OK So I looked it up and turns out the labs are much more accurate the the DIY kits I do myself.
I heard that I should get my soil tested in my local "Cooperative Extension". However it's hard to know where to go to actually get the kit from them and send it back to them. I live in California and wanted to possibly move to Tennessee but I need to test the soil first before I make that property my home. So what do you guys suggest? Find a cooperative Extension in CA, get the kit from them, bring the kit to Tennessee and mail the kit from TN back to CA or get the kit from TN and send it to someone in TN or send to me CA. I don't know if they'd be able to send to another state. No website found for them. I didn't want to use the commercial labs since they be very pricey.
I've wondered the same thing myself about the test at home kits, but have never bothered with them. Yes the labs have very expensive but very accurate equipment, and I just send my samples to a lab. You don't really need a "kit" to have a lab do an analysis. Just take samples, and mail the soil in a plastic bag to the lab. It will need to be accompanied by whichever labs sample submission worksheet. There is actually correct and incorrect ways to gather a sample. A wrong way is to take single sample from a garden/yard/field. Another wrong method is to take a sample from the surface. The right way is to take multiple small samples at random from within the area you want tested. For example, gather 8-12 samples at random within the area you want tested. And in regards to gathering samples, one good method is to dig a hole 6 or more inches deep, then using a trowel or other small instrument like a tiny garden shovel, scrape a ribbon off the side of the hole you just dug, collecting a uniform amount from the surface to 6 inches deep. Repeat this process at every sample site. Then thoroughly mix the samples together in the bag so it will more accurately represent the soil test area as a whole. You might wonder why 6 inches deep: 6 inches deep ( I think technically it's like 6.7 inches, but no one gets that exact) over one acre is considered a furrowslice. In the world or farming, soil testing and fertilizer/amendment application, a furrowslice is commonly understood to weigh 2 million pounds. That number is used to calculate the weight of amendments so you can use math formulas to raise elements a known parts per million amount. Labs that analyze soil will often assume your sample depth is 6 inches unless otherwise noted.
I live in Tennessee and have used University of Tennessee's extension for soil testing. Their standard test is called a Mehlich 1. It lists most elements, but their sample doesn't list Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) and also doesn't include copper or organic matter %. I currently use Logan Labs. They're an independent lab. Their standard test is called a Mehlich 3, which is a better testing method for acid soils (Not for high pH or calcareous soils). Soils in Tennessee are acidic. Their test includes copper, states the organic matter % and also lists the soils CEC. The university ag extension test costs less, like $15 if memory serves me correct, and Logan Labs charges $25, but worth it in my opinion. Knowing a soils CEC will let you establish guidleines to determine appropriate values and limits for the minerals on the test. Logan Labs will state in a separate column if some elements are in excess or if there is a deficit. It's easy to read and understand. Again, worth the $25 per sample in my opinion. Hope this helps!!
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