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Soil Test Recommendations - MSU Extension of Washtenaw County

Resources for Integrated Pest Management Assistance

Soil Test: Self mailer soil testing is an important diagnostic tool to evaluate nutrient imbalances and understand plant growth problems. Soil tests help growers and homeowners adjust fertilizer applications to provide only nutrients that are lacking or inadequate to their crops or lawns.

 Cost: Soil Testing Mailers for landscapes, vegetable & flower gardens are available at your local MSU Extension office for $25.00.

Soil Testing Mailers (boxes) for field crops, are available at your local MSU Extension office for $12.00, shipping not included.

These Soil Testing Mailers can also be purchased through the MSU website at

 Sampling: for garden soils, sample 6 inches to 8 inches deep. For lawns, lift the sod and sample 3 inches deep. Take 15 or 20 sub samples in the aria you are testing and mix them thoroughly in a clean plastic pail. Submit 1 ½ to 2 cups of the mix, after it is air-dried.


 Plant and Insect Diagnostic

 In order to advise clients on least toxic management strategies for pests, it is important that the problem be accurately identified. Every effort is made to complete and mail a report within 5 business days of the time the specimen is brought in. if immediate action is warranted, clients will also receive a phone call or fax.

 Samples should be brought in for diagnosis at the time the problem is actively occurring. Samples brought in at a later time may or may not be diagnosable.

 Trees and Shrubs: bring one or more branches long enough to include all of the growth for this year and last year (at least 3 feet long) and showing the range of symptoms as they appear. Do not bring a dead branch or a perfectly healthy one. If an infestation is suspected, the specimen should be enclosed in a plastic bag to contain the insects.


Lawns: bring a one foot square piece of sod, with 2 inches or so of soil attached. Take the sample from the margin of the affected area, consisting of half dead of half live plant tissue. The problem must be actively occurring for diagnosis. Place sample in open cardboard box. No plastic!

 Herbaceous Plants: (vegetables, flowers, etc) bring the entire plant, roots and all if possible. If the specimen is too large, or is the only one of a perennial, bring several good size stems or branches.

 Insects: Bring in living or dead, but unsmashed insects, in tight, clear containers. Do not stick specimens on scotch tape, drown them in alcohol or other solvents, or mail them in envelopes. If insects are found on plant material, submit plant parts showing the damage as well as the actual insect.


Winged ants cannot be identified.

Ticks can be identified as ticks, but we cannot tell you what kind they are. These must go to MSU for identification (Cost is $20.00)

We do not accept any suspected human or animal health pests.

Plant Identification: Bring in the entire plant, roots included if small. For trees, bring a branch showing foliage and several side branches. Bare branches and detached leaves cannot be identified. Plants are most easily identified if flowers or seed heads are included. Apple varieties cannot be identified, wither by leaf or fruit. Mushrooms are not accepted.

In all cases, try to observe all parts of the plant carefully, from the soil to the very top. Be prepared to answer questions about growing conditions, soil type, and specific measures you may have already taken to manage the problem the more complete the information you give us, the more accurate our diagnosis.

 Costs: $5.00 per sample

 Other Extension Resources

 MSU Bulletins, Videos & Computer Software: available on many common horticultural and agricultural topics.  Available at the Extension office or order directly from MSU Bulletin Catalog.



(Listen to a taped message)

 Select from a choice of 20 to 30 timely, prerecorded gardening messages. Selections are changed monthly. 734-971-1129


Extension Web Sites Access current pest management information and predictions in our CAT (Crop Advisory Team) Alerts. Four separate newsletters addressing Fruits, Vegetables, Landscape Ornamentals and Field Crops are available. Each is updated weekly, on a different day of the week.

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