Soil Testing

In Yard Care by rkassebaum

Most of my customers judge a healthy lawn by the visual results they see: dark green blades of grass, a lush, thick stand of grass and very few weeds. While this may be a great way to rate the overall quality of what we do with organic fertilizers it is not a good way to diagnose problems on a not so perfect lawn. Most all of the lawns that we service first receive a soil test to check the quantities of nutrients available to your turf. This allows us to make specific recommendations as to what products and in what amounts should be applied to your lawn.

Rarely will you go to a doctor and get a prescription without being asked a few questions; they generally will ask what is bothering you and administer tests to diagnose the problem. We like to use this same line of thinking with your lawn: science over guesses.

The soil beneath your lawn is a dynamic and complex growing medium comprised of minerals, organic matter, air and water. These four items must be present in the proper ratios to optimize the health of your turf. Generally, the ideal ratio is 45% mineral, 25% air, 25% water and 5% organic matter. Sounds pretty simple until you factor in the 18 specific mineral nutrients turf grass needs in the proper quantities to optimize not only its health but to also increase the entire lawns weed and pest resistance. Ensuring the 18 nutrients are all present and available in the proper quantities is where the soil testing and science come into play.

Soil Test3In our area there are a couple of soil deficiencies that are fairly common: Low organic matter and an out of balance Calcium to Magnesium ratio. Low organic matter can have an effect on your soils ability to hold moisture and its ability to effectively use the nutrients in the soil. Insufficient organic matter can lead to poor and unsatisfactory turf quality. A Calcium to Magnesium ratio that is out of balance can cause your soil to be more susceptible to poor water infiltration and increases weed pressure. Maintaining an ideal Calcium to Magnesium ratio improves the physical properties of your soil and increases your lawns natural ability to resist weed infestation. Without testing your soil, recommendations as to how to improve these conditions cannot be accurately given.

When we arrive on a lawn for the first time, we physically examine the turf looking for visual cues of any potential problems and make note of how to remedy the issues. This can range from overseeding areas that may be bare, aeration or the trimming of trees and bushes to allow more air flow to the turf. Then we pull small plugs of soil, about the size of your index finger, from all over your lawn. We place the collected soil into a bag then send it off to the lab for testing. What is returned to us is valuable data in the form of numbers and graphs that we will compare against our “ideal” soil parameters. This will give us a basis which we will use to start making recommendations as to what products and at what quantities should be applied to your lawn.

As a customer, what you receive from us after the soil test is a copy of the test data and also written recommendations as to what products and services would benefit your lawn the most. Recommendations can be as simple as continuing with the current fertilizer program that is being applied on the lawn to applications of calcium or compost to improve the basic structure of the soil. All of the recommendations we make will leave you with a beautiful green lawn on the surface and a healthy soil below grade. Soil testing will save you time, money and will have less of an impact on the environment by only applying the safest and most effective products which meet the needs of your individual lawn.