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Soil Analysis for Homeowners

Date Published: November 20, 2002
Last Revised: April 1, 2011

The Laboratory Services Section of the Quality Evaluation Division will conduct an analysis of your soil to let you know what your soil is lacking in your garden, lawn, and flowers for a cost per sample of $20.50 + Disposal fee + HST.

Things to Remember
How to Take Field Soil Samples
How to Take a Lawn Soil Sample
How to Take a Garden or Flower Sample

Remember

Soil sampling should be done in the fall, after the crop has been removed. Sampling in the early spring, when the water level is high, can cause misleading analysis, especially for pH and lime requirement.

Soil analysis and resulting recommendations can only be as accurate as your sampling technique. Samples must be representative of the entire area for which recommendations are to be made. Poorly taken samples will result in tests that are misleading, leading in turn, to inaccurate recommendations which can cost you money through:

  1. low yields
  2. using the wrong fertilizer; or
  3. using fertilizer you don't need.

How to Take Farm Field Soil Samples

Step 1: Obtain soil sample boxes and soil submission forms from the local office of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture or from the Quality Evaluation Division, Laboratory Services, in Truro.

Step 2: Make a plan of the farm and outline the soil sampling pattern you intend to follow, keeping a record of field numbers sampled, etc.

Step 3: Take a minimum of 20 individual samples from each field of 10 hectares or less if the area is of uniform slope, soil color, soil type, drainage and cropping practice. Place these individual samples in a clean bucket, mix throughly, breaking up soil clumps and removing rocks, and take a composite sample of approximately 500 mL (2 cups) for analysis.

Step 4: Areas of non-uniform slope, color, texture, drainage, and cropping practice should be sampled separately, as in Step 3.

Step 5: Individual samples that comprise the composite sample should be taken in a random pattern encompassing the entire area. Samples should be taken with a soil sampling auger. If you are sampling on a regular basis, the laboratory can advise you where you can buy your own.

Step 6: Individual samples should be of a uniform 15 cm (6 inch) depth for most crops; 5-8 (2-3 inches) cm for sod crops.

Step 7: Place composite sample (step 3) in soil box, mark the field number, sample number, and your address on the box. Fill in the sample submission form as completely as possible.

IMPORTANT

  • Crop name must be selected from those on the back of the sample submission form in order for ratings and required applications to be given.
  • Crop name is the crop to be grown for which analysis is being requested.
  • When indicating manure applications, include manure which is to be applied to the crop for which analysis is required; not manure which has already been applied.

Step 8: Send soil sample and completed sample submission form to Laboratory Services.

How to Take a Lawn Soil Sample

Step 1: Obtain soil sample boxes and sample submission forms from the local office of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture or from the Quality Evaluation Division, Laboratory Services in Truro.

Step 2: With a garden trowel go down 10 centimeters (4 inches) in 6 to 10 different areas of your lawn.

Step 3: Into a clean bucket or pail, empty the contents of each area. Remove grass clumps. After you have done this, mix the soil together.

Step 4: From this mixture, take a 500 mL (2 cup) sample. This sample will be a good representation of your lawn soil.

Step 5: Place the sample into the soil box. If you do not have a soil box, a freezer bag that can hold the sample of soil can be used.

IMPORTANT
In order to be sure that you get the proper analysis for your soil, we must know what you are growing, ie: Is the soil from an established lawn or is the soil going to be seeded?

How to Take a Garden or a Flower Soil Sample

Step 1: Obtain soil sample boxes and sample submission forms from the local field office of the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture or from the Quality Evaluation Division, Laboratory Services in Truro.

Step 2: Take a garden trowel and go down 12 to 15 centimeters (5 to 6 inches) in 6 to 10 different areas of your garden or flower bed.

Step 3: In a clean bucket or pail, empty the contents of each area. Remove plant debris. After you have done this, mix the soil together.

Step 4: From this mixture, take a 500 mL (2 cup) sample. This sample will be a good representation of the garden or flower bed soil.

Step 5: Place the 500 mL (2 cup) sample into the box. If you do not have a soil box, a freezer bag that can hold the full sample of soil can be used.

Step 6: When you receive your soil test results, consult your local agricultural representative or specialist about recommendations.

IMPORTANT
In order to be sure that you get the proper analysis for your soil, we must know what you are growing, ie: Is the soil from your garden or from your flower bed?

A cheque or money order made out to the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture must accompany the soil sample. If you are mailing the sample, please address your package to the address below.

Sample drop-off location:
176 College Road, Harlow Institute
Truro, NS   B2N 2P3

Hours of business:
Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

Samples can be dropped off Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. for same-day processing. Samples received after 3:30 pm will be logged into the system and processed the next business day.

Hours of business.

  Last Update: April 1, 2011