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Frequently Asked Questions: Soil Testing

Please contact MSU Extension-Oakland to answer any of your questions or call 248-858-0902.

Why should I have my soil tested?

Getting a soil test is a way to find out information about your soil that you have no other way of obtaining.  You will receive a fertilizer recommendation to correct any deficiency, as well as pH adjustment, if necessary.  The soil test will not show evidence of insect problems, disease or soil contamination.

What types of soil tests are available?

The homeowner/residential test will have recommendations for fertilizer that is given in pounds per 1,000 square feet of area.  There are farms/large acreage recommendations given in tons per acre.  The greenhouse test is for artificial growth media (soilless mixtures) used for greenhouse growing.  Call the Yard and Garden Center at 248-858-0902 for information about other specialized tests that are available for addition cost.

How do I take a sample?

A clean plastic bucket or container and a trowel or small shovel are needed.  Decide on the kind of test you want.  Go to about a dozen locations in the area to be tested.  Dig down to the recommended depth and take all the soil from the top down to the bottom in one thin slice.  Basically, the soil will be coming from the area in which the roots are growing.  Place all the samples for that test in one container and then mix them up.  This averages the area and the soil depths.  Pick out any sticks, rocks, roots or other plant material.  Measure 1 1/2 to 2 cups of soil and put it into a plastic sandwich bag.  If the soil is very wet, allow it to air dry before placing in the plastic bag.  If you have a question about how to gather a soil sample, please call the Yard and Garden Center at 248-858-0902.

Can I use one test for multiple kinds of plants, like vegetable garden and lawn?

No.  If you do, you will be disappointed with the results.  The test is geared to what you want to grow, whether it is vegetables or flowers or lawn or trees and shrubs.  Each kind of plant has different requirements for nutrients and soil pH.  Unfortunately, they are not interchangeable.

How much soil is needed for soil test?

Homeowner/residential:  1 1/2 to 2 cups
Farm/large acreage:  1 1/2 to 2 cups
Greenhouse test:  one quart

Do you test the soil at your office?

No, your soil is sent to the Michigan State University Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory in East Lansing.  The soil test lab sends back the results to our office where our Diagnostic Clinic staff interprets your soil test results. 

How long does it take to get results?

It takes approximately two to four weeks to have the results mailed to your address depending on the time of year.

How much does a soil test cost?

The homeowner/residential test is $20.00.  We accept checks or cash (no credit cards).
Self-mailer soil test kits (includes a postage paid envelope) may be purchased at the MSU Extension Bookstore using a credit card for $20.00 plus shipping. The self-mailer soil tests kits are only for use in testing lawn or vegetable garden soils.  You must have access to an email address to receive the soil test results.

Where do I take my soil to be tested?

To the MSU Extension-Oakland County Office (1200 N. Telegraph Road, North Office Building, Building #26 East, 2nd floor, Pontiac, MI 48341). 

How often should I have my soil tested?

We recommend a soil test every 3 years.