The University of Georgia has a wealth of publications that will give people basic fertilization and liming options, but note that Georgia is a big state. A person in a different part of Georgia may be looking at the same general recommendation so I say that nothing can take the place of a properly taken soil sample. A soil test taken on your piece of ground can take out the guess work.
From a publication by Owen Plank, UGA Extension Agronomist, a soil test can help you develop and maintain a more productive soil by providing information about the fertility status of your soil. When a person takes a soil analysis correctly, we can then code the sample for what the person is going to grow in that spot.
The recommendation will come back from the lab based on the status of that soil and what the person is going to grow on that spot. Is it going to be a vegetable garden or flower bed? Are you going to raise cattle on that property or are you going to grow soybeans? If you are working with smaller areas recommendations will come in square footage while the larger tracts will come back in per acre recommendations. Soil samples ran through the Gordon County Extension Office cost $9 per sample.
Note that I have mentioned a properly taken soil analysis to achieve accurate results. Furthermore, think about what you maybe sampling. A homeowner may want to sample their lawn, a vegetable garden and even a flowerbed for recommendations. These all would be separate sampling producers.
For the sake of an example let’s start with a fescue lawn. Most folks will have a front and a back yard with the home being centered on the property. Before sampling, think about that property. Has the soil in the front and back been treated separately. Did you bring in a lot of topsoil in the front lawn and not in the back? If the answer is yes, then you may want to sample the front and the back as two different sampling procedures. First, you need to start with either a trowel, shovel or other digging tool and in a zig zag pattern walk over the lawn and randomly stop at least ten times to take samples.
You would then push the tool to the proper soil depth. For lawns, it is four inches of depth. Then, push the handle forward, with the trowel still in the soil to make a wide opening. Cut a thin slice from the side of the opening that is of uniform thickness. It should be about ¼ inch thick, two inches wide, extending from the top of the ground to the depth of the cut. Put each sample slice taken into a clean plastic bucket or other clean container.
For sample depths, lawns and pastures are four inches while, garden, ornamentals and fruit trees are six inches of soil depth. For most items, a minimum of ten randomly taken samples are plenty, but you can take more if you have not got to all sections of the sampled piece of property. If taking soil samples from trees and shrubs, take soil from 6-8 spots around the drip line of the plants.
When you have taken the samples for that procedure, you will have more soil than we need. You need to completely mix the soil for that area and bring us in one pint of that mixed soil. You can bring that soil to us in a plastic container or bag. If you are bringing in sampling producers from multiple items, make sure you write on the bag or container where that sample is coming from. You don’t want to get mixed up your lawn sample and your vegetable garden sample. We will code them when we receive to avoid mix-ups.
You can also come by prior to sampling and get the official bag with directions on the back if you so choose. With recent rains, the ground may be soggy. The lab does not like running wet samples. If the samples you have taken are wet, you can lay the soil you are going to bring us overnight on paper towels, spread out and let it air dry overnight and then bring in to us. Your results will come back in an easy to read one page report.
The main thing is that your soil pH will be measured which will determine liming recommendations plus the nutrient status of the soil will be taken and fertilizer type of rates will be provided to you. Early 2013, will be a great time to take samples to prepare for the next growing season.
For more information contact Gordon County Extension at 706-629-8685 or email email@example.com.