University of Florida

How to Take a Soil Sample

  1. Identify the area(s) to be sampled. Turf areas, vegetable gardens and ornamental beds should all be sampled separately.
  2. Using a shovel, trowel, or soil probe, remove soil from several spots in the sampling area. Select several plugs at random, place in a container, and mix together. Remove any plant material or mulch dug up with the plugs. Avoid adding plugs that show different characteristics. These may need a separate test.
  3. Soil should be removed from 2-4 inches below the surface for turf and 6-8 inches below the surface for vegetables and landscape plants.
  4. Remove approximately 1-2 cups (1 pint) of soil and spread it out on newspaper or a paper grocery bag. Allow the soil to air dry thoroughly.
  5. Remove 1 cup of soil and place it into a bag or jar to submit for testing at the Extension Office. The soil will be tested for pH and soluble salts for $5.00.
  6. If you want to have nutritional content tested in addition to the pH and soluble salts, the Extension Office has free bags and pre-addressed boxes for you to use to send your samples to the Soil Laboratory in Gainesville. There will be a nominal charge for this service.
     

Why Take a Soil Sample?

Our native sandy soils are predominantly acidic except for the calcareous soils of South
Florida. However, where native soils have been disturbed and new development has
occurred, alkaline soils have often been brought in. Many plant problems result when the
desirable pH for plants and the actual pH of the area in which they are planted don’t
match. Here’s the desirable pH ranges for turfgrasses:

-----------PH------------
< 5.5 5.5 - 6.4 6.5 - 7.4 > 7.4
Bermuda Grass Bermuda Grass Bermuda Grass Bermuda Grass
Bahia Grass Bahia Grass St. Augustine Grass St. Augustine Grass
      Zoysia Grass

Generally speaking, neutral soils are in the 6.0-7.0 pH range; acidic soils are below 6.0 pH; and alkaline soils are above 7.0 pH. If your soil pH is lower than you desire, lime can be added to raise the pH. If your pH is higher than desired, there is no permanent
solution. Elemental sulfur can be added routinely to lower the pH, but it is a temporary fix only. The better solution is to select plants that tolerate alkaline soils.

For more information, please contact the Master Gardener Plant Clinic.