How to Take a Soil Sample

To start, what is your goal? Soil tests are more valuable when collecting trends over time. It is therefore important to repeat soil tests the same time of the year in the same place. They are not an end all, be all.

Soil and plant tissue analyses highlight mineral imbalances that might be affecting the health of pasture or animals. Soil testing takes the guess work out of nutrient management and allows cost effective fertiliser programs to be produced. Plant tissue tests complement soil tests and allow important trace nutrients to be adjusted for improved animal health.

If you have several distinctly different soil types or growing conditions, you may want to take separate soil samples from each of the locations, e.g. the hay fields, garden, limestone hills etc. We prefer to sample the best and worst areas on the same soil types, to look at how can we lift the worst to perform like the best?

Materials needed:

  • 150mm (6”) soil probe (auger) is recommended
  • Clean bucket for sampling
  • Ziplock bags (1 per sample)
  • Permanent marker pen

Collecting a Soil Sample

To keep your sample as representative of the field as possible avoid field gates, eroded hillsides, water troughs, urine patches, feed rings etc. Avoid taking a sample 3 months after solid fertiliser is applied. 

Traces of chemicals (such as drench) on your hands or using homemade augers may contain zinc or iron which will contaminate test results. Try to avoid skin contact with the sample.

  1. Take 20 samples along a 60m (200 feet) transect. Take
  2. photos and GPS.
  3. Scrape the top of the soil with the heel of your boot to remove grasses and organic matter. Or remove the top ½ cm from the sample.
  4. If you are taking a biological sample these are often taken to different depths- check the lab request and collect into a different bucket from your mineral test.
  5. Place all the samples together in a clean pail or other container, and mix thoroughly. Remove pebbles and other debris.
  6. Place one cup of the mixed sample in a sealable plastic bag
  7. or other clean, unbreakable container.
  8. Label the container clearly with your name, address, and
  9. phone number.
  10. Fill in the lab form and send immediately to the lab. Record
  11. date sent and number of samples into your calendar.
  12. Email lab to say # of samples are on their way.
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When You Are Ready, Here Are 4 Ways We Can Help You

1. Online Soil Health Courses - Learn at your own pace and develop a foundation of soil health, organic chemistry, natural cycles and more. If you are new to soil health and ecological agriculture, we invite you to start your learning journey by starting here.

2. For the Love of Soil Book - by Nicole Masters is centered around strategies to regenerate our food production systems. We also offer a Spanish translation you can find here.

3. CREATE Coaching Program - This 22-week program is designed to train and empower consultants and coaches in the theory, principles and practices behind healthy, ecological based agricultural systems. This is for serious professionals only.

4. Connect with Fellow Soil Health Coaches - This is a directory of independent soil health coaches that have completed our CREATE Coaching Program and meet our standards, ethics, and values. We invite you to browse to connect with a coach that fits your context and personal situation best.