Beating the Fall Rush

— Written By Zack Taylor and last updated by

We have fallen into Fall quite quickly here in Lee County and that means a few things but among the important things are: harvest and soil sampling time. It’s a little quieter at the North Carolina Department of Agriculture’s Soil Testing Lab given that many farmers around the state are wide open harvesting crops. It would be good to take advantage of the lull to get your soil tests to the lab. Once November, December, and January, arrive then our farmers in Lee County and around the state of North Carolina will bombard the Soil Testing Lab with hundreds of thousands of soil samples. Once December arrives, the turn around time of getting your soil test report back will grow from 1 week to 6 weeks.

Also, it’s good to take soil samples now during the “no charge” period. Beginning November 24th, 2017 and going until April 1st there is a fee of $4 per sample. The heavy sample load is one reason for the charge and to supplement the high costs of soils analysis.

It cannot be overstated the importance of testing your soils this time of year. The first step to having a successful garden, lawn, or landscape begins in the fall and winter months. Having your soils nutrients and pH checked yearly is crucial for maintaining an optimum planting environment. Beginning in fall and winter, you will need to apply certain soil amendments that are “slow release” and take time to begin working, such as lime. Ten times out of ten you can certainly bet that you will not start seeing the full effects of lime until well after 8 months of it being applied. Other soil amendments such as nitrogen, phosphorous, or potassium may be applied closer to planting your desired crop. For example, cool season annuals and perennials tend to benefit from a fall and spring application of nutrients, whereas warm season plants prefer late spring applications of nutrients.

The take home message for soil testing in the fall is to simply beat the farmers to the punch. The sooner you can retrieve your soil test report and apply lime along with other nutrients the more successful your lawn, garden, and landscape will be in the spring, summer, and following fall. For assistance with soil testing and interpreting soil test reports please contact our office at 919-775-5624 and ask to speak to with Zack Taylor. If you begin to take soil samples now and get a head start on not only our farmers but also next year’s growing season then you are bound to have a successful planting next year.

Zack Taylor is Agriculture Agent – Field Crops and Livestock for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.