Growing a new lawn is an exciting project that can beautify open land by transforming it into a soft, green patch of grass. Though it can be tempting to dive right in and plant the seeds, soil testing may save the beginning landscaper a great deal of money and heartache. When testing soil, the landscaper collects soil samples and sends them to a lab to gain important information about the soil.
During soil testing, soil samples are sent to a lab for analysis to gather information including the soil's pH, salt levels, nutrients and other components. Tools used to collect soil for soil analysis include a lab collection container, a core sampler, a shovel and a large container in which to collect and mix the collected soil.
Testing soil before planting a lawn can help identify problems that would otherwise kill a budding lawn. With soil analysis, the landscaper will know specific properties of the soil which can tell him exactly how to prepare optimum soil conditions for grass to grow. Soil samples taken from the center of a dying patch of grass may help identify soil problems in the area.
Soil samples must be taken with clean, sterile tools. Dirty, rusty or contaminated tools may cause errors in the soil test that render its results unreliable.
According to the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences Soil Testing Program, as of 2008, a soil analysis kit costs about $9 per sample. "The Lawn Bible" recommends one sample per 1,000 square feet of lawn. The average home yard only needs one soil sample for the entire property to get an accurate analysis of the front and back yards. For larger yards, one sample from each yard may be necessary to get a good read on the soil conditions.
Test results from soil samples can take around a month to come back from the lab. For this reason, lawn planners send their samples off for analysis at least four weeks in advance of the planting season.
To take a soil sample from analysis, gardeners first choose the area from which the soil sample should be taken then remove the material that is on top of the soil, including leaves and debris, with care not to damage the topsoil. The gardener will then extract a 6-inch deep sliver of soil using a core sampler and place it in a container, like a bucket. Several samples should be collected from a large area. Once the samples are collected, they are stirred together thoroughly, placed in a collection bag and sent to the lab for analysis. The lab may request that the sample is dried.