Soil testing can improve garden, save money

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — Hardware store shelves are filled with products designed to improve your lawn and garden, but home gardeners are encouraged to learn more about their soil before adding nutrients, fertilizers and chemicals.

“This is what a soil sample bag looks like,” Annette MaCoy of the Cumberland County office of Penn State Extension said while holding up a white plastic pouch. “It has a bag for collecting the soil and a list of instructions.”

sOIL sAMPLE

MaCoy says every county extension office offers the testing kits to the public for a $9 processing fee. Upon collection of about a cup of soil from a property owner’s garden or lawn, the sample is mailed to the Agricultural Analytical Laboratory in State College. Within approximately 10-14 days, a complete soil analysis is returned to the property owner by standard mail or email.

“It can really be a savings of time and money,” MaCoy said. “As an example, people often need to add lime to their lawn to bring the pH up, but you can’t really tell by looking at your lawn what the pH is. If your soil is good, there is no need to spend money and time on applying the lime or other products.”

When collecting a soil sample, MaCoy stresses the importance of gathering dirt from more than one location within the test area. By combining the various small samples, a test will be more representative and provide a more precise analysis.

To purchase a soil testing kit, visit any Penn State Extension county office, or go online. Those submitting soil for testing must also pay a separate shipping cost determined by the post office when the package is weighed.

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