There are a few things to think about before getting started with soil tests, but don’t worry, we’ve laid them out in this handy step by step guide. It will take you no time at all to get ready!
1. Decide which fields to test
How many fields do you want to test? Which fields do you want to understand better? Is the soil type consistent across the fields you want to test? It’s not necessary to test all your fields, but depending on what you want to learn we can help you choose. Find more info on how to decide here.
2. Which soil tests should I do?
The type of farm and management goals determine which tests are relevant, there’s a wide variety and it’s not necessary to do all of them! For those not sure where to start try out these five tests which we’ve found are the most useful for all different types of farms.
3. When and how often to do the tests
There are different rhythms and frequencies you can try. The basic setup is to do all chosen tests in each field on 1 day in Spring or Autumn, so just once a year. The better setup is to do the tests twice a year, on 1 day in Spring and 1 day in Autumn and repeat annually. The best setup is more complex, read about it here and see the seasonal calendar if you want to mix and match for yourself.
4. Where on the field to do the tests
Each test should be repeated on each field a few times, depending on the size of the fields. When choosing sample sites in each field walk a W shape. For each spade and soil test, it’s optimal to do one every eight acres on the W walk. For grass tests it’s one every acre (they are super easy and quick). However to just get a general ‘pulse’ of your soil the basic setup is 3 spade tests and 10 grass tests per field. More info here.
5. Gather your soil test kit
Everything needed to do the tests should be available at home, but set aside some time to get it all together. Find a full kit list here. At the very least you need a smartphone and spade. Dog is optional!
6. Sectormentor For Soils account
There’s a quick bit of setting up to do on computer and smartphone before getting outside. Firstly you can use a computer (or tablet) to create a Sectormentor account and set up the fields to monitor. Secondly, download the app in preparation for getting outside and logging test results. If you’ve signed up for Sectormentor For Soils already then look out for our email with instructions!
7. Sectormentor For Soils forum
We’ve got a community of farmers who are doing these tests too. Got any questions on what we’ve just shared? Ask us and other farmers on the forum. Equally if you have something to share, don’t be shy! The forum is for everyone using the app — if you’re interested in signing up get in touch with us – firstname.lastname@example.org