Finding out as much as you can about your soil will help you make informed decisions about what the soil will need in order to provide a nutrient rich environment for grass, plants, and shrubs. Knowing about your soil will also prevent you from buying flowers and plants that will not survive in the type of soil you have.
When testing the soil, you should keep the following in mind:
Soil type pH of soil
These are the two components, you as the future lawn care expert, should be concerned with. Other components such as rocky soil you will need to worry about down the road.
You can very easily test your soil type. Gather a few small handfuls of soil and place it into a mason jar or other glass container that has a lid. Add a cup of water and shake. (Put the lid on first). After you are done shaking the jar, let it sit overnight.
There are four basic soil types:
Both clay and silt soil types are the sign of poor drainage techniques. Sandy soil is the result of the soil not getting enough water. Loam soil is the ideal combination of the other three types of soil. This is a lawn care person’s dream come true because most flowers and plants will thrive in this soil.
After letting your sample sit overnight, you will notice that the soil has separated into different levels that look a lot like parfait. Sand will be at the bottom, silt is next, and clay is at the top. If all of your layers seem the same size, get down on your knees and thank the lawn gods, because you have LOAM!
If one layer appears larger than the other layers, then you have that type of soil.
pH of Soil
There are three levels on the pH scale that your soil can fall under regardless of the type of soil it is:
acidic below 7
alkaline (base) above 7
These numbers represent the pH levels on a scale of 1-14.
You should know the pH of your soil for several reasons. These can include:
knowing the right types of plants and flowers to purchase
so you can save existing plants and flowers
you will know which chemicals to use and how often
if there are any harmful chemicals in your soil
what you can do to help you soil
Since different plants can grow in different pH levels, you will want your soil to be as close to neutral as possible. This way, you will have more variety in terms of the kinds of plants and flowers to use in your yard. This will save you money and effort when looking for plants.
But how can you test the pH level of your soil?
Well, there are three ways to find out your soils pH level:
home test purchased at garden supply store
use an old-fashioned mixtures of soil and vinegar and soil and baking soda
send a soil sample to a lab
Depending on your time, interest, and willingness to play in the soil, so to speak, you should choose the option that is best for you.
Home test purchased at garden supply store – While these tests can yield results in a few minutes, these tests can be expensive. If you are fascinated with your soil and would to really like to experiment, then this is the option for you.
If you work all week and the last thing you want to do is gather soil samples, then you should check out some other option.
Old-fashioned mixtures – This soil test is for the truly adventurous. But it is also the least expensive and will give you a rough estimate of the pH level of your soil.
Gather two samples of soil and place them in separate glass jars. You should fill the jars about 1/3 full of soil. Next add water to both to create mud, like you did when you were determining the type of soil in your yard. Next, add a tablespoon of baking soda to one jar and a tablespoon of vinegar to the other. If the jar with the vinegar begins to fizz, then you have acidic soil. If the jar with the baking soda begins to fizz, then you have alkaline soil. If neither jar begins to fizz, then you have neutral soil.
This is a good activity to do with the kids or to make the kids do on their own.
Send a soil sample to a lab – Many universities and county land offices will analyze your soil and send you a detailed report within a few weeks. If you are opting to go this route, be sure to plan in advance because you may miss the planting season.
Sending samples is usually not too costly and you will learn everything you didn’t care to know about your soil and them some. These reports are as detailed as they come.
Retesting the soil
If you receive news that your soil is too acidic or alkaline, you will have to take measures that including liming and adding nutrients in order to get the soil as close to neutral as possible.
Each year, you should have your soil tested in order to make the necessary adjustments.
Terry Blackburn. Internet Marketing Consultant, living in South Shields in the North-East of England. Author and Producer of blog www.lawnsurgeon.blogspot.com. Author of "Your Perfect Lawn," a 90 Page eBook devoted to Lawn Preparation, Lawn Care and Maintenance. Find it at www.lawnsurgeon.com
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