It’s a question that every Master Gardener gets asked at least once, but for many of us it’s the most frequent question that we answer. The question may come in via the Master Gardener Helpline. It may get asked at a workshop being taught by Master Gardeners.
It’s a question every county Extension agent answers frequently as well.
Do I really have to soil test?
The simple answer—yes, you really should have your soil tested every couple of years, especially if you plan to to do something new in that area of your yard.
Most experts like Dr. Charlie Mitchell, who is a soil scientist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, suggest that home gardeners should have a soil test done every three to four years. You can listen to a podcast that I did several years ago with Charlie here.
Now is a great time to soil test here in Alabama. If you have never taken a soil sample, this Extension publication is a great how-to article.
In Alabama, you can get soil sample boxes and forms from your county Extension office. The Auburn University Soil Testing Laboratory says that you can find the form here and send your sample in a plastic zipper bag to them. There is a $7 charge for each sample. A sample should contain about a pint of soil.
This Extension publication will help you understand your report and what you need to do to improve your garden’s fertility.