University of Vermont

Dear ,

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 2016) $14. Analysis for heavy metals (lead, chromium, cadmium, nickel) is an additional $10 (i.e., a total of $24).

What is included?

The basic test includes pH, available P, K, Ca, Mg, S, micronutrients, reactive Al, 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. Select one of the Conservation Planting crops.

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, our new sample submission forms allow you to enter information for up to 10 samples on one form; you don't have to use a separate kit for each sample. You can use any clean plastic bag for the samples; you don’t have to use the ones in our kits, just be aware that we only need one-half to one cup of soil for each sample. Place multiple samples in a large mailing envelope or box. You may write one check for multiple samples.

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?

We no longer offer testing for Compost, Plant Tissue (Foliar), or Greenhouse Media (SME) samples. The University of Maine Analytical Lab provides these tests (in a more rapid turnaround time than we have been able to meet). You can find their price lists and sample submission forms on our web site.

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


email:  (preferred contact method)
: 802-656-3030 

FAX:   656-4656

web site:

Last modified April 04 2016 05:19 PM

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