A healthy green lawn begins with great soil. However, soil is often more complicated than it looks. It contains the vital nutrients and living organisms that dictate a strong and sustainable lawn. How do you know if you have great soil? By soil testing. Trying to grow a healthy lawn without a soil test is like trying to reach a destination with no directions.
What is a soil test?
A soil test is the process of chemically removing elements from your soil and measuring the content within the sample. It consists of obtaining a soil sample, sending it to a lab, and receiving a detailed analysis of its makeup. Test your soil every three years to ensure your lawn’s health and sustainability.
What do they measure?
Examining the soil content helps determine the overall fertility and health of your soil. A soil test detects pH and nutrient levels, and pinpoints nutrient deficiencies. This allows you to take the appropriate course of action for your property, while protecting the environment.
Phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, and calcium are some of the major nutrients tested in your soil, as well as the Cation Exchange Capacity. Because nitrogen is highly variable and unstable, basic soil tests do not test for it. Micronutrients such as iron, zinc, manganese, boron, soluble salts and others can be analyzed as well using a more comprehensive soil test. That type of test is more expensive and usually not necessary, unless you are experiencing an unusual problem.
A soil test is also the only reliable method to determine pH (a scale of 1 to 14), or the acidity (below 7.0) or alkalinity (above 7.0) of the soil. When the soil pH is too high for grasses (above 6.7) it needs sulfur. When the pH is too low for grasses (below 6.2) it needs lime. You cannot tell whether or not your soil needs lime or sulfur, how much is needed, or even what kind to use just by looking at it. A soil test is imperative to know which is needed (if any) and exactly how much.
Why is soil testing important?
Testing your soil is important because it helps you create a healthy and sustainable lawn. The results of soil testing allow you to make the correct adjustments to your lawn care to reach the best possible outcome. It’s the best way to ensure you are applying fertilizers and lime in the most responsible way, and sometimes, it’s the only way to adhere to state lawn care guidelines. For example, in Maryland it is illegal to apply phosphorous to your lawn without a soil test explicitly showing the need for it. It also allows you to diagnose problem areas, like why your rhododendrons and azaleas are unhealthy. Often, it is due to a pH level that is too high (azaleas prefer a pH between 4.5 and 5.5, while lawns and roses prefer a pH closer to 6.5).
No matter what you think you know about your soil or what old farmer’s tales say, you cannot tell your lawn’s needs without testing the soil. It is extremely valuable in managing the nutrition, strength, and overall sustainability of your lawn. Remember, a good lawn is not only pleasant to look at, it’s good for the environment as well.
A professional lawn care provider knows best when it comes to soil testing. Contact the experts at Complete Lawn Care to understand exactly what’s in your soil and what it needs to thrive.