​Small Investment Can Reap Great Returns

Soils compared

Different soils have different chemical compositions that can affect their productivity. Only a soil analysis can tell you the exact composition of your soil sample. Photo courtesy UTIA.


Old man winter has finally released his grip on Tennessee so we can get outside and enjoy the warm sunshine. Cold, wet soils have kept growers out of farm fields and gardens untended, but we’re ready to go now, says Debbie Joines, manager of the University of Tennessee Extension Soil, Plant and Pest Center. She recommends producers and home gardeners start the growing season with a soil analysis before applying lime or fertilizer.

The UT Extension Soil, Plant and Pest Center provides soil analysis, which includes lime and fertilizer recommendations, for the modest fee of $7 per sample for a basic analysis.
“This is a small investment if you consider the return you stand to make from increased production of your forages, crops or garden vegetables or even from enjoyment of a beautiful lush lawn,” Joines said. “Soil test results and recommendations allow you to apply correct and sustainable amendments to your lawn, garden, pasture or field crop.”
“The sampling process is incredibly easy to do and will save you money and headaches,” said Joines. “The first thing you will need is a digging tool such as a trowel or shovel.  A soil probe works great, too, but one is not necessary.” Joines says to follow these steps to collect a soil sample:

* Collect soil through the 6-inch depth from at least six to eight (subsamples) in your lawn or garden. If you are sampling for pasture or row crops, collect enough samples to represent no more than 10 acres. 

* Mix subsamples together and submit one cup of the soil mixture for analysis. If the soil is wet, allow it to air dry overnight (do not heat). This will help with mixing and make the mixture less expensive to ship.

Joines says because soils in a relatively small area can vary, some property owners might need to sample multiple areas separately, especially if areas exhibit changes in soil color or texture or have measured production differences.

Analysis results for Basic and Basic Plus options are normally available within 1 – 2 days of sample receipt. Your county Extension office can provide soil boxes for shipping and can also assist with your sampling or production questions.

To learn more about collecting and submitting soil samples and the other services of the UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center, visit the center’s website ag.tennessee.edu/spp. You may also contact the center at 615-832-5850 or by email to the soilplantpestcenter@tennessee.edu.

The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and outreach through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.



Debbie Joines, Manager, UT Soil, Plant and Pest Center, 615 832-5850,