As most of you are probably already familiar with, the University of Connecticut is home to the UConn Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory. This lab is staffed by Dawn Pettinelli, the manager, and myself, the technician. We also have a few part time and student employees throughout the year that help with the receiving, spreading, and sieving of soil samples; among other things. We offer an array of tests designed to help homeowners, community gardeners, farmers, etc… maximize the efficiency of their soil to produce the greatest yields in whatever plant or crop they are growing, from silage corn to turf. We can test for soil organic matter content, textural fractionation, soluble salts, Nitrogen, and Carbon. We also provide tests for plant tissues and corn stalks. However, our most vital and popular test is the Standard Nutrient Analysis. This is a relatively comprehensive test that allows us to make limestone and fertilizer recommendations. We check the pH, add a buffering agent and then retest the pH. From there we are able to determine the soils capacity to resist the change in pH, this allows us to make an accurate and precise limestone recommendation, in lbs/1000 square feet, or lbs/acre, depending on the desired crop production. The second part of the Standard Nutrient Analysis is the actual nutrient content. Soil samples are analyzed for micro and macro nutrients; Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Aluminum, Boron, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Zinc, and Sulfur. Samples are also screened for Lead. Using the nutrient results, we are able to make fertilizer recommendations based on what is being grown. We give results in N-P-K format, and also provide organic alternatives.

We get calls year round from customers asking if they can submit a soil sample, and the answer is always yes! You can submit a soil sample any time of the year, we receive soils from throughout the country (although we have to be careful of areas under certain quarantines). Generally, it only takes around a week from when we receive a sample for us to send out the results. As you might imagine, Spring is an extreme exception. We are so busy and backed up with thousands of soil samples right now, we are expecting a 3 week turn-around time. We understand that everyone is eager to get their hands dirty and work on their lawns and gardens, but waiting until Spring to submit soil samples isn’t the best idea.


The current line of samples waiting for analysis. J.Croze

We often recommend that customers take and submit soil samples in the Fall! Soil sampling and testing in the Fall is better for all parties involved. For starters, we offer a discount on the Standard Nutrient Analysis, if you submit 10 or more samples we only charge you $8 per sample opposed to $12. However, there are more practical reasons to submit a Fall soil sample. It’s easier! The soil is generally going to be easier to work with in the Fall than after a wet Winter during the first few weeks of Spring. This will help you obtain soil samples that are a more accurate representation of the area you are interested in. Every year around this time we get dozens of zip-lock bags that are filled with soaking wet soil, dripping everywhere. A Fall soil test also allows you more time to think about what amendments you might want to use, and is the perfect time to apply limestone and fertilizers in preparation for a busy and productive growing season. Applying limestone in the Fall ensures that it has enough time to raise your soil pH to whatever the optimum range is for what you plan on growing. My personal favorite reason for submitting a Fall soil sample is that we are less busy! You’ll be happier because your results will only take a few days, and we’ll be happier because the phone won’t be ringing off the hook with customers wondering where their results are! You can obviously submit a sample whenever your heart desires, but I advise you to consider sampling in the Fall. For those of you currently waiting on results, I appreciate your patience! Happy gardening!


Fall is a good time to get ready for next year’s display of spring-blooming perennials. Some may need repositioning, some may have lost vigor as a result of crowding and some may be in need of dividing. Most perennials will transplant easily in October. Some root loss is inevitable, so the shorter, cooler and rainier days of autumn are a less stressful time to move plants. Since it’s not recommended to relocate perennials while they’re flowering, species that bloom in late summer or fall (Chrysanthemum, Sedum, etc.) are best moved in spring when the first shoots emerge from the soil.

Bleeding Heart transplants well in the fall. Photo: Colorado State University


When moving perennials, cut them back, divide if necessary and include as much of the root system as possible when digging. (As a rule of thumb, pull apart fibrous-rooted perennials with your hands or using two garden forks and cut apart the fleshy-rooted ones with a sharp knife or spade.) When planting, be careful to maintain the same soil level as their previous location (not planting either too deeply or too high). Soak thoroughly and then following up with a periodic light watering (in the absence of rain) will help roots to get established in their new location. Very important to the survival of fall-transplanted perennials is the application of about 3” of mulch or compost. This will keep the soil moist and avoid wide fluctuations of soil temperature which could result in frost heaves which can lift plants right out of the ground. Do not fertilize until spring. Below are some common perennials that do well when transplanted in the autumn.
Asiatic Lily
Bleeding Heart
Japanese Iris
Oriental Lily
Oriental Poppy
Siberian Iris