Soil Testing and Other Fall Gardening Activities

The following Agriculture & Natural Resources and Horticulture articles originally printed in the 2019 Fall edition of the Oldham County Extension Newsletter.

soil testing

Soil Testing

How to Collect a Good Soil Sample

Collect soil for testing using the following guidelines: For plowed or tilled areas – collect soil from top 6 to 8 inches of soil. For non-tilled areas (lawn, pasture, no-till and minimum till-crops) – collect soil from the top 3 to 4 inches of soil.

  • Avoid collecting soil from areas where nutrient levels may be skewed (livestock feeding areas, compost piles, tree driplines, areas adjacent to streets or areas where deicers have been applied)
  • Collect and mix samples in a clean, dry plastic bucket. Avoid rubber or galvanized buckets.
  • Collect soil randomly across entire area (field, lawn, garden, pasture, etc.) and mix to represent each area soil sample. Pulling soil from only 1 or 2 spots may not give an accurate representation of soil nutrient levels. Pulling soil randomly from across entire area will give more accurate results.
  • Remove twigs, grass, leaves, etc. from samples.
  • Allow soil to air-dry. Do not artificially dry samples. Do not seal wet soil in a bag or container.
  • Bring enough soil to fill a zip-lock sandwich bag to our office (207 Parker Drive, La Grange) for testing.
  • The current fee is $10.00 per sample for testing services at Oldham County Extension. Vouchers may be available to cover this fee.
  • Residents may borrow soil probes from the Extension office for collecting samples. This is a time saving tool when sampling many areas/fields.
  • soil testing

    Fall Gardening Activities

  • Fall is a great time to plant trees and shrubs. Root growth during the fall and winter will improve growth the next season. Balled and burlapped trees are available in October once the foliage has colored and started to drop. Trees grown in containers are available year around.
  • The best time to fertilize your lawns is September through November. Fall fertilizing when tall fescue is actively growing helps it develop a strong root system. A good root system helps turf recover from diseases and other summer stresses.
  • Perennials planted during September will have some time to establish roots before the freezing temperatures arrive, giving them a good start for spring growth and flower production.
  • Plant spring-flowering bulbs in September and October for the early spring color.
  • fall gardening activities

  • Plant fall garden mums, pansies, or ornamental cabbage and kale to brighten up the garden areas and add seasonal color to containers.
  • Fluff up the mulch to increase its insulating qualities and reduce the risk of weed seed germinating. Add more if necessary for a final depth of 2 to 3 inches. Remember: piling mulch or any plant debris around tree trunks and shrubs will lead to future problems.
  • As the leaves fall, mulch them into your lawn with your lawn mower or compost them. A thin layer of compost under your mulched areas improves the soil and could reduce the amount of mulch needed to cover your flower beds.
  • New seed catalogs have started appearing. Contact seed companies by mail or online to request their catalog. This will provide reading material this winter to plan next year’s gardens.
  • fall gardening activities

    Written by Traci Missun, Oldham County Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent; and Michael Boice, Oldham County Horticulture Assistant.

    2 thoughts on “Soil Testing and Other Fall Gardening Activities

    1. Pingback: Try A Small-Scale Garden This Year | Oldham County Cooperative Extension Blog

    2. Pingback: Planting Spring-Flowering Bulbs | Oldham County Cooperative Extension Blog

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