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How to get an Soil Test in Arkansas - Part 1

Did you know that residents of Arkansas can get a FREE soil test. In fact, you can get as many free tests as you need for different areas, including fruit trees, flower beds and food gardens. This is a wonderful service that our state offers and one that you should absolutely use.

The testing process is explained in detail on this document from the University of Arkansas (you will need to be able to view PDF documents to read it). Collect your sample according to these instructions and drop them off at your local Extension Service. Depending on how busy they are, you will get your results back in a few weeks, which look like this:

Soil test results

Ignore the notes, those are for my soil a few years ago, yours will be different. I just want you to see what the test results will look like. We will talk about the specific numbers we want for each element next week.  This week, I just want to focus on getting your soil sample sent off properly.

Once you have collected your soil according to the instructions above, you will place your sample in a box. The extension service needs this filled out correctly, and it's not as obvious as it might seem. You can either fill the box out yourself or let them do it. If you do it yourself, do it just like I have filled out the sample below. Note that your PHONE NUMBER needs to go on the STATE line, and you MUST leave the top line blank.

How to fill out your soil sample box

Use the bottom line, Field/Sample ID, for your records. This must be 8 characters or less. I would also suggest requesting a Nitrogen test so that they give you nitrogen levels -- you will want those! I collect different samples from different areas of my yard, and keep a record of the labels and their corresponding areas so that I can mark them accordingly when I get my test results.

My records look something like this:

On the box:      On my records:
1                        Vegetable garden
2                        Gourd trellis
3                        Flower garden
4                        Arkansas apple tree guild

So when I get my test back labeled "1" I know that's for my vegetable garden and I write that on my test and then start planning my amendments. Again, we'll cover that in detail next week. For now, get those soil samples sent off... It's time to start planting!

What are your biggest questions about building good soil?



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