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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the turnaround time for soil testing?

A. Turnaround time is dependent on volume of mail received. In general, routine soil test results will be sent out 6-10 business days after receipt of samples. The exception to this is during our spring rush (usually mid-March through June).  During this period, we do our best to keep the turnaround time of soil testing as short as possible. For current information visit the Turnaround Time page of our website.

Other testing, such as plant tissue, and total sorbed metals testing typically takes 2-3 weeks to complete, with somewhat longer turnaround times during spring rush.

Q. When is the best time to test my soil?

A. Soil testing can be done at any time, but it is best to test as early as possible, especially when pH adjustment is necessary prior to planting.  Consider testing at the end of the growing season (late October through November). This gives the grower time to plan for the spring and avoids the spring rush here at the lab. Soil characteristics will not change significantly over the cold winter months.

Q. I don't live in New England.  Can I still get my soil tested at UMass?

A. The UMass Soil Lab accepts soils from all over the continental U.S.  However, we use the Modified Morgan extracting solution for nutrient analysis.  This extracting solution was developed for New England's sandy, acidic soils.  Additionally, lime and fertilizer recommendations are intended for soil conditions and climate in New England.  While useful information can be obtained by getting a soil test at UMass, differences in soil types and growing conditions need to be taken into account when interpreting test results and recommendations.

Q. Why don't I see nitrogen results on my test report?

A. Plants absorb nitrogen as nitrate and ammonium.  Soil nitrogen levels can fluctuate widely with weather and soil conditions over short time periods.  For this reason, soil nitrogen testing is only useful for predicting immediate fertilizer application needs.  For more information about nitrogen test results, recommendations, and testing options, see the fact sheet "Frequently Asked Questions about Nitrogen ."

Q. Can I drop off a sample at the lab?

A. We receive most soil samples through the US Postal Service, UPS and FedEx, but you are welcome to drop samples off at the lab.  We are open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.  Orders should be delivered to the Soil Lab Office in Room 203 of Paige Laboratory.

Q. Who do I make my check out to?

A. University of Massachusetts (UMass)

Q. On the order form, there is a line for “Sample ID.” What is that?

A. The Sample ID is merely whatever you want to call your sample. If you are sending more than one sample, it enables you to tell one sample from another.

Q. I am concerned about contaminants in my soil. Can you help me?

A. Our Routine Analysis includes a lead screening that measures extractable soil lead levels ($20 per sample). In addition, we now offer the Total Sorbed Metals test (EPA methods 3050B and 6010), which measures total lead and other heavy metals.  See our Services page for detailed information regarding this and other tests offered.  The UMass Soil Testing Lab is a nutrient lab and does not test soil for other contaminants such as hydrocarbons, PCBs, or pesticides.

Q. Can I pay for my soil test by Credit Card?

A. We’re sorry but we cannot accept credit cards, debit cards, or electronic transfers (outside the UMass system) at this time. We accept checks, money orders or cash (when hand-delivering) only.