How do I start? What do I need to do to have a healthy lawn? What products do I need? How much fertilizer, lime or compost do I need? 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 would not 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?
So, 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 will show 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. Soil test can be done at your local university of commercial lab.
The best time to do a soil test is early in the spring right after the snow melts.
This is the first step towards a healthy lawn.
Soil testing should be the first thing you do before you do anything on your yard. I just received on the mail a postcard from a lawn care chemical company. They already listed the prices and applications needed for my lawn. Their approach is product driven. They supposedly would treat my property the same as any other property. Same products, same applications, same price. What if a lawn doesn’t need to be fertilized (that happens), or what if a lawn doesn’t need to be sprayed for grubs because there are none. When you take a soil sample if will let you know the Organic Matter (O.M.) content. Low O.M. content may indicate compacted soil. Weeds are an indication of poor soil, low Calcium, etc… A soil test will show you the right path to apply whatever is needed instead of guessing.
Now it is a good time to take a soil sample from your yard. Take samples from random spots. Get some soil from the root zone of the plants. Combine those samples into one zip lock bag. The random samples combined in the bag should be around 1 cup of soil.
Some of the testing labs that I would use are:
University of Massachusetts
University of New Hampshire
This week I will be doing soil tests, and while I wait for the results I will be doing some aeration in the next couple of weeks.
Happy soil testing!