How to Test Soil at Home for Growing Characteristics of Grass


Performing a soil test at home is important when trying to establish a new lawn. The test gives an estimate of the nutrients available in the soil. It is essential information when determining a fertilization plan. Testing the soil allows you to know which nutrients are plentiful and which are deficient. Armed with that information, you can make adjustments and create a healthy lawn. A soil fertility test gives information regarding potassium, organic matter, pH, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus and cation exchange capacity.

Step 1

Obtain a soil sample box. They are available at many cooperative extensions or your local university extension at no charge. One box usually holds 1 1/2 to 2 cups of soil, which is the amount needed by the lab for testing.

Step 2

Take the soil sample well before you plan to plant grass. This will give you time to get the results and make necessary amendments.

Step 3

Dig into the ground with a soil probe or small shovel. Go 6 inches deep if you're testing the soil before seeding a lawn. If you're trying to determine the growing characteristics of grass on an established lawn, take the sample from 4 inches deep.

Step 4

Make a wide opening with the shovel. Cut a slice of soil from the side of the hole that is about 1/4-inch thick. It should extend from the ground level to the bottom of the hole.

Step 5

Move in a zigzag pattern around the yard. Collect a dozen or more samples from all over in order to achieve an accurate result.

Step 6

Remove the plant material such as weeds and thatch to make the soil samples as pure as possible.

Step 7

Mix all the samples together in a dry plastic bucket. Do not use a metal bucket because the metal will react with the sample, adding micronutrients that contaminate the soil.

Step 8

Leave the soil sample overnight so it dries and settles. Send it to the lab, using the address given with the soil sample box. Wait for the results.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not use shovels or other equipment that have been used for lime or fertilizer. They will contaminate the soil sample.

Things You'll Need

  • Sample test kit
  • Small shovel or trowel
  • Plastic bucket


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Soil Testing for Lawns
  • University of Georgia Cooperative Extension: Soil Testing for Home Lawns, Gardens and Wildlife Food Plots
Keywords: test soil, grass soil type, soil sample

About this Author

Kelly Shetsky has been a broadcast journalist for more than 10 years, researching, writing, producing and reporting daily on many topics. In addition, she writes for several websites, specializing in medical, health and fitness, arts and entertainment, travel and business. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.