Dear PoP – Where Can You Get Soil Tested?

Photo from PoPville flickr user rockcreek

“Dear PoP,

Do you know of any DC soil testing service? I’m wanting to expand my garden this year but am worried about whats actually in the soil. Just curious if your readers have ever mentioned any service where you can send a soil sample in to a lab and they send you back info about possible contaminants, etc.”

Hmm, I can’t recall if a place to send soil samples has been recommended. Is this something everyone starting a garden should do? And of course does anyone know where this testing can be done?

12 Comment

  • These people used to do it but I’m not sure if they do anymore. But I know they can recommend a service that can do it:

    University of the District of Columbia
    Cooperative Extension Service
    901 Newton St. N.E.
    Washington, DC 20017
    Phone 202-274-6907

  • I have always sent my soil to the lab at UMass. They will email you your results for $13.

    • Also, the UMass test will tell you if any dangerous substances are present in the soil–lead etc.

      From the link that Ross posted it is not clear to me that that lab provides information on toxic substances present in the soil.

      • I also used U Mass and was very happy with them. I my soil tested for lead, etc as well as for nutrients.

        I would definitely recommend a soil test for a new gardener (or a new space), and especially if you’re growing edibles.

  • ah

    Two separate types of tests. The extension/cooperative ones test soil for nutrients or lack thereof, and tell you things like what kind of fertilizers and minerals to add to make your soil better for growing.

    If you’re testing for soil contamination you’re going to need a different company if you want it to be thorough.

  • The soil test will show you what kind of soil you have (soil, silt, clay) and pH level. Different plants require different pH levels and different pH levels make different nutrients available for the plants to use. It is always recommended to get a soil test. If your plants are growing fine, I don’t see a major need for a soil test. If you want to make sure your plants are as healthy as possible, get a soil test, and learn about your plants’ preferred pH and soil type. There are products available, organic and not, to raise and lower the pH. Raising is easier than lowering. Also, FULL SUN is necessary for vegetables and herbs.

  • If you are a member of the garden in that picture “Twin Oaks Community Garden” you should already know. They covered soil testing in their first garden meeting this month and posted it on their website.

  • I used A&L Eastern Laboratories just this past week. They received the sample on Friday and emailed the results to me today. S3 (for gardens) plus lead and arsenic is $60.

    • Also, the Extension Office on the UDC Campus currently does not do soil testing. I spoke with Sandy Farber last week and she recommended A&L as an interim solution.

      • UMass is only $9 and their test includes: pH, Buffer pH, Extractable Nutrients (P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B), Extractable Heavy Metals (Pb, Cd, Ni, Cr), and Extractable Aluminum, Cation Exchange Capacity, Percent Base Saturation.

        Can’t see why someone would spend $60 at A&L given how much cheaper the UMass test is…

  • I’ve also used UMASS and was quite happy with the speed, price, and results.

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