Spring has sprung here in the South and we are preparing our turf lawns for the Summer ahead. If you have already been into your local home improvement store in search for the right fertilizers, weed killers, and insect control without first testing your soil nutrients and pH level you’re making a big mistake.
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In this blog, We will be sharing the importance of determining your soil nutrient levels especially the pH level and why you need correct them before starting your lawn maintenance program. So, let’s get started.
WHY SOIL TESTING?
If you don’t know, most experts recommend that you get your soil tested every one to three years depending on your soil composition. If you’re not sure of your soil composition visit greenmountaincompost.com. They have some great information to help you better understand your soil.
The best time to test your soil is late fall through January so that you can make the necessary soil corrections before the next growing season but if you missed the date we’ve got good news, it’s not too late. It is better to test late than not at all.
Plant and lawn scientist say it takes 18 nutrients for healthy, productive lawn growth. If you think you are able to look at the soil and determine that you might want to think again.
We helped a couple prepare their lawn site last year for a fresh new Bermuda turf using plugs. It came time to get the approval from them to order their site soil test. They were not sure if they really needed it as the soil to them looked dark and rich. We persuaded them not to skip this test, as the lawn would have a difficult time growing if the pH and nutrients levels were not correct. Thank goodness they listened because the test came back showing a big pH problem that could have seriously slowed the plug growth. It paid for itself as they were able to plant their plugs over a 10,000 square foot area in the middle of June and had complete coverage by the end of that growing season.
This is why the experts say:
DONT GUESS SOIL TEST – It is impossible to know what is in the soil without it
Because of this, we recommend getting the full testing done on your lawn soil as it will show you all of the nutrient levels. The cost is about $ 25.00 and will save you money in the long run because the results will help to know the exact fertilizers to apply.
If you do not want to do a full test you will at least need to know the soil pH level. If you do not have the proper pH level to start with your lawn will have a difficult time growing creating the perfect environment for weeds. This means if you apply fertilizer to lawn soil with a low pH level your absorption rate could be 50% or lower leading to wasted time, money and resources.
You can see in the pictures below from left to right the change in the color of the lawn as the soil loses needed nutrients.
HOW TO GET SOIL TESTED
There are a few ways to have your soil tested. I will list them here:
- Option 1: Hire a landscape company or nursery to come pull the test samples and send them to the lab. They will have you pick up the test results or send them to you by mail. You can usually find someone in your area by googling soil sample testing for my lawn with the name of your city and state. In most cases, you will have several options to choose from.
- Option 2: Your local county extension office and state university will more than likely offer these services at minimal cost. You will have to collect your samples and mail them to the lab. Your results will be mailed to you.
- Option 3: Buy a DIY soil test kit from amazon and pull all the samples and send them in for analysis. They will mail your test results to the address provided. Cost is about $24 and this includes lab analysis.
Here is a great visual guide for pulling your samples. Remember all test will be similar just be sure that you follow your test instructions. If you would like to purchase a soil sample tube tool this one is a good option with a price tag of $27.
Most lawn soil test results will determine your soil type, pH and level of organic matter and provide you with a reading of nutrients including phosphorous, potassium, calcium and magnesium. The results will also provide a recommendation for nitrogen and will determine how much lime you should apply.
Here is a sample of the results sheet you will receive:
As you can see from the example results above they will end the report with specific recommendation.
If you are someone that enjoys learning the technical information here is a great website for you to visit: cropnutrition.com they do a great job of explaining them in simple terms that most people can understand.
If you are in Southeast Tennessee here are a couple of options for Soil Testing:
- Beaty’s Fertilizer: Offers full-service Soil Testing. They will come and take all soil samples and prepare them for shipping. The results will come in 10-14 days after arriving at the lab. They will call you to pick up your report. Cost is about $27. The price for just a pH level test is $7. They will also prepare a personalize lawn program based off of report for $75.
- UTIA University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture does Soil Testing but you will have to take your own samples. The link provides you with information on how to collecting and shipping samples as well as payment instructions. Their price is about $25. I believe you will have to go to your local county extension office to pick up the special shipping box for this option.
So, as you can see the most important part of your lawn program is the soil testing. It is necessary to do this first before applying any fertilizers as this will save you valuable time and resources.
Next week we will talk more about lawn maintenance and share our free Bermuda Lawn Management Guide. It is what we have personally used for the past 8 years.
Blessings from our home to yours!