Soil pH Testing

Great gardens start with great soil!

Whether you have an existing lawn/garden that's a bit disappointing, are rehabilitating an older property, or are considering new plantings, a soil test is a good place to start.

Why is soil important? Read “Soil – the Good Gardener’s Secret.”

Why have your soil tested? Check out these "Soil Testing Benefits & Resources".

Testing your soil's pH is a good place to start: One measure of soil health is pH, a numeric score indicating acidity or alkalinity. Different plants have different pH requirements. If your pH is "off", beneficial soil microorganisms can be affected, and plants may not be able to access important nutrients which may already be present in the soil. The MMGA offers free Soil pH Testing at a number of public events each year. See the schedule below for dates and locations. Here's the information you'll need to collect your soil sample .

For information on more comprehensive soil testing options, scroll to the bottom of this page for links to area university-based soil testing laboratories.

Soil Testing Calendar

Soil Testing Schedule.xlsx

What is pH and Why Should I Care?

Potential of Hydrogen (pH) is a measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. It uses a 14-point scale: A pH of 7 is neutral. A pH less than 7 is acidic; greater than 7, alkaline.

Different plants have different pH and nutrient requirements: Blueberries, for example, like acidic soil with a pH of 4.5-5.5; vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, cabbage and peas like soil with a pH of 6.0-7.5.

To see the soil pH preferred by selected plants, check out the Old Farmer's Almanac Optimum Soil pH Levels for Trees, Shrubs, Vegetables, and Flowers.

Digging Deeper: Comprehensive Soil Testing

While pH is important, it isn’t the only consideration. A number of New England institutions offer inexpensive detailed soil tests that also examine soil texture, nutrient and micronutrient levels, organic matter content and the presence of toxic heavy metals (including lead and cadmium). If the results for any factor are outside of the optimal range for the plants you are growing, a comprehensive soil test will provide guidelines for fertilizers and other steps you may wish to take. Recommendations are based on environmentally-friendly soil fertility management practices.

Comprehensive soil tests are performed for a fee by many universities and private laboratories. Check out the New England soil testing facilities below. Review which tests they offer as standard vs. optional (usually for a slight additional charge), and be sure to follow soil sampling instructions carefully. Test results are only as good as the sample you provide.

NOTE: Soil characteristics vary from region to region. Testing labs base their evaluations on regional norms. If you live outside of New England and are interested in having your soil tested, contact your local Cooperative Extension Office for information about resources in your area.

Help with Other Issues

Soil testing will NOT identify problems related to inadequate sunlight, soil drainage, weeds, insects, diseases, pesticides, herbicides and other sources of damage. For help understanding these or other issues, contact us at one of the Helplines.