|Students working in a soil testing laboratory
Photo credit: snre School of Natural Resources Flickr CC BY 2.0
Soil testing laboratories provide a variety of soil analysis services. Tests recommended for lawns, gardens, and landscapes should include soil pH, the macronutrients nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, soil pH, and salinity.
The process requires mixing several random soil samples (see instructions on submission packet) before submitting for testing. Results of the test give information to assist the homeowner in developing a fertilization program.
Since each soil testing laboratory may use different testing techniques, it is critical that the lab provide an interpretation of the soil test as a recommendation for applying or withholding fertilizers.
The choice of plants to add to a landscape can also be directed in part through the information produced in the test. Keep in mind that some drought tolerant plants may need little additional fertilizer.
A full spectrum test similar to the one above costs between $20 and $50. Considering the investment of time and money given to a water-wise landscape, the price is worth the effort in most cases.
Cooperative Extension Service (for specific testing procedures in your area)