LSU Soil Testing

Kimberly A. Evans  |  2/9/2012 8:29:31 PM

Now is the best time to determine the condition of your soil before planting spring gardens or flowers. The condition and type of soil in which you garden has a profound effect on the health and growth of your plants. One of the most common mistakes novice gardeners make is putting too little effort into learning about their soil. 

The LSU AgCenter will perform routine soil testing for home gardeners as well as commercial landowners to determine nutrient deficiencies in your soil. A convenient box with instructions and a postage paid label is now available at the LaSalle Parish Extension Office to make sending soil for testing very simpler. There is a $15 fee for the soil test, which includes the postage.

Soil is the primary source of water and nutrients for plants and must also provide sufficient air – oxygen – to their root systems. Ideally, a soil should be about 25 percent water, 25 percent air and 50 percent solids, which include minerals – sand, silt and clay – and organic matter.

Proper soil fertility keeps lawns lush, flowers blooming and vegetables producing. And the key to proper fertilizing, whether you use commercial or organic fertilizers, is a soil test. Adding nutrients that are already available in adequate amounts is wasteful and may contribute to environmental problems such as polluting surface water.

Around Louisiana, soil types vary greatly from light sands to loams to heavy clays. A thorough knowledge of the characteristics of your soil is necessary to make proper decisions about vegetable gardening, ornamental beds and landscaping. This information is vital to appropriate soil improvement, as well fertilizing.

A soil sample should be submitted for testing from each unique area of your landscape, especially if the soils may be different because of past treatment, location or type of plants being grown. For instance, one sample could be submitted from your front lawn area, one from a shrub bed and another from an annual flowerbed in the front yard. A separate soil sample would also be submitted from a vegetable gardening area.

When taking a sample, take soil from several different spots in each bed or area to be tested. Dig down about 3-6 inches to take a sample, and remove any rocks, mulch, grass, roots or other material, leaving only soil. Put all the soil collected from several spots in one area in a plastic bucket and blend it together. Use this soil to fill the plastic bag in the pre-addressed mailing box. Each mailing box has three plastic bags, so you can send up to three separate soil samples in one box. Our office has an ample supply of lawn and garden brochures.

Contact your local Extension office to obtain a soil sample kit. LaSalle Parish clientele please contact the LaSalle Parish Extension Office is located in Room 1 of the LaSalle Parish Courthouse.  For more information, contact Kim Evans, Extension Agent at 318-992-2205 or P O Box 101 Jena, LA 71342

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