Editor's note
The following abstract describes a publication that is only available as a downloadable PDF.

Link to PDFManjula Nathan
Director, Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory

John Stecker
Extension Associate
Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory

Erik Ervin
State Turf Specialist

Lewis Jett
State Vegetables Specialis

Chris Starbuck
State Woody Ornamentals Specialist

This publication describes the methods used by the MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory to provide soil test interpretations and fertilizer recommendations for residential lawns and gardens (including vegetable and flower gardens). These guidelines have been developed from research conducted in Missouri or adapted from work done in adjacent Midwest states. Because residential landscape plantings and lawns are of relatively small size, specific directed management is possible for a specific area, such as a front yard or an area around a tree or bush. Proper nutrient management considers a soil's ability to supply plants with essential nutrients. Fertilizer and amendment recommendations are then based on soil tests. By eliminating the guesswork of providing nutrients, plant growth and appearance can be optimized, and excessive and potentially environmentally harmful fertilizer applications can be avoided.

In soil testing, laboratory procedures measure plant-available nutrients in the soil. Fertilizer recommendations are given for these nutrients. Many different fertilizers are commercially available, but all report the percentage of available nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). Directions for choosing the right fertilizer to match the nutrient recommendation and calculating the fertilizer amount to apply are provided. Also described are calculations for recommendations of limestone, gypsum, secondary and micro-nutrients.

Soil samples collected from lawns and gardens should be submitted with the Horticulture Soil Sample Information forms. Information recorded on these forms along with soil test data provide the basis for recommendations. Forms can be obtained from county MU Extension center and from Soil Testing and Plant Diagnostic Services,, in Columbia and Portageville.


  • Soil test procedures
  • Soil test analysis
  • Soil pH
  • Lime requirement
  • Neutralizable acidity
  • Modified Woodruff Buffer Method
  • Organic matter
  • Extractable phosphorus
  • Bray-1 P
  • Exchangeable potassium
  • Ammonium acetate
  • NH4OAc extraction
  • Exchangeable calcium
  • Exchangeable magnesium
  • Cation exchange capacity
  • Extractable zinc
  • DPTA extraction
  • Extractable sulfur
  • Calcium phosphate in acetic acid extraction
  • Extractable iron, manganese and copper
  • Exchangeable sodium
  • Hot water extractable boron
  • Nitrate-nitrogen and ammonium-nitrogen
  • Soluble salts
  • Electrical conductivity
  • Particle size analysis
  • Hydrometer method


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Publication No. MP733