University of Vermont

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UVM Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab

Frequently-asked questions for soil testing


How much soil do I need to send?

We need one-half cup to one cup for a complete analysis. If you send more, it just costs you more to mail, and costs us more to ship and dispose of. If you send too little, we can’t do all of the analyses properly. More detailed information on how to collect a representative sample can be found here.

How much does it cost?

A basic test is currently (April 2009) $12. Analysis for heavy metals (lead, chromium, cadmium, nickel) is an additional $10 (i.e., a total of $22).

What is included?

The basic test includes pH, available P, K, Ca, Mg, S, micronutrients, reactive Al (farm and commercial garden only), CEC, base saturation, organic matter, and fertilizer and lime recommendations for one crop. If you would like recommendations for additional crops, indicate which ones and add $2 for each additional crop (you have to pick the crop—we don’t tell you what crop your soil would be suitable for).

I only want to test my soil for lead; how much does that cost?

A lead-only screening test is $15; you will receive no information on nutrients, pH, or fertilizer recommendations.

If I send more than one sample, do I have to write a separate check for each one?

No. One check is fine, we can figure out what samples it covers.

What’s the difference between the Blue and Yellow soil test kits?

We print the Field Crops (also called Farm) questionnaire on blue paper, and the Garden or Hort Crops questionnaire on yellow paper (if you print the forms from our website you may use whatever color you wish). Field crops include corn (silage), soybeans, wheat, and other annual crops, and hay (alfalfa, trefoil, clover, or grass) and pasture. Garden/Hort crops include vegetables (including sweet corn), fruits and berries (strawberry, blueberry, apple, etc.), trees and shrubs, flowers, herbs, lawns, and Christmas trees.

Which form do I use for a deer food plot?

In most cases you would use the Field Crops (Blue) form. Be sure to circle #4 Conservation planting under question 17.Situation, in the Perennial Crop Information box on the back.

Do I have to get a sample kit from the Testing Lab, or can I use my own plastic bag?

You are welcome to download and print the appropriate form from our website (, and use whatever clean plastic bag you have for the soil (please don’t send it in a glass bottle).

Do I have to fill out a separate form for each sample, and put each one in a separate mailing envelope?

No. For Field/Farm soils, we have a multi-field form that lets you put many sample descriptions on single page. This form has a column for each of the questions on the blue form; just enter a number, corresponding to the appropriate question on the blue form. Only answer the questions that you would answer on the blue form (so, for a hay crop, don’t answer any of the questions related to annual crops like corn). This is easier for you to fill out, and easier for us to use in the lab.

We are developing a similar form for Garden/Hort samples, and hope to have it available soon (April 2009).

In either case, if you have more than one sample it’s probably easier and cheaper to put them in a large envelope or box. Just be sure that the bag is labeled to correspond to the sample ID on the form(s).

Do I have to label the sample bag?

We have to be able to link the soil in each bag with the corresponding information on the form. If it’s just one bag and one form in an envelope, you don’t need to label the bag. If there’s more than one sample in a box or envelope, then label the bag (with a permanent marker) with the same name or number as you list on the form. You don’t need to put your name, address, phone number, etc.

Please do not put paper labels inside the bag; they just get soggy and disintegrate.

How do I test my potting soil or compost?

The chemical extractant we use to determine plant-available nutrients is not appropriate for potting or greenhouse media, or composts and manures. There are different analysis procedures for them. Here’s a link to the Manure sample form: ( The cost is $35. The potting media ($20) and compost ($50) tests do not have special forms, just indicate the tests desired. For solid samples, we need a gallon bag about half full. We have 1-quart wide-mouth bottles for liquid manures (two-thirds full only).

I’m planning to purchase some topsoil that’s advertised as a loam? Will it make a good lawn or garden?

There is no legal definition or guaranteed content for purchased soil in Vermont. Before purchasing soil, consider using the soil you have on site already. Purchasing soil involves removing or "mining" it from one site for use at another. Even the best quality purchased soil will need some adjustment of pH, organic matter, or nutrient level before use. Often, you will be spending as much time, effort, and money on purchased soil as you would on the soil you have already. However, areas of gravel fill or with soils of high silt and clay content may benefit from a new layer of soil. More information is available at (thanks to the University of Maine for this information).

How can I contact the lab?

Agricultural and Environmental Testing Lab

University of Vermont, Plant & Soil Science Dept.

Room 262 Jeffords Hall

Burlington, VT  05405-1737


phone: 802-656-3030 

FAX:   656-4656


web site:

Last modified May 27 2010 09:45 AM

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