Whether you are planting a brand new lawn or simply overseeding into an existing lawn, make sure you do a soil test first, especially if you’ve never done one. Most homeowners skip this step; don’t be one of them.
A soil test will show you many things about your soil. The main things you’ll be looking for are your pH & what nutrients you may be deficient in or maybe even too high.
Soil pH is a measure of the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. And it’s critical for the proper functioning of your soil, including the uptake of nutrients for your lawn. You need to know if your soil is working properly BEFORE you plant any seed or purchase fertilizer.
Generally speaking, you will want a pH between 6.5 and 7.2. This will ensure that your fertilizer will perform at peak levels, your grass can grow without difficulty, and the soil micro-organisms are living in a favorable atmosphere. That’s important because they help the nutrients in the soil become available to the grass.
Simply put, if your pH is too high or too low:
- it will be difficult for your grass to grow
- the soil microbiology will be negatively affected
- your fertilizer won’t work efficiently
So, when you’ve got the correct pH, your soil will be healthier and your grass will be as well.
How to Test Your Soil
Here are two easy ways to get a soil test:
- If you’re just testing for pH – go to your local garden center. Ask them for a simple soil test kit. They are cheap and easy to use. These are the ones that you have to match the colors on the chart. They’re good enough for what you’re doing.
- But if you’re looking for some more detail, and you probably should be, the garden center (or local co-op) in your town will be able to send your soil in to a lab to get more detailed results. All you have to do is take a soil sample to their store. Call first to make sure they offer this service and then head on in to get this important step taken care of. Keep in mind that this method is a bit more expensive, but well worth it.
How to Pull the Soil Samples Yourself
Dig down to about 3 inches and take a total of about 10 to 15 samples throughout your lawn. Remove any thatch or live plant material. Then, mix all the samples together in a bucket to make one sample. If you’ve got two very different types of soil in your lawn, you can split it into two different samples.
After You See the Results
Your local garden center or co-op will help you read the results, generally, the pH will come back in one of three ways, which are listed below:
1. Acidic – soil pH less than 7.0 – apply lime at recommended rate IF your soil pH is below 6.5.
If lime is recommended:
• Follow the recommended rates exactly. Never over-apply.
• Pelleted lime will work the fastest to change your soil pH.
• Apply lime after soil aerification if possible – this will increase the speed of pH change.
Things to know about lime:
• It won’t change your pH overnight. Give it some time to work.
• It doesn’t take the place of fertilizer.
2. Neutral – soil pH of 7.0 – If your soil is in the 6.5 – 7.3 range, you normally won’t need to do anything – your lawn will grow well with a pH in this range.
3. Alkaline – technically any reading higher than 7.0 – If your pH is 7.3 or higher, then the product of choice to lower your pH is sulfur.
Your best option is to work with a local, independent garden center. Why? They know the soils in your area. They’re trained in this area of expertise. And their livelihood depends on satisfied customers. Take advantage of them. You’ll be glad you did.
There you have it. Make sure you know your soil pH. It’s the foundation for a beautiful, healthy lawn. A soil test is cheap and easy and helps you to make decisions with confidence.