Soil Samples! Get Your Soil Samples!

Now that fall is here, and harvest is finishing up, the next thing that should be on your mind is getting those soil samples taken. We encourage taking fall samples for consistency, and also to make sure you know what your levels are going into winter—You’ll know which fields can take some manure if you plan on spreading, and which fields to stay off of. Also, if you need lime, it will have time to start entering the soil profile in the fall, and be closer to where you want it by spring.

If your last soil test results are from 2012 or earlier, it’s time to get out there (while the weather is still nice!) and get some new ones. It takes a little time, but remember, it’s a fairly simple process! If you don’t have a soil probe, or one of our handy bucket-auger samplers (pictured below), just get a shovel or trowel instead.

In addition to traditional soil probes, Holmes SWCD offers a Collect-N-Go kit that connects to a portable drill for easy soil collection on the go.

In addition to traditional soil probes, Holmes SWCD offers a Collect-N-Go kit that connects to a portable drill for easy soil collection on the go.

Clear the top of the area you will take the sample from, and get down to about 8 inches below the surface. Leave the excess roots and earthworms in the field, and put that shovelful of soil in a bucket. Repeat this about 5 to 8 times per field, making sure that each field you’re sampling is less than 25 acres. If you have numerous small fields that are close together, in the same rotation, and receive identical amounts of fertilizer or manure, you may lump those together as one field.

After pulling the samples from a field, make sure the soil is thoroughly mixed together. Grab at least a measuring cup full, and label it so that you’ll remember which field(s) it represents. We accept the samples in just about anything—Ziploc bags, coffee cans, ice cream buckets—So don’t wait for the “official” sample bags to get them taken …That’s what I’ll take care of when you make it to our office.

When you come in, if you give us the current crop, and the crop(s) that will be following, the lab will return your results with recommendations for nutrient application. However, if you don’t have that information, we can make recommendations for you at a later time. It will take about 1 ½ or 2 weeks to get results back to you, as the lab is pretty busy this time of year. Your options to get the results are to stop by the office, or we can mail or email them to you.

Pricing is as follows: A basic agricultural sample is $7 and will give you results for pH, P, K, % organic matter, calcium and magnesium. If you are interested in micro-nutrients, the test is $11 for your choice of 3, and $13 for the entire suite. We also can test gardens, flower beds, wildlife food plots, and lawns for $9 per sample. Additionally, we charge a $2 shipping fee for every sample ($1 if you are submitting more than 10 samples at a time) in order to cover our costs to get them to the lab. You can pay by cash, check, or credit card at the time of drop off, or we can invoice you once the results come in (Note: There is a $2 flat charge for all credit or debit card payments to our office).

Karen is the most recent addition to the Holmes SWCD staff.  Since joining the staff in January 2016, she has delved into the cover crop program, soil testing, nutrient recommendations, nutrient trading programs, and water sampling.  A 2009 graduate of Miami University’s Western College program with a Bachelor of Philosophy in environmental studies, she has worked in a variety of fields in southern Ohio, California, and Colorado.  She was most recently employed with the Farm Service Agency in Hamilton, Ohio, but is happy to return home and assist the Holmes community in agricultural and conservation pursuits.  Karen can be reached at 330-674-2811 or