close-up photo of soil after tilling

Knowing the pH and nutrient content of your soil is important to successful growing.

Soil Sampling
Image by Cornell University

Testing the pH of your soil will let you know if any amendments are needed for successful gardening

Soil in cupped hands

Learn how to collect a soil sample for testing

How to Take a Soil Sample For pH Testing

1. When should soil be sampled?

Soil samples can be taken at any time during the year; however, avoid extremely wet soil conditions unless absolutely necessary.

2. How often should I have my soil tested?

For most crops, every 2 to 3 years. Soil under intensive cultivation may require annual testing. Sampling from any given area should be done at about the same time as in previous years.

3. What tool shall I use for sampling?

A clean garden spade, trowel, or large spoon will be sufficient.

4. What is the proper sampling depth?

For cultivated crops and gardens, sample at 0 - 1" and another at 1 - 6" depth.

For lawns and pastures, a sample from the upper 6" is satisfactory; remove plant residue.

For tree and fruit crops, 2 samples should be submitted, one taken at 0 - 8" depth, the other at 8 - 16" (subsoil layer).

5. How do I go about collecting the sample?

Scrape away surface litter. Dig a hole to the sampling depth. Cut a ½" slice from the face of the hole and trim the sides so you have a vertical slice of soil. Avoid including stones, insects, or plant material in the sample - soil only, please!

6. How many sub-samples should I collect from each area?

Repeat the sampling process in about 10 - 15 locations throughout the garden or field. Mix the sub-samples well in a clean plastic bucket to obtain a representative composite sample. Avoid sampling in unusual areas because you could get an inaccurate result.

7. What if I have an area of poor crop growth?

If you have a trouble spot, a separate sample taken from this area may be necessary.

8. Should the sample be dry?

Do not bring in wet samples. Spread the sample on a sheet of newspaper and allow it to dry at room temperature.

9. How much soil is needed for each composite sample?

About half a cup.

10. Where do I bring samples?

Cooperative Extension Education Center, 479 Route 66, Hudson, NY or the Agroforestry Resource Center, 6055 Route 23, Acra, NY between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm on weekdays. Testing for pH alone is done on-site.

11. What information needs to accompany the samples?

Crop to be grown

Where was the sample taken (back lawn, north end of garden, low part of garden etc.)

Samples can be labels by location, number or letter, but be sure to keep your own records as to where these samples were taken from.

12. How long will it take to get test results?

You will receive the results of your pH test within 1-2 weeks.

13. What if I have questions about the results?

Email us at or Call us at (518) 828-3346 x 212 (Hudson) or 518-622-9820 x 212 (Acra)

14. How much does the pH test cost?

$3.00 per sample

Payable when the sample is submitted to Cornell Cooperative Extension Columbia Greene.

Please note that we no longer sell Cornell pH kits.

Last updated July 2, 2024