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How to Test for Soil Toxicity

By Tracy Morris ; Updated September 21, 2017
To test your soil, dig a quart of dirt from each testing location.
shovel image by Gudellaphoto from Fotolia.com

Before you ever stick your shovel into the dirt to begin a gardening project, you should test your soil. A soil test can not only reveal the soil’s structure, nutrient level and pH, but also any toxicity that exists in the soil that can damage your plants. Soil toxicity can be caused by oil leaks from cars or industrial machinery, as well as proximity to industrial locations (such as factories) or even sodium from the ocean. Gardeners who discover soil toxicity might consider raised-bed gardening as an alternative to gardening in toxic soil.

Choose up to 10 locations to take a soil sample from.

Dig a quart of soil from the surface of each location.

Place the soil in a plastic bucket.

Mix the samples thoroughly and remove debris such as sticks, rocks and roots.

Spread out a piece of newspaper in a warm, dry location.

Place the soil onto the newspaper and allow it to dry.

Put a cup of soil into a plastic freezer bag.

Take the soil to a soil testing laboratory for testing (see Tips section).


Things You Will Need

  • Shovel
  • Plastic bucket
  • Newspaper
  • Plastic freezer bag


  • Most agricultural colleges maintain soil testing facilities in conjunction with their community and continuing education programs. Take your soil sample to your nearest County Extension Office to submit the sample for testing in these labs. Soil tests typically cost a small amount, and soil test results are returned within 3 weeks.

About the Author


Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.