Master Gardener volunteer conducts a pH soil test on a soil sample
Image by Sandy Repp

A Master Gardener volunteer tests soil pH.

Soil Testing Services

A soil test will tell you what nutrients are in your soil and what you may need to add (in the form of fertilizer) for successful crop growth. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (macronutrients) as will as micronutrients to grow. Deficiency or excess of these elements will impact the health and productivity of plants. In addition, the pH (acid/alkaline level) of your soil has an impact upon how much of your soil's nutrients your plants will be able to use. CCE-Livingston can provide or arrange several different tests for your soil. Our educator can help you interpret the results and choose an appropriate course of action if necessary.

pH Testing

A pH test measures the acid/alkaline level of your soil. In the pH scale, 7.0 is considered neutral; lower numbers indicate acid soil, while higher numbers indicate that the soil is alkaline. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.8. pH levels influence nutrient availability, with most nutrients being available to plants when the pH is in this range (6.8-7.0). If a soil is too alkaline or too acid, certain nutrients may be limited. To change soil pH to the desirable range, you will either add lime if the soil is too acid or sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. With your pH test result, we will let you know what amount of lime or sulfur is needed if any.

The CCE-Livingston Horticulture Program will perform a pH test on soil samples that are brought to our office for a fee of $2/sample. Please see instructions on "How to take a soil sample" or contact the office with questions.

We also sell Cornell pH Test Kits. When properly used, the pH can be determined to approximately +0.1 pH unit. This is adequate for most situations. Note: The pH kit cannot be used accurately by a color blind person. 

Nutrient Analysis

Soil samples for nutrient analysis may be brought to the CCE-Livingston office, along with the appropriate form and fee, and we will send them to the Dairy-One Soils Laboratory located at 730 Warren Road for testing. Copies of the test results are returned to the individual and to CCE-Livingston about one week later. You can contact us for help interpreting the results.

Dairy-One Laboratory (800) 344-2697 - Ask for Soil Lab Customer Service

Standard soil nutrient test $13/sample

This test provides recommendations for establishment and maintenance of home lawns and gardens, commercial turf, commercial vegetables, commercial fruit, and field crops (pasture, hay, annual crops). Measures pH (in water), phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and micro nutrients including organic matter. Samples are sent to Dairy-One Lab located at 730 Warren Rd., Ithaca. Expect at least one week for test results to be returned.

Download and print the appropriate FORM from the Dairy-One website to include with your soil test samples. (NOTE: when you visit the above link, you will see a list of different forms. For testing home garden soils, download and print Submittal Form H for Lawn, Garden and Landscapes and Form H2 if you are submitting multiple samples).

Additional tests (available through Dairy-One)

    • Soluble Salts
    • No-till pH
    • Nitrate
    • Boron

      Contact

      David Thorp
      Senior Issue Educator
      dlt8@cornell.edu
      585-991-5446

      Last updated April 27, 2020