The Master Gardener: I'm Digging It

Soil characteristics play major role in the well-being of plants
By Sandra Hume, Master Gardener
Even though it is still the season of freezes, spring gardens on the horizon, making now a good 
time to test your soil. Soil testing can be helpful before planting because it lets you know the 
nutrient availability. This can help take away the guesswork about what fertilizer to use, 
especially if you are not sure what your soil needs. If your soil is lacking necessary nutrients, 
your newly planted items will not have their needs met.
To take a soil sample, you will need the following:
•   • A digging tool
•   • A bucket
•   • A baggie

Dig down about six inches into the soil for garden or landscape areas, or two to four inches for 
lawn areas. Space out your collection sites throughout the area, so that sampling will be 
characteristic of the entire space. Mix your samples in the baggie and bring a cupful (or less) to 
the UF/IFAS Extension Office in Lecanto.
Their UF/IFAS Soil Testing Lab tests soil samples every Wednesday, but you can bring in your soil 
any day of the week. There is a $3.00 fee, and you will receive the test results by phone. There is 
also a more detailed option, which includes major and minor nutrient values, along with fertilizer 
treatment suggestions. These UF/IFAS SoilKits can be obtained at the Lecanto office or online at Both levels of testing are based on the same science.