NDSU Soil Testing Lab
How do I Take a Soil Sample?
*pail or other open container at least 1 gallon in size
*shovel or other soil extraction device
*household fan (if available)
*bag(s) for samples (paper for wet samples, or paper or plastic for dried samples)
- Locate several (2-6) spots in site to be sampled. Spots should represent site to be sampled.
- Remove non-soil (grass, thatch, leaves, plastic, etc.) layer from surface of sampling location.
- Use shovel or soil extraction device to remove sample to approximately 6 inches deep.
- Place sample in pail or container.
- Repeat steps 2-4 for additional depths or remaining sampling spots.
- Stir soil in pail so thoroughly mixed.
- For dried sample: *Note: we recommend sending dried samples to improve data accuracy
- lay out newspaper on floor or table
- spread soil sample out on newspaper so soil layer is about 1 inch thick
- try to break up large (golf ball size or larger) clods in soil
- if possible, have household fan blowing on sample to facilitate drying
- stir sample occasionally
- allow sample to dry at least 24 hours or until soil color does not change when stirred
- label plastic or paper bag with name, address, sample depth increment, and some sort of sample identifier (GARDEN1, LAWN, etc.)
- place at least 1 pint of dried soil in bag
- For moist sample: *Note: we recommend sending dried samples to improve data accuracy
- label paper bag with name, address, sample depth increment, and some sort of sample identifier (GARDEN1, LAWN, etc.)
- place at least 1 pint of moist soil in paper bag
- See next section (How Do I Send Soil Samples?) for packaging and shipping information.
***For more detailed soil sampling information see
NDSU Extension Service Bulletin SF-990 - Soil Sampling as a Basis for Fertilizer Application