How do I start? What products do I need? How much fertilizer, lime or compost do I need? What is the very first step to a healthy lawn? Many homeowners believe that a yearly application of lime is needed because his or her landscaper said so, or because that is something we were told by garden centers and manufactures.
You wouldn’t take a prescription medicine without first being prescribed by a doctor. This same rule applies to a lawn or garden. Without knowing what a plant needs, how are we suppose to know how much lime or fertilizer is needed?
What is the first step to a healthy lawn?
The answer is… Soil testing!
The primary goal of soil testing is to provide guidelines for the efficient use of soil amendments. A soil test shows several information such as soil pH, buffer pH, cation exchange capacity and percentage base saturation, micro and macro nutrients, toxic metals and organic matter, among others. Soil tests are very inexpensive, ranging from a $10 to $300. Soil test can be done at your local university or commercial lab.
The best time to do a soil test is early in the spring right after the snow melts. I usually do my soil tests at the end of March. It typically takes a couple of weeks to get the results back from the lab, but it gives me plenty of time to get ready before the plants, and in this case grass starts to really grow. Think of the soil test like a doctor’s physical exam. Do one test every year until the soil is balanced. It is a great way to see if your organic program is working, and it is also a great way for you to learn if your soil have any specific nutrient deficiency.
I do soil tests every season so I can plan how much of a product I need for the entire season. Instead of guessing, and applying unnecessary products, the soil test tells me exactly how much of anything I need. Sometimes just compost is the only thing I need to apply. Sometimes the pH is low. Or just maybe I don’t need to apply anything!
So before you decide to apply fertilizer, lime, or any other product on your lawn and garden, make sure to test your soil.
This is the first step towards a healthy organic yard. Happy soil testing!!