While fall is a time of garden cleanup and planting bulbs and garlic, it's also a perfect time to test your soil.
Soil testing is one of those good garden ideas that often gets forgotten. Testing your soil now has some advantages. There's less to do in the garden compared to spring, soil labs aren't as busy, and you'll get a good accurate reading of your soil pH, organic matter, and nutrient levels. Take a soil sample anytime up until the ground freezes and do a soil test every three to four years.
There are a few things to keep in mind when taking a soil sample. Send in separate samples for different types of plants. For example, collect a separate sample for lawns, vegetables gardens, trees and shrubs, orchards and specialty plants such as blueberries. When taking a sample, collect soil three to eight inches deep, depending on the crop, and take a number of samples from around the crop you're testing. Mix them together and take a sample of the sample to test.
The most accurate way to test your soil is to send samples to the University of Connecticut Soil Lab. For only $12 per sample you can get pH, nutrient and lead levels analyzed with recommendations. Separate tests can be purchased for soil organic matter and salts. Contact the University of Connecticut Soil Nutrient Analysis Lab for more information.
Fall is a good time to change the pH and nutrient levels in your soil, especially if you're add in organic fertilizers such as rock dusts and limestone. They'll have time to break down before next spring.