A Cheap Soil Testing Service

I’ve started a new method in the garden: test the soil, amend according to the recommendations and grow. Lather, rinse, repeat. In many parts of the U.S., you can get free or low cost soil tests from your county extension service, but not here in Los Angeles. Some time ago I answered a reader’s question about where to get soil testing done, only to have to correct my response several times. Last week, Homegrown Evolution pal and the editor of Cool Tools, Elon Schoenholz, gave me a definitive answer on where to send soil for testing: the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Department of Plant and Soil Sciences Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory. A standard soil test is $9, $4 more for the standard test plus organic matter. The standard tests includes heavy metals. That’s a bargain, and you don’t have to be a resident of Massachusetts. They also offer compost, fertilizer and plant tissue tests at reasonable prices.

Read a review of UMASS soil testing by master gardener Amy Thompson at Cool Tools.

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  1. Awesome! I got laid off last Friday, so instead of nursing my wounds, I’m contemplating a winter garden. My soil is crap though- there were bags (I means BAGS) of fertilizer stacked up by the garage when we looked at this place to buy- the old man has killed the soil. So- getting soil tests done this week was on my list of things to do. Thanks for the tip!!

  2. Thank you for this tip! I work for the local water company and we are always getting customers asking our conservation teams where/how to get soil tested! We never really had a good (cheap) answer before.

  3. Hi, not a regular commenter here, but FYI I just used the UMass soil testing service last month and they were great. It seems weird at first to mail soil samples all the way from CA, but I got detailed reports and recommendations for soil amendments/adjustments in just about a week. They also include forms that outline what the levels mean and good gardening practices for soil that tests high in lead/cadmium.

  4. Wow that’s way cheaper than my local extention. I skipped it last year since it was newly dug and I had to add plenty of amendments either way, but I plant to get it done for next season. Thanks for the tip!

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