Agriculturally, Gordon County is a very diverse county. Poultry production is our top Ag industry, but we also raise cattle, hogs, goats and sheep plus we have a large horse population in the county.

We have a good bit of crop production with corn, soybeans, canola and cotton to name a few. Gordon county producers also excel in sod production, vegetables and landscape trees.

I will add that many Gordon County citizens will grow backyard gardens and fruit trees and strive to maintain ornamental plants/ turf in the landscape. Most if not all of these Ag activities can benefit from proper soil sampling and using the recommendation results in regards to liming and fertilization of the soils that are used to grow or raise many of these commodities.

Keep in mind that developing and maintaining productive soils begins with soil testing through the UGA Soil Test Lab. Today, I will be sharing information on soil testing from a UGA circular by Leticia Sonon and David Kissel, UGA Agricultural and Environmental Services Laboratories.

If you are a weekly reader of my articles, you will know that I will provide multiple articles on soil sampling over the course of a year.

The reason is because soil testing is important. If you take your samples correctly, the report recommendations should take out the guesswork and provide you with accurate liming and fertilization guidance. I am sure many vegetable gardeners for example fertilize their garden spot the same way annually and may lime the garden every few years without ever conducting a $9 soil test. Those gardeners may be providing what is needed, but in some situations may not.

Those non-sampling gardeners may even be spending too much money in regards to lime and fertilizer or could be applying the wrong type of fertilizer and the wrong rate. I have some clients that will sample annually for growing activities while others have not soil sampled in decades. Think of soil sampling as a resource tool to make your soil more productive no matter the growing activity.

For starters, soil sampling is very economical. I know when I may say words like “analysis” or “scientific process” that it may tend to lean towards soil testing being expensive. Soil testing is $9 per sample or sampling procedure. If you soil test your fescue lawn, it is $9. If you soil test your fruit orchard, it is $9.

I will say that if you are going to do a lot of sampling such as in a pasture, hayfield or row crop scenario, a sampling procedure should not represent more than 15-20 acres. If you have a sixty acre hayfield, you would have to divide the field up into sections, number or name those sections and do multiple soil samplings procedures so the cost will go up. Keep in mind that depending on the growing activity you are doing on a property, there are different sampling depths and possible different approaches in sample collection.

I will add that we have soil probes in our office that can be checked out to aid your soil sample collection. We normally will ship samples to the UGA Soil Test Lab twice per week and results will come back in five to six working days. If you are new to soil testing, I can email or mail you a copy of our UGA circular that will have simple, but detailed directions along with diagrams in sample collection. Just note that soil sampling is not complex and the results can be beneficial. Here are a few reminders. Before sampling, you need to know the correct sampling depths.

For lawns, pastures and hayfields for example, you sample to a depth of four inches. For gardens, ornamentals, mixed fruit trees and wildlife plots sample to a depth of six inches. It is suggested to take samples well in advance of planting for example so you have the results back. In our part of the state, we have a tendency to be lower pH or more acidic. A liming application will improve soil pH over time.

If you need lime, you can go ahead and get that out and give the lime time to incorporate into the soil profile prior to the growing season. When you sample, you need to use clean sampling tools and containers. This will reduce the chance of contamination. If you do not wish to check out a soil probe, you can use a trowel, shovel or spade for example. I think you may find the soil probe may work easier.

When you collect an individual sample, clear the ground surface of grass thatch or mulch. If you are using a trowel for example, push the tool to the desired depth in the soil. Push the handle forward with the trowel in the soil to make a wide opening. Then, cut a thin slice from the side of the opening that is of uniform thickness approximately one-fourth” thick and two inches in width extending from the top of the ground to the proper depth of the cut. In many scenarios, you would collect 8-10 samples in a zigzag approach.

Each time you collect a sample, you would put the sample in your plastic container. When done, you will mix the samples and we will need one pint of the mixed soil. With the ground being damp now, you will need to air dry the mixed sample overnight on a flat surface lined with clean white paper before bringing to our office for shipping.

For more information, contact UGA Extension-Gordon County at 706-629-8685 or email Extension Agent Greg Bowman at gbowman@uga.edu.

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