All lawn owners should take advantage of the soil tests that can be done by their local county extension sites. Instead of just going by visual observation, you can have a cheat sheet of exactly which nutrients your lawn has and which nutrients it lacks. Soil tests should be referred to whenever you are planting, liming, or fertilizing. Not sure how to go about testing the soil? The good news is that the lab will test the soil for you; all you have to do is gather the sample together and send it to them. To get an accurate soil sample, you should:
Contact your County Extension Office. Every state will have different requirements and tools for taking soil tests. Get all the information you can from them about testing the soil in your own yard, as well as any of the materials you need.
Pick 10 to 20 random sample areas from your yard. It is better to take samples in a zigzag pattern than in a circular pattern. Remember that the recommendations you get will only be as good as the soil sample you send.
Distinguish between areas that will be managed differently. Say you have a lawn area that is growing on a slope, or one that is in a shaded area, that you are planning to maintain differently. You should keep those samples separate from the rest of the lawn and send two soil samples to the lab. However, if you aren’t planning to be that thorough in your maintenance, you should combine all the samples for a general recommendation.
Use a soil probe or shovel to remove samples that are 4 to 6 inches deep. You want the soil to be as deep as the root level of your grass.
Remove thatch, roots, and live grass. These extra materials will not provide more information to your soil report and will just make testing the soil difficult.
Mix all the soil samples into one large sample. The soil should be about the same color and consistency. If there is a wide difference (e.g., clay soil and sandy soil), you should send two separate soil samples.
Let the soil air-dry. Don’t try to dry the soil in an oven or other heating device. This could change the chemical properties of the soil and interfere with the final recommendations.
Send the sample to the laboratory, and wait for the results! Depending on the lab, you may have your soil report within a few weeks.
Repeat every 3 to 5 years. Soil is constantly changing, so it is a good idea not to rely on old or outdated soil tests. Keeping all of your soil tests will give you a sense of your soil’s history as well and help you be better informed as a lawn owner.
Jonathan McGraw is a natural landscape designer who writes for naturesfinestseed.com, a great source of environmentally friendly choices — such as Fescue Grass Seed — for your home or commercial projects.
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Posted by Cherrell Tarantino
on June 12, 2012. Filed under Garden, Home.
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