What’s in your Garden? Find out in 7 Easy Steps!

Mar 24, 2015 - 11:09 am

What is the Soil Kitchen?

Soil Kitchen is a three-day opportunity for backyard gardeners to receive free soil tests. The event is taking place during the Fusebox Festival on April 10-12 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. School gardens and community gardens can be tested as well, and the results will help you to safely and effectively start or continue gardening. Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, Texas A&M’s Agrilife Extension, and the City of Austin will be on hand to test your soil for the presence of heavy metals and soil nutrients.

Soil samples will be tested while you enjoy the festival’s great interactive activities, demonstrations and musical performances. In exchange for your soil sample(s), we’ll give you a coupon for a snack from one of the festival food vendors present! The Soil Kitchen is sponsored by the City of Austin’s Brownfields Revitalization Office, the Office of Sustainability, and Parks and Recreation’s Sustainable Urban Agriculture & Community Gardens & Wildlife program.

How to Sample

Follow the 7 steps below to prepare your soil for testing. We’re here to help your garden grow!

1. Gather supplies. 

You’ll need a garden trowel, two zip-top plastic bags, a waterproof marker, and a clean, shallow pan.

2. Label sample bags.

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.

3. Retrieve samples.

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 extracting the sample. Place each of the collected samples into the shallow pan.

4. Mixing and sifting.

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. 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.

5. Sample types.

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.

6. Fill & seal.

Fill your plastic bag(s) until it is half full and seal it shut.

7. 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.


We hope to see you at the Austin Soil Kitchen for soil diagnostics, fun, and all the gardening tips you can imagine!