How Much Does It Cost To Test Soil?
Soil testing is one of those home projects that you don't think about often, but it can make or break other plans. From helping gardens, plants and lawns grow to keeping your drinking water safe, the chemical makeup of the soil on your property matters. From basic pH tests for optimal gardening to multilevel analyses prior to home construction, there’s a variety of soil tests and procedures that you as a homeowner need to know.
If you are in need of a basic soil test, get in contact with a local landscaping pro today!
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Table of Contents
- Soil Testing Cost
- Why Test Soil
- Types of Soil Testing
- DIY or Hire A Pro?
- How to Test Soil
- Advantages of Soil Testing
- Disadvantages of Soil Testing
- Find A Pro
Soil Testing Cost
The final cost of soil testing depends mostly on the extent of the tests taking place and whether or not you need to hire a professional to take samples and measurements. On the low end, a DIY pH analysis costs about $10 to $20. From there, adding on testing for other soil components, including nitrates, toxins and environmental cations, increases costs — each one of these specific tests costs upwards of $50.
When seeking professional soil analysis, there’s much more than taking a sample and sending it to a lab. In these cases, pros may need to measure dense capacity or frost and freeze cycles as well as check for more serious contaminants such as E. coli or Coliform bacteria. In these cases, you can expect to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a full soil analysis.
Whether you’re working with pros or DIY, additional factors such as fast-tracking lab results or sending tests to remote locations for analysis can also increase the final price tag.
Why Test Soil
Soil testing is absolutely essential prior to any major construction project, particularly any project for which you must dig into the land to build a foundation, such as a home addition or an in-ground pool. In addition, when adding a well to your property, testing the soil ensures that there are no contaminants that can leach into the water. Gardeners and landscapers also routinely test soil to determine what additives, if any, they need in order to optimize lawn or garden growth or before they proceed with sod installation.
Types of Soil Testing
There are many different types of soil testing that pros use for various applications. However, a few are more common than others and may or may not be appropriate as DIY testing options.
Also known as "perc" testing, this soil test is a complex one used before installing a well or a septic or drainage system. It identifies the amount of time that it takes for water to percolate or penetrate into the soil as well as the type of soil you have, whether it’s clay, sand or loam.
For a more advanced look at the growing capabilities of your soil, advanced testing of its chemical components, known as fertility testing, may take place. This is a much more extensive look at the ground and is popular among farmers concerned with nitrate buildup, for example.
A la Carte Services
Many labs also offer a la carte services that will test your soil for a particular component such as pesticides, lead or E. coli. This is a common need in older homes or those sitting close to agricultural or industrial areas where contamination of a specific agent is a risk.
DIY or Hire A Pro?
Whether you test your soil on your own or hire a professional landscaper to do the job usually depends on the extent and types of tests you need. Testing for pH, for example, is relatively easy through the use of a kit or even DIY solutions such as vinegar and baking soda. There are also services that allow you to collect soil samples yourself and send them off to a lab.
However, any time you need more than basic information, or any time you plan to add a significant structure to your home, professional soil sampling is the better and safer choice. Contractors and landscaping professionals have the tools, knowledge and contacts to ensure a full set of tests with results you can count on.
How to Test Soil
Testing your own garden soil for pH is a pretty simple job that you can actually complete with kits purchased at a standard home improvement store or even items you already have around the house. The two most popular ways to do this are the baking soda/vinegar test and the cabbage water pH test.
Test Soil pH with Baking Soda and Vinegar
For this test, you need approximately 1 cup of soil from different areas around your garden, ½-cup each of vinegar and baking soda along with some distilled water. Place two spoons of soil into two separate containers. Add the vinegar to one. If it fizzes, your soil is alkaline. Add the distilled water to the other container until the soil is muddy. Add the baking soda. If it fizzes, your soil is acidic. If neither fizzes, your soil is neutral.
Test Soil pH with Cabbage Water
For this test, you need 2 cups of distilled water and 1 cup of red cabbage, chopped. Boil the water and add the cabbage, allowing it to simmer for five minutes. Remove the cabbage and water from the heat and let it rest for an additional 30 minutes. Strain the liquid, which should be purplish-blue. Put 2 teaspoons of garden soil in a jar and cover it with a few inches of cabbage water. Wait 30 minutes and check the color of the water. If it’s pink, your soil is acidic. If it’s blueish-green, your soil is alkaline. If it hasn't changed, your soil is neutral.
Advantages of Soil Testing
The advantages of soil testing are pretty clear when it comes to building a new structure or planting a lawn or garden. The information the test gives you can make the difference between success and failure in terms of what plants you can grow successfully and if the soil is appropriate for supporting buildings and their systems. Soil testing is also quick, efficient and inexpensive.
Disadvantages of Soil Testing
There are disadvantages to soil testing as well. Extensive tests, for example, can be quite confusing, especially if results are skewed and unclear. Doing the wrong test or forgetting an element in your test can also lead to damage and costs down the road, which is why consulting with a professional is so important.
Find A Pro
Hiring a professional landscaper to test your soil is one of the best ways to beat the disadvantages of this practice and optimize the growth of your lawn and garden. Find pros near you today with our free lead generator.
Last updated on Sep 29, 2016
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