In general, when gardening it is important to do soil testing for important agronomic parameters such as soil pH, available plant nutrients, and organic matter to get an idea about crop performance. Agronomic soil testing includes taking samples from a garden or site, performing laboratory analysis, and making recommendations for adding fertilizers and/or lime. The success of agronomic testing greatly depends on the following 3 steps:
- Obtaining samples representative of the soil you want to garden in
- Using appropriate techniques in the laboratory that provide accurate indications of nutrient status or the pH adjustments needed
- Having an extensive data base for making nutrient and lime recommendations based on analytical results
For more information on agronomic testing, including proper sample collection and a list of soil testing services by state, see Testing Your Soil for Nutrients, pH, and Organic Matter (pdf).