Master Gardener volunteer conducts a pH soil test on a soil sample
Image by Sandy Repp

Performing a soil pH test

Soil Testing Services

Why Test Soil?

The common use of a soil sample is to analyze for the nutrients in the soil that a plant needs to grown and  produce.  A standard soil nutrient analysis does not test for diseases or for contamination.  A soil test will tell you what nutrients are in your soil and what you may need to add (in the form of fertilizer) for successful crop growth. Plants need nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium (macronutrients) as will as micronutrients to grow. Deficiency or excess of these elements will impact the health and productivity of plants. In addition, the pH (acid/alkaline level) of your soil has an impact upon how much of your soil's nutrients your plants will be able to use. CCE-Lewis' Agriculture and Horticulture Programs can provide or arrange several different tests for your soil, and can help you to interpret the results and choose an appropriate course of action if necessary.

pH Testing

pH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity of the soil.  Having the proper pH is critical to healthy plant growth and the plants ability to utilize the other nutrients it needs.  In the pH scale, 7.0 is considered neutral; lower numbers indicate acid soil, while higher numbers indicate that the soil is alkaline. Most plants prefer a pH of 6.8. pH levels influence nutrient availability, with most nutrients being available to plants when the pH is in this range (6.8-7.0). If a soil is too alkaline or too acid, certain nutrients may be limited. To change soil pH to the desirable range, you will either add lime if the soil is too acid or sulfur if the soil is too alkaline. With your pH test result, we will let you know what amount of lime or sulfur is needed if any.

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Lewis County will perform a pH test on soil samples that are brought to our office at 7395 East Road, Lowville for a fee of $3/sample. Please see instructions on "How to take a soil sample".

We also sell Cornell pH Test Kits. When properly used, the pH can be determined to approximately +0.1 pH unit. This is adequate for most situations. Note: the pH kit cannot be used accurately by a color blind person. We offer the following kits:

  • Standard Range Kit (5.0-7.2), $20/box
  • pH solution bottle refills, $5/bottle

Nutrient Analysis

Soil samples for nutrient analysis may be brought to the CCE-Lewis County, along with the appropriate  fee (see below), and we will send them to the Agro-One Soils Laboratory in Ithaca for testing.  Forms are available below or at our office.  Copies of the test results are returned to the individual and to our office in about 10-14 days through mail or email, and you can contact us if necessary for assistance in interpreting your results.  Samples are sent to the lab on Tuesday and Thursday of each week.

Phosphorous & your Lawn:

Since January 2012 a NYS law requires a soil test to apply Phosphorous (P, P205) fertilizer to a growing lawn.  Click here for details. Agro-One is now offering a soil testing option that will test for Phosphorous and pH ONLY at a reduced cost.

Standard soil nutrient test samples:

  • Home & Garden ($16.50 first sample, $14.50 each additional sample)
  • Lawn: Phosphorous & pH ONLY  ($10 first sample, $8 each additional sample)
  • Commercial Turf ($15 first sample, $13 each additional sample)
  • Commercial Fruit & Christmas Trees ($16.50 first sample, $14.50 each additional sample)
  • Commercial Vegetable ($16.50 first sample, $14.50 each additional sample)
  • Commercial Field Crop ($21.50 for first sample, $19.50 each additional sample)

This test provides recommendations for establishment and maintenance of home lawns and gardens, commercial turf, commercial vegetables, commercial fruit, and field crops (pasture, hay, annual crops). Measures pH (in water), phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium and micro nutrients including organic matter. Samples are sent to Agro-One Lab located at 730 Warren Rd., Ithaca. Expect at least one week for test results to be returned.

Soil Sample Forms:

Form A - Commercial Field Crops

Form A2 - Commercial Field Crops (Multiple Samples use with Form A)

Form F - Commercial Fruit, Hops & Christmas Trees

Form H - Lawn, Garden & Landscape

Form H2 - Lawn, Garden & Landscape (Multiple Samples use with Form H)

Form T - Commercial Turf

Form V - Commercial Vegetables

Form V2 - Commercial Vegetables (Multiple Samples use with Form V)

You can also visit Agro-One Lab HERE!! to download and print forms to include with your soil test samples. (NOTE: when you visit the above link, you will see a list of different forms. For testing home garden soils, download and print Submittal Form H for Lawn, Garden and Landscapes and Form H2 if you are submitting multiple samples).

Additional tests (available through Agro-One)

  • Soluble Salts - $5
  • No-till pH - $5
  • Nitrate - $6
  • Boron - $10

Last updated February 6, 2024