How to Take a Soil Test
Tools Needed: gloves, shovel, bucket, plastic sandwich or freezer bag
*Wear gloves when taking a soil sample to protect against potential contamination.
Step 1: Identify one area of interest at a time (yard, garden bed, playground, etc.). This area should not exceed 100 square feet (10’ by 10’). If it is larger, split it into separate areas.
Step 2: Use shovel to collect 3-5 small scoops from different spots in that area. If the soil is wet, lay it on a piece of paper in the sun to dry out
Step 3: Mix those 3-5 scoops together in a bucket.
Step 4: Remove any large debris like large rocks, leaves, grasses, or trash.
Step 5: Transfer 1 cup of the mixed soil into a clear plastic bag that is labeled so you know where it came from.
Step 6: Repeat steps 2-5 with other areas of interest for soil sampling like a different garden bed or area of the yard.
Step 7: Bring sample(s) to the Allegheny County Conservation District’s free soil screening events. Our event schedule can be found at or by calling (412) 291-8017.
Grow Pittsburgh has a very detailed tutorial, including where to send samples for a conventional test and some other informational links, on their web site here.