Lawn, Garden, and Landscape Plants

Two women in a garden with blue flowers.

The first step for a homeowner in accurately fertilizing a lawn, garden, or landscape planting is to collect a representative soil sample and send it to a laboratory for analysis. After completing the analysis, the laboratory sends the results back to you along with lime and fertilizer recommendations. The second step in accurate and efficient fertilization is to interpret the results correctly. Then you are ready to apply the necessary rates of fertilizer and lime to achieve optimum growth of your lawn, garden, or landscape trees and shrubs. The Soil Test Report from the University of Minnesota Soil Testing Laboratory is relatively straightforward, but it contains a lot of information and some technical terminology that can be confusing if you have limited experience using it.

This information is designed to provide some simple guidelines you can use to effectively interpret your University of Minnesota Soil Test Report.

It is also important to point out the kinds of things your Soil Test Report will not tell you. Sometimes people mistakenly think that the Soil Test Report will tell them if they have disease-causing organisms in their soil, plant attacking insects or nematodes, herbicide residues that might be harmful to their garden or landscape plants, or an analysis of the numbers of beneficial microorganisms that will indicate whether they have a “healthy” soil. The University of Minnesota Soil Test Report is focused on describing the fertility status of your soil and providing information that will help improve the mineral nutrition of your plants.

Additional information about how to manage soil and nutrients in yards and gardens go to the UMN Extension website for more information at


Ask Extension

If you have additional questions, visit this page to email or call a Master Gardener.