In Pennsylvania, residents obtain a soil test through the Pennsylvania State University Extension Office, in cooperation with county extension offices. The extension office offers a basic, inexpensive soil test that analyzes the pH level and nutrient content of your soil. If you specify the plants you want to grow in your garden space, you'll even receive detailed recommendations for soil amendments, such as lime and fertilizer. Knowing your soil's soil composition saves time and money, as you know exactly which plants will flourish in your natural soil and how to adjust your soil for more finicky plants.
Buy a Soil Test Kit
Purchase a soil test kit from your local Pennsylvania State University county extension office. The cost of $9, as of 2010, includes the soil test kit and the test.
Buy a soil test kit from garden stores or nurseries that carry Pennsylvania State University's soil test kits.
Download a soil sample submission form from Pennsylvania State University's Agricultural Analytical Services Lab. Complete the submission form and prepare the soil sample in your own container. Submit it, along with a check made out to Pennsylvania State University for $9, to the lab. (Please note that the extension office does not assume the responsibility of getting peoples' samples to the lab.)
Preparing the Soil Sample
Determine the area of your yard you want sampled. If your starting a new vegetable garden, for example, you'll need to test that area separately from your lawn, because vegetable gardening soil requirements differ from lawn soil requirements.
Scoop eight samples from the designated area with a clean shovel. Obtain 1/2 cup of soil from each sample, digging down to a depth of at least 6 inches.
Mix the soil samples with the shovel in a clean bucket.
Pour the mixed soil onto a clean piece of paper and allow it to dry for two hours. Mix the soil again in the bucket. Scoop 1 lb. soil into the soil kit container.
Submit the Soil Test Kit
Seal the soil test kit, according to package directions.
Label the soil test kit with your name, address and an identification of the soil (for example, "vegetable garden soil").
Submit the soil test kit along with the submission form to the lab (not the extension office).
About this Author
Julie Christensen has been writing for five years. Her work has appeared in "The Friend" and "Western New York Parent" magazines. Her guide for teachers, "Helping Young Children Cope with Grief" will be published this spring. Christensen studied early childhood education at Ricks College and recently returned to school to complete a degree in communications/English.