Knowing Your Soil’s Health is Important for your Lawn and Garden

Are you getting excited about planting now that spring is here? How about getting your lawn in shape? Before you get carried away with shopping for your garden plants and buying lime and fertilizer, please consider getting your soil tested to find out exactly what nutrients you need in order to have a happy lawn and garden.

Penn State University Soil Lab Tech, Credit:  Greg Grieco

Penn State University Soil Lab Tech, Credit: Greg Grieco

What is a Soil Test? According to the Penn State Analytical Lab, a soil test is a process by which elements (phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper and zinc) are chemically removed from the soil and measured for their "plant available" content within the sample. The quantity of available nutrients in the sample determines the amount of fertilizer that is recommended. A soil test also measures soil pH, humic matter and exchangeable acidity. These analyses indicate whether lime is needed and, if so, how much to apply.  Each sample is analyzed for water pH, Mehlich buffer lime requirement, and for phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium by the Mehlich 3 (ICP) test. The final report includes the chemical analysis of the soil along with lime and fertilizer recommendations for the crop specified.

Soil test kits are available at your local Penn State Extension Office in Pike County, located at 514 Broad Street, Milford, PA. The kits cost $9 plus the postage to send the sample to the Penn State Lab for analysis.

There are two videos available on YouTube that describe how to take your samples and then shows what happens once it arrives at the lab. If you have additional questions, please call 570-296-3400 or email

Penn State is an equal opportunity, affirmative action employer, and is committed to providing employment opportunities to all qualified applicants without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or protected veteran status.