Web Exclusive: Free Soil Tests at Fusebox Festival

Apr 7th, 2015 | By | Category: blog, Grow Something
Image of bagging soil sample.

How to bag a soil sample for your FREE soil test at Fusebox Festival.

Before you start digging in the dirt to put in your spring food garden get your soil tested–and not just to see how much nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium and micronutrients are in it.

It’s important to find out if there are heavy metals and other contaminants lurking beneath the surface that could end up in your home grown vegetables and herbs.

And eventually in you!

If you live in Central Texas, you could bag up a soil sample and send it off with a check to a lab somewhere and wait two or three weeks for the results, or you could take that same bag of soil to the SOIL KITCHEN at the Fusebox Festival this week– April 10 through 12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. –for a FREE garden soil test, sponsored by Brownfields Revitalization Office, part of Austin Resource Recovery.

Brownfields takes blighted or underutilized properties and changes their use, which includes an environmental assessment to ensure the planned reuse is safe and suitable.

Christine Whitney is Brownfields program manager. She says Historical uses of land, even for residential use, may have left behind heavy metals in the soil. With technical support from the Environmental Protection Agency, gardeners can bring in samples for sophisticated testing in the EPA’s mobile lab at no charge.

Here’s how to gather a soil sample:

  1. Gather together a garden trowel or spade; a spoon; two zip-top, quart size, plastic bags; a waterproof marker; and a clean shallow pan.
  2. Label the bag(s) with the following information: your initials, the date you took your sample and the approximate location of your garden plot. PLEASE do not give your exact address. Instead, please list your street and the closest cross street. This is for the protection of your privacy.
  3. Go to your garden area and sample the soil in five to 10 different spots around the garden bed(s). Sample to a depth of six inches, using your trowel to make a cone shape into the soil and then extract the samples. Place each of the collected samples into the shallow pan.
  4. When you have completed the sampling work, take your spoon and mix all the soil together in the shallow pan to obtain a more representative sample.
  5. If the soil is very wet, leave the soil to dry out in the pan overnight. Make sure to remove any rocks, grass or dead plant material that could get in the way.
  6. If you would like to have your soil sampled for the presence of heavy metals AND for soil nutrients, please use the collected soil to half-fill TWO separate zip-top bags.
  7. Fill your plastic bag(s) until it is half -full and seal it shut.
  8. Drop your sample off at the Soil Kitchen. The soil nutrient information may be obtained while you wait. The heavy metals analysis may take a bit longer. We will give you a card that has information on how to obtain your soil results online.

The Free Soil Tests are available at this week’s Fusebox Festival April 10 through 12 p.m., at thinkEAST 1098 Jain Lane in East Austin. For more information about the Soil Kitchen and soil sampling, visit: austintexas.gov/soilkitchen.

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  1. Great article and information. I think I spent more than $60 to have my garden soil tested a few years ago. FREE and fast is much better. Thank you and See you there!