Frequently Asked Questions about South Carolina Gardening

Why should I test my soil?

Soil testing is important to determine the nutrients available to plants and give guidelines on how the soil should be improved based on the types of plants to be grown.  A complete report tells you if lime is needed and how much, and what concentrations of fertilizer to use.  The Clemson Extension office in your area provides this service for $6 per sample.

How do I take a soil sample?

To have a soil analysis done, collect 12 or more cores which will be combined as one composite sample. The samples should include soil from the surface to a depth of 6 inches in all areas except for lawns where cores should be taken from a depth of only 2 to 3 inches. A simple garden trowel can be used to collect the samples. Place the samples in a clean bucket and mix them thoroughly. It is imperative to use clean sampling tools. Pesticide or fertilizer residues will create misleading results. The sample must not be excessively wet before it goes to the lab. Bring a minimum of 2 cups of soil per sample to your county Extension office. Be sure to keep track of which part of your yard the sample came from. At the Extension office they will ask you to fill out the information on a soil test box, fill out a record sheet and check the appropriate boxes for the analyses desired.

How long does it take to get my soil report from Clemson?

Within seven to fourteen days, a copy of your soil analysis will be mailed directly to you from the Agricultural Service Lab. Your county Extension office will also receive a copy. Your soil analysis will have a bar graph representing the amount of soil nutrients found and the soil pH value. It will have a section at the bottom of the first page which shows how much lime (if needed) to add for each 1000 square feet and refer you to specific comments on the last page. The comments page will tell you what type of fertilizer you need, how much you need and how to apply it. These recommendations are specific for whatever type of plant you want to grow (as you indicated on the soil test record sheet).

Click here to see a sample.


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