Greg Bowman

When September annually arrives, I shift focus. Personally, it is football season so going to UGA games and keeping up with the high school teams is important. My daughters have always been in the middle of high school softball season and basketball season is just around the corner. It is always calving season on the farm so it is just a busy time. Agriculturally, I start shifting gears since growing season will be wrapping up and agents will soon be preparing for 2019 programming.

By the time this article is in print our Commercial Vegetable Workshop will have taken place, but you still have time to register for the Commercial Small Fruit Workshop for September 19th. If interested, I can easy email or mail you a flyer upon request.

One thing I want you to remember is the importance of soil sampling. If you take pride in your lawn grass, try to have the best vegetable garden or want to have the most productive pasture for example, soil sampling needs to be on the list of activities. The best thing I can tell you is a properly taken soil sampling procedure to get accurate results is the best way to know what is going on under the soil surface. The soil report will give you recommendations on fertilization and liming for the activity you are doing on that piece of ground. Soil sampling will help take out the guesswork in regards to fertilizing and lime application. Today, I will be sharing information from a long standing UGA circular by Leticia Sonon and David Kissel with the UGA Soil Test Lab.

First, to send a soil sample to the UGA Soil Test Lab, it will cost you $9 per sample. In the course of this article, we will tell you how to do that correctly. We normally will receive results from the lab in 5 to 6 working days and can either email or mail the results to you. We don’t take the samples for you, but we do have a few soil probes that can be checked out and used by clientele. The goal is to obtain the nutrient status of your soil and also to measure the soil pH. From there, the soil test results are used to give you recommendations on what to add as far as fertilizer and lime in order to make your soil more productive. To be more accurate, we will code your soil sample for the activity you will be doing on that piece of ground. You may be growing a fescue lawn, a hybrid bermuda lawn, a vegetable garden or even a wildlife food plot on that property. We have hundreds of codes so we can get real accurate on your activity.

You can do a soil test any time of year. We do suggest to allow enough time for the analysis and for the fertilizer and lime application. Note that lime will react slowly with the soil so we if you need lime, it is nice to give it 2 to 3 months before planting. Fall can be the best time of year to sample because areas are normally dry and more easily sampled. I will add that once medium and high fertility levels are established, lawn and ornamental areas can be sampled every 2 to 3 years. In addition, vegetable gardens can be sampled every 1 to 2 years. When you sample, you need to know the proper sampling depth for that activity. For lawns and pastures, you sample to a depth of 4 inches. For gardens, ornamentals, mixed fruit trees and wildlife plots, you need to sample to a depth of 6 inches. When you sample you need to use the zigzag approach and randomly take 8 to 10 samples. For trees and shrubs, take soil samples from 6 to 8 spots around the dripline of the plants.

When you sample, you need the correct tools and containers. Do not use sampling tools and containers that have been used for fertilizer and lime. The collecting tool can be a trowel, shovel, spade, hand probes or hand augers. Again, we have soil probes that can be checked out and used for a few days. You need a good clean plastic bucket for example for each collected sample. When you randomly stop to take a sample, clear the ground surface of grass and mulch for example. Then push the trowel for example in the ground to the correct depth. Push the handle forward with the tool still in the ground to make a wide opening. Then cut a thin slice from the side of the opening that is of uniform thickness. The slice should be .25” thick and two inches in width from the top of the ground to the depth of the cut.

You will need to combine your samples and mix. We will need a pint of the mixed soil to transfer to the official UGA Soil Lab bag for mailing. You can pick up the bag prior to sampling if you choose since sampling directions are on the bag too. I know we have been dry lately, but I would air dry the sample overnight on a flat surface lined with clean white paper prior to bringing to the office.

For more information, contact UGA Extension- Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email