Soil testing: expense? availability of testing kits? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 6 Old 05-29-2007, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Do you have to pay someone to test your soil or are there reliable and affordable kits that you can buy to do it yourself?

I am more concerned about checking for lead and other pollutants than I am about optimum nutrients. I'm not out to win any state fair ribbons.
Thanks,
~Cath
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#2 of 6 Old 05-29-2007, 03:46 PM
 
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You can buy kits yourself at hardware stores (saw them at Ace), garden stores, nurseries, etc. I haven't used them, so don't know about the accuracy. You can also do the soil sampling yourself and sent it to a lab to be tested. If you are interested in that, check with your local University Extension office.
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#3 of 6 Old 05-29-2007, 11:18 PM
 
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You should be able to get a free soil test from your county cooperative extension agency. This is a free service in my county in NC. Just get a little soil test kit (free, from cooperative extension), follow directions for sampling soil, mail or deliver to the agency, they send you a soil report. Voila!
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#4 of 6 Old 05-29-2007, 11:31 PM
 
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I used to work in a lab that did the kind of doil testing you describe. They had packages that tested for priority pollutants, mercury, asbestos, pretty much whatever you wanted. The pp list was popular and covered a variety of pollutants- including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, plus some volatile and semi-volatile pollutants (like benzene, toluene, tetrachloroethane, trichloroethene, ect). It was an expensive package although I'm not sure exactly how much it cost since I didn't work in client services (I was a lab rat). I seem to recall seeing pricing that ranged form $40 per pollutant to over 1K for a big package.

Sampling methods were very imprtant depending on what you're looking for. Some samples had to be preserved with acid, some with a base, and some had to be unpreserved but refridgerated and no head space. : It was easier for soils but you still had to be careful about the sampling proceedure and sample preservation. And the amount of time it takes for the sample to get from the site to the lab is important for detecting volatile chemicals.

I'd make a few calls to different enviornmental testing labs to get some quotes.

I didn't know they offered free soil testing in some states/counties! That's great!
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#5 of 6 Old 05-30-2007, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunflowers View Post
...
The pp list was popular and covered a variety of pollutants- including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, plus some volatile and semi-volatile pollutants (like benzene, toluene, tetrachloroethane, trichloroethene, ect).
...
I didn't know they offered free soil testing in some states/counties! That's great!
Sunflowers,
What is a "pp" list?

Anyone else,
Can you point me in the right direction to find cheap or free testing in Massachusetts? What exactly is a Cooperative extension or University Extension office?
Thanks, ~Cath
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#6 of 6 Old 05-30-2007, 12:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Sunflowers,
I did some more research and found a Massachusetts University that does soil testing. The prices seem reasonable. I started a separate thread to make it more visible but I thought you might be interested.

I'd appreciate any feedback from you on the prices and on the gardening tips for limiting lead availability.

Umass Soil and Plant Testing – Services & Price List
http://www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest/services1.htm
NOTE – Prices range from $9.00 to $60.00
$9.00 for a Standard Soil Test: pH, Buffer pH, Extractable Nutrients (P, K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, B), Extractable Heavy Metals (Pb, Cd, Ni, Cr), and Extractable Aluminum, Cation Exchange Capacity, Percent Base Saturation. $30.00 Total Soil Metals: A determination of the Total Soil Contents of K, Ca, Mg, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, Pb, Cd, Ni, and Cr. Also included are the non-metals P and B. Analysis by ICP Spectrometry of Nitric/Perchloric Acid Digest.

Umass Soil Sampling Instructions
http://www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest/soilbrochb.htm
NOTE-
The sampling process is a little more complicated than I would have thought and involves taking 12 samples lover a “well defined area”, mixing them together, spreading the dirt out to let it dry, mixing it together in a clean container, taking one cup from the mixture, taking the final sample from the mixture and mailing it in a zip loc bag.

Umass Soil Testing Brochure
http://www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltes...ochdec2003.pdf

Umass Info Sheet on Lead Level Interpretation and Recommendations
http://www.umass.edu/plsoils/soiltest/lead1.htm
EXCERPT Good Gardening Practices to Reduce the Lead Risk 1. Locate gardens away from old painted structures and heavily travelled roads. 2. Give planting preferences to fruiting crops (tomatoes, squash, peas, sunflowers, corn, etc.). 3. Incorporate organic materials such as finished compost, humus, and peat moss. 4. Lime soil as recommended by soil test (pH 6.5 minimizes lead availability). 5. Discard old and outer leaves before eating leafy vegetables. Peel root crops. Wash all produce. 6. Keep dust to a minimum by maintaining a mulched and/or moist soil surface .

~Cath
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