Soil testing is a critical component for successful gardening and farming. It is easy to do and the benefits are long-term. If you are starting a community garden in an urban area or a brownfield (a former industrial or commercial site where future use is affected by real or perceived environmental contamination), then soil testing is essential to determine the prevalence of heavy metals or contaminants in the soil. For home gardeners, soil testing is a wonderful tool for determining nutrient needs and general soil fertility. Soil can be tested at anytime, but late summer or fall is best. Test results include pH, organic matter, essential nutrients for plants, as well as suggestions for fertilization applications. Special testing will need to be done for sites that might contain heavy metals.
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10 Easy Soil Tests
Where to find it?
Taking Soil Samples Publication
This U of I Extension publication provides information about soil sampling equipment, when, where and how to take the sample, and packing and mailing the sample. https://web.extension.illinois.edu/fmpt/downloads/42368.pdf
Soil Testing Labs
This U of I Extension website will help gardeners to find nearby testing laboratories. Choose a lab that can be scaled for the home or market garden. http://urbanext.illinois.edu/soiltest