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Soil sampling
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This week I wanted to bring up one of my favorite subjects, soil sampling. I have started getting questions about this process, and anytime that the soil is not frozen; you can pull a sample for testing. One piece of information to think about is the soil will be wet and it will need to be dry to send off for testing. To do this, just allow the sample to air dry and do not use heat to help dry the sample since this will compromise the test results. If you have not had a soil test ran for your lawn or garden in the last 3-5 years, now is the time to get it done so that you can have the nutrients that you will need when the growing season returns.
To get a soil sample from your garden, first you will need to take samples from 4 to 6 spots of the area you will be using.  Using a probe sampling method, take a probe and get it 6-8” into the ground. Pull out the probe and this is the sample. If you do not have a probe, you can use a small shovel or trowel. Using the spade, dig a small hole 6-8” deep. Remove the soil and then slice a small even sample from the side all the way to the bottom of the hole. Repeat this 4-6 times throughout your garden. Place all of the samples into a bucket together. Mix the samples, and take out any large items such as organic material and stones and bring the remaining soil into the Extension office for us to send off. We will need about 2 cups of soil to send off for testing. Another thing is to make sure your ground is not too wet. The sample cannot be tested until it is dry, so make sure it is no more than moist when you bring it to us.
For a home lawn, the technique is very similar to the garden with just a few variations. You will want to take samples from twelve or more points in your yard. Submit separate samples for different lawn areas (for example, front and backyards) only if the soils are obviously different, the turfgrass performs differently or the fertilization history of the areas has not been the same. Also, you will want to only sample the soil to the 3 inch depth for an established lawn, but go 4-6 inches if you are starting a new lawn.
The sample should be brought in earlier in the week to ensure the lab receives it and can start testing before the weekend. Normally, the results are sent back within a week, usually with recommendations on what is needed to improve the soil before you start planting. With this information, you can add the correct amount of fertilizer and organic material to give your plants the optimum ability to grow well and produce the best harvest you can get. As always, if you have any questions about the process, or the results, please either come by the office at 1800 12th street in Great Bend, or give me a call at 620-793-1910.  
Alicia Boor is the Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Barton County K-State Research and Extension. You can contact her by e-mail at or calling 620-793-1910