A soil test will tell you what nutrients are in your soil and what you may need to add (in the form of fertilizer) for successful crop growth. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (macronutrients) as will as micronutrients to grow. Deficiency or excess of these elements will impact the health and productivity of plants. In addition, the pH (acid/alkaline level) of your soil has an impact upon how much of your soil's nutrients your plants will be able to use.
A pH test measures the acid/alkaline level of your soil. In the pH scale, 7.0 is considered neutral; lower numbers indicate acid soil, while higher numbers indicate that the soil is alkaline. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.8. pH levels influence nutrient availability, with most nutrients being available to plants when the pH is in this range (6.8-7.0). If a soil is too alkaline or too acid, certain nutrients may be limited. To change soil pH to the desirable range, you will either add lime if the soil is too acid or sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. With your pH test result, the amount of lime or sulfur to add can be determined if any.
Our Horticulture Program will perform a pH test on soil samples that are brought to our office for a fee of $2/sample. Please see instructions on "How to take a soil sample" for details.
Standard soil nutrient test
This test provides recommendations for establishment and maintenance of home lawns and gardens, commercial turf, commercial vegetables, commercial fruit, and field crops (pasture, hay, annual crops). Measures pH (in water), phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and micro nutrients including organic matter. Samples should be delivered to the Dairy One Co-Op Inc, located at 720 Warren Rd., Ithaca. Expect at least one week for test results to be returned.
Download and print the appropriate FORM from the Dairy One website to include with your soil test samples. (NOTE: when you visit the above link, you will see a list of different forms. For testing home garden soils, download and print Submittal Form H for Lawn, Garden and Landscapes and Form H2 if you are submitting multiple samples.) For assistance on downloading and filling out forms, contact the GrowLine.
Additional tests (available through Dairy One)
Last updated June 21, 2023