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Maintaining a Healthy Soil

A person gets ready to till and turn-over soil.

Soil health is crucial to the health and yield of your garden. Before planting, it’s recommended to have your soil analyzed for nutrients and pH to ensure optimum plant growth.

The WVU Soil Testing Lab offers this service – all you need to do is collect a representative sample. Finding out how much nutrition needs to be added will limit purchasing excess fertilizer.

Collecting a sample is simple. All you need is a bucket, soil sample probe or shovel, and paper bags. If you do not have a soil probe, check with your local WVU Extension Service office.

You need to evaluate the site and decide what will be planted in that area.

The number of samples you submit will be determined by the size of the planting area. One sample can be submitted to represent a 5- to 10-acre field; however, if you use raised beds, a sample should be submitted for each bed.

Use the soil probe to randomly take numerous core samples across the area. If a shovel is used, a “V” shape can be dug in multiple areas, and a slice can be placed in the bucket. Once all the samples are mixed in a bucket, a sample can be taken out to represent the entire area. It is important to sample the top 6 to 8 inches of soil, as this is the root zone.

Place the sample in a safe place to air dry for a few days. Never dry your sample in the microwave or oven as this will skew the results. Once the sample is dry, place it in a resealable plastic bag along with the submission form, and mail it to the lab.

If you need assistance interpreting the results, contact your local WVU Extension Service agent.

By Jody Carpenter, WVU Extension Agent – Barbour and Randolph Counties