Soil Tests in the time of Coronavirus

Hi everyone!

I’m a newbie but I’ve been following and reading for a year or so. I LOVE this forum. Thank you for making it such a place of rich knowledge and insight.
We live in the western Chicago suburbs, zone 5b.

We are hoping to plant some fruit trees this spring (1-3 apples, a cherry, pear, peach, others?). We have enough room for 5-6.

I was hoping to do a soil test sooner, but the ground has been frozen and I fear that most soil labs are shut down now. Any suggestions on where or how to do a soil test now?

In case you have interest, I was planning to order from Stark Bros:
Braeburn dwarf or semi dwarf
Cox’s Orange Pippin dwarf
Asian pear dwarf
Redhaven peach standard,
Stark Surecrop Pie dwarf

I’ll take any and all suggestions on type and variety, too.
Thanks everyone!

you probably don’t need a soil test for 6 trees.

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You local labs might be shut down, but in more rural areas they wont be. I am going to be honest and maybe a little bit coarse. However, the growing of food for the American public will go on as it always does, year after year, no matter the weather conditions, or any other conditions. American farmers are preparing to head to the fields as they do every year. Soil labs in rural areas probably never have a slow time. You can likely send your soil samples to Ward Labs in Kearney, NE you can Google them. That is who we use and generally takes them less than a week once they receive your samples.


My advice would be in addition to getting the trees you mentioned start watching YouTube videos of grafting techniques and scour the web for info, including this site. (Unless you are already doing that😁) You’ll find that most “Land Grant” colleges have a very good relationship with their states’ cooperative extension agencies and there is a lot of good information there too.
You can add varieties to the trees you plant now once they’re established, research the blooming and ripening times, and that way you can get an extended fruiting season and lots of different flavors from a few trees. My personal experience with that approach wasn’t the best in all honesty as I was just learning how to care for my trees and sort of winging it. But you have the advantage of the knowledge base on this forum to help you along.
Proper placement is critical especially in regards to sunlight. Morning sun is better than afternoon sun if you have to choose, at least here in the humid south- so maybe someone closer to you could chime in with a more zone appropriate opinion on that.
I will warn you though, this is a very addictive hobby and you’re going to want one of everything once you get a few! But it’s also very rewarding and a great break from the rat race.

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Not much experience with them yet, but consider making room for at least one jujube. And possibly pawpaws…

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Interesting thought.

What am I risking by not getting a soil sample?

I am embarrassed to admit that I have never heard of a jujube.

I hadn’t considered pawpaws, but you’ve sent me off to learn about something new. Thank you!

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Here are onesof several threads about jujubes.

Jujubes- Our New Adventure - #143 by Sas.

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Thanks, TurkeyCreek!
I will be giving them a call tomorrow.

I should definitely look at my site plans again, tomorrow. It is on the easternmost edge of our property, but there is a tree line 8-10 feet from where I’m planning to plant. I wonder if that won’t provide as much morning sun.

There is currently a lone apple tree where I’m planning to plant the others (I think a 3-5 year old Macintosh or other more tart variety?) that the former owners planted. Last year it had 3 apples, but it was in desperate need of a pruning.

Before everyone begins to cringe (and rightly so :wink:), I did take a class with an arborist on the proper (and improper) way to prune fruit trees 3 years ago and I was careful with my cuts, the angles, pruning less than a third of the tree.

We recently moved from South Carolina and you are absolutely right about the necessity of morning sun.

Mamuang and TurkeyCreek, you have similar growing zones and are probably less humid as I am? Is morning sun absolutely critical?

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Can’t wait to read this! Thank you!

I work for an ag retailer and we haven’t heard anything about the labs being shut down. You could check out rock river in WI or A & L Great Lakes.

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Call your county extension agency and ask them about doing soil samples. They may have a suggestion as to where to send your samples. Just a thought.

I also sort of doubt that soil testing labs are shut down, for reasons that @TurkeyCreekTrees mentions. It sort of depends, but there are labs that solely do soil testing, and labs that do much more environmental and material testing beyond soil - water, toxic metals in water and soil, fuels, etc.

For example labs that do water testing cannot shut down, as they are needed to continuously receive and test samples from water and wastewater treatment plants to ensure public safety. Most smaller and medium-sized water plants don’t have the capability to test on their own, or if they do it is for basic process parameters and not things like toxic chemicals or bacterial contamination. So the commercial labs are needed to provide testing services for things like disinfection byproducts and E. coli contamination, etc.

What am I risking by not getting a soil sample?

because you only are planning on 6 trees, by not getting a soil sample you are slightly risking slightly less productivity of 6 trees.