, come see us!  We will help you read your analysis and get you the products you need to keep successfully growing.

For more details on this topics, visit last years’ blog post on soil pH!