Soil in cupped hands

Knowing the pH and nutrient content of your soil is important to successful growing.

Soils & Climate

The soils of Cortland County vary considerably in physical properties and in suitability for crops and other uses. Soil associations dominated by high lime areas occur in the northwestern and northeastern parts of the county along county lines. Medium lime soils occupy the transitional areas between the high and low lime soils. The central, north-central and southern parts of the county include areas of low lime soils with a strong fragipan.

The glaciated landscape in Cortland County accounts for the complexities of our soils. Ten soil associations are found in the county. The most productive soils are found in the northern plateau areas. In the southern half of the county, the hilly topography and low lime soils limit crop production

The general topography is hilly. The county is characterized by narrow deep valleys, intervening plateaus and high hills (highest county elevation - 2100 feet).

Variations in topography have significant affects on climate. The influence of Cayuga Lake on climate appears to be confined to areas adjacent to the shore. In most years, the freeze free season ranges between May 5 - 20 through September 25 - October 15. Annual precipitation totals between 30 and 40 inches.


Soil Basics. This Basic Soil Components page hosted on eXtension, describes the materials that make up all soils. This Soil Biology page from the USDA covers living organisms that are critical to soil health.

Soil Texture. Agronomy Fact Sheet #29 from Cornell Cooperative Extension discusses the four soil texture classifications of sands, silts, loams and clays; how they combine to make textural classifications; how soil texture is determined; and the 5 soil management groups in New York State.

Soil Organic Matter. Agronomy Fact Sheet #41 from Cornell Cooperative Extension describes types of organic matter in soil; their physical, chemical & biological benefits; farm practices that help maintain or increase soil organic matter levels; and the importance of continued monitoring of soil organic matter content.

Soil Testing. Visit our page on "How to take a soil sample" for testing and see what Soil Testing Services are offered by or through Cooperative Extension.

The Cornell Soil Health website offers a variety of resources on soil testing and improvement.

Cornell's Garden Based Learning site also offers information on types of soil tests; suggested tests for lawns, vegetable gardens and fruit crops; and testing for contaminants.


Monthly Temperature Averages for Ithaca, NY lists normal temperatures and precipitation averages for 1971-2000. There are also links to daily and monthly climate updates recorded at 4 sites around Ithaca, on the Ithaca Climate Page (Northeast Regional Climate Center website).

Find freeze/frost probability tables for each state from NOAA's National Climactic Data Center.

Growing Degree Days (GDD) are a measure of heat accumulation used by horticulturalists to predict the date that a flower will bloom or a crop reach maturity. Statistics for the Northeast are provided on this Cornell Atmospheric Sciences & Turf Team website.

The Cornell Garden Based Learning website includes a section on Weather & Climate that includes information on Growing Degree Days, US plant hardiness zones, average frost dates, and microclimates.



Cornell Cooperative Extention of Cortland County


Last updated December 19, 2023