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How To Test Lawn Soil Quality

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Soil Testing For Other Elements

Lawn Soil Sample Analysis & Quality Testing – Lawn Master

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs always soil test for phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and soil pH. However manganese, zinc and organic matter tests are also available for a fee.

Manganese soil tests: The availability of manganese is greatly determined by soil acidity. There is an equation that combines soil pH with manganese and therefore is used to determine a manganese soil test value. Soil tests can be unreliable if not adjusted for pH. Manganese toxicity can occur in very wet soils rarely is there a deficiency in turf. Poor aeration causes an increase in the availability of manganese.

Zinc soil tests: The availability of zinc is highly dependent on soil acidity. There is an equation that combines soil pH with zinc and therefore is used to determine a zinc soil test value.

Organic matter tests: These tests are not helpful in determining requirements for nitrogen fertilization.

Micronutrient soil tests: Plant tissue analysis is done in several laboratories for several micronutrients. OMAFRA only tests for manganese and zinc.

Nitrogen soil tests: At the present time there are no known nitrogen soil tests. The nitrate form of nitrogen, which is most available to crops, is very difficult to determine what proportion of soil organic nitrogen that will become mineralized and available for crops. The OMAFRA nitrogen recommendations are based on the intensity of turf management desired e.g. low, medium or high maintenance use.

Select The Proper Test

Several different soil tests are available at the Extension Soil, Water, and Forage Testing Laboratory. These include tests for routine nutrients, micronutrients, boron, detailed salinity, lime requirement, texture and organic matter. After taking the soil sample, select the appropriate test to obtain the desired information.

The routine test determines the soil pH, salinity, nitrates , and levels of the primary nutrients available to plants. The routine test will provide the basic N-P-K fertilizer recommendation for selected crops. This test meets most application needs.

The micronutrient test estimates the levels of zinc , iron , manganese and copper in the soil that are available to plants. Conduct this test for specialty crops, in soils with high pH on which corn or sorghum is being grown, or to provide general guidelines for troubleshooting deficiencies.

The boron test determines the level of water extractable boron in the soil. Conduct the test where clover, alfalfa or other legumes are grown on sandy soils or when soils are being irrigated and water quality is of concern.

The lime requirement determines the amount of lime needed to raise the soil pH to a desired level. This determination is needed on very acidic or acidic soils where alfalfa or other legumes are grown.

When Should You Test

It is a good idea to sample a lawn or turf area in the spring or early fall, says Friedericks. This will allow time to make the fertilizer and lime applications either in the spring as needed or to use the results from the fall sample to plan for the year ahead.

  • Chill out. Follow the recommendations from the soil pH testing report, but be patient. It could take a year or more to see the results of a lime application, for instance.
  • Split the application. Spread the recommended application into two or three applications over a couple of months. Water the lime into the soil.
  • Season accordingly. Also split nitrogen applications over the spring and summer to avoid leaching loss and to keep the grass healthy. Apply phosphorus in the spring to help establish a strong well-rooted plant. Applying some of the potassium in the fall can also help the grass create a good store of energy in the roots to improve overwintering.
  • Its a do-over. Keep on top of any problems after the initial test. Experts recommend that you take a soil sample and test soil pH every three to four years.
  • Dont soak the samples. Dig your soil samples when it is neither too wet nor too dry, so you get a representative sample.

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How To Read A Fertilizer Bag

All fertilizers registered for sale are required to be analyzed for their plant nutrient content and display the results on the bag: for example, 30-5-10. In this instance, the numbers refer to the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus pentoxide and potassium oxide, but simply are expressed as N, P and K.

A 35-pound bag of fertilizer with this analysis would have 30% N , and 5% and 10% of the other two materials, respectively. Often the single element of nitrogen is sold as Ureaform, with an analysis of 46% nitrogen, and would show up on the bag as 46-0-0.

In North Dakota, the soil often is quite alkaline , resulting in the tie-up of a particular element, iron . When the usual fertilization practices dont green up the lawn to full potential, the problem may be an iron deficiency, characterized bya yellowing of the turf.

In that case, look for a fourth number on the bag following potassium to indicate iron content, generally 3% to 5%, and usually combined with sulfur as iron sulfate.

Although Earth has more than 100 elements, only 14 mineral nutrients are required universally for plants to grow and produce fruit or seed. They are listed below with their chemical symbols:

nitrogen , phosphorus , potassium , sulfur , calcium , magnesium , zinc , copper , manganese , boron , molybdenum , iron , chloride , nickel .

Soil Structure And Tilth

How to Test Lawn Soil pH Level

When the soil is neither too wet nor too dry, dig a hole 6 to 10 inches deep. Separate an intact section about the size of a soup can and break it apart with your fingers. Determine whether the soil is cloddy, powdery, or granular. Ideally, your soil should be made up of different sized crumbs that will hold their shape under slight pressure. Crumbs or aggregates, as soil scientists call them that break apart only with difficulty mean your soil is too hard.

Why It’s Important

“Soil rich in organic matter tends to form relatively round aggregates, which leads to porosity,” says Tom Thompson, Ph.D., a professor of soil science, also at the University of Arizona. Open, porous soils allow the free movement of water and oxygen, he explains, so plants can develop strong, healthy roots.

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How To Test Soil Ph

No amount of care will make your lawn and garden healthy and abundant if you have poor soil. The key to a healthy foundation for your landscape is understanding the make-up of your soil from the ground up.

Basic do-it-yourself soil test kits are an inexpensive and easy way to determine if your soil is missing vital nutrients. Or, for a small fee, your local Cooperative Extension Service will test your soil for you. Either way, youll learn which soil amendments you’ll need for your lawn, vegetables and flowers.

Soil Testing For Home Lawns And Gardens

  • Joseph Heckman, Extension Specialist in Soil Fertility

Soil testing can provide information about how to enhance the beauty and productivity of a lawn, landscape planting, or vegetable garden. Whether your goal is a plush, green lawn or a large harvest of vegetables, soil fertility testing is the place to start. It helps by determining a soil’s need for lime and fertilizer. Regular soil tests are also a part of a sound environmental management plan for your home and garden. Proper soil and fertility management will reduce the potential for water contamination from fertilizers. By knowing the plant nutrition needs of your lawn and gardens, you can prevent the overapplication of fertilizers, which may result in excess nutrients reaching streams or groundwater.

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Environmental Concepts 1662 Professional Soil Test Kit

The Environmental Concepts 1662 Professional Soil Test Kit is a top-rated kit that comes in a durable carrying case so it is easy to transport around your yard while you test your garden. The Environmental Concepts comes with a comprehensive instruction booklet that helps you determine what is the best way to use your kit and find out how to get the best use out of your soil.

The Environmental Concepts Soil Test kit can give you accurate and fast results with readings that you need to get the most out of your soil to nurture the plants that you want. The kit is also great for a professional or in a classroom. It is also an affordable and effective solution to your gardening needs.

This is definitely a kit that customers love due to its ease of use and its high accuracy levels. When you purchase an Environmental Concepts Soil Test kit, you know you are buying a long-lasting product that will be accurate every time. Due to its consistency and durable construction, the Environmental Concepts Soil Test kit is a popular product for consumers.

Pros

  • Tests are easy to conduct
  • Easy to use and provide quick results
  • Comes with an instructional booklet
  • Fun to use with kids too

Cons

  • Plastic filtration device splits at the seam
  • Plunger system is hard to use
  • Chemical test, may not ideal for gardeners

Importance Of Soil Ph

How to do a SOIL TEST | Improve your Lawn NOW!!

pH stands for potential hydrogen. It refers to the excessive amount of hydrogen ions that block exchange sites in the soil and prevent minerals and nutrients from being absorbed by the grass.

The pH level of the soil is vital to growing lush, green lawns. On a scale of 1 to 14, a pH of 1 is very acidic and a pH of 14 is very alkaline , while a pH reading of 7 is neutral. Lawns grow best in a soil that is slightly acidic to neutral .

Even small changes in pH reading can mean big changes for the lawn grass plant because the pH scale is logarithmic. This means that a pH reading of 5 is 1o times more acidic than a pH reading of 6 and 100 times more acidic than a pH reading of 7, and so on.

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Test For Acid/alkaline Soil With Household Materials

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Most plants have a preference for the degree of acidity or alkalinity in the soil, which is measured by a pH scale that ranges from 0 to 14 . Most garden soil across North America is naturally slightly acidic, falling in the 6.0 to 7.0 range and the vast majority of plants do fairly well in this range. But if you have soil that falls outside this range, you may find that you have trouble growing garden plants, vegetables, or even lawn grass.

And there are some trees, shrubs, and flowerssuch as hawthorne, lilac, and lavenderthat prefer a more alkaline soil than this. There are also some acid-lovers, such as azalea shrubs, spruce trees, and camellias, that like much more acidic soil.

A first step for new gardeners, or those seeking to grow new, unfamiliar plants, is to test the soil. It is possible to test soil pH by taking a soil sample and sending it away to a lab for analysis, or by using a pricey test kit you purchase. But a simple DIY test will give you immediate results and is easy to assemble and use. The whole process will take just 15 minutes or less. The results aren’t as precise as a laboratory test, but it will give you a ballpark idea if your soil is acidic or alkaline. An extreme reaction in either direction tells you that you may need to amend your soil to bring it into an ideal pH range for the plants you want to grow.

What Is Soil Ph

Soil pH is a way to measure the amount of acidity or alkalinity in your lawn, garden soil or anything else. It is measured in pH units on a scale from 0 to 14. Extreme acidity is at the low end of the scale, extreme alkalinity is at the top end. Soil at the midpoint, number 7, is neutral soil, neither acidic nor alkaline.

The p in pH stands for potential. The H is for hydrogen. While the science of pH gets complicated, everyone is familiar with things that are more or less acidic. Pure water is a neutral 7. Materials such as baking soda are alkaline. Alkalines have less hydrogen ion concentration than pure water, and much less than acidic items such as orange juice.

So pH can be defined as the level of hydrogen ion activity in a substance, including soil.

You may have naturally acidic or alkaline soil. There are many localized exceptions, but as a general rule, soils in the Eastern and Southern United States tend to be acidic. The Midwest tends to be more neutral, while soils in the Southwest and West tend toward alkalinity. The level of acidity originates from three main sources: rain, microbial activity, and nitrogen fertilizers.

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The Soil Analysis Report

The soil analysis report should come in the mail about 10 days to 3 weeks after submitting the soil sample to be tested. For faster results, some labs are set up for viewing reports online. Check with the lab or extension office to see if they offer that service. Click here for easy instructions on how to collect a soil sample.

Understanding the soil analysis report can be difficult. The testing labs use industry terminology to describe the results without any explanation as to what the terms mean.

This page should give you a much better understanding of what is on a soil test sheet. You will probably still have a lot of questions, however. Most labs will provide a phone number or email to contact the lab supervisor. After reviewing this page you will be able to discuss the lab results more intelligently when you call. That is a big advantage.

Does Soil Testing Measure Nitrogen

Soil Testing

Here is the surprise. Most standard soil tests do not measure the level of nitrogen!

The reason is quite simple. By the time you collect the soil sample, take it to the lab, and they analyze it, the level of nitrogen in the soil has changed so much that any reported value is meaningless. Remember, nitrogen is always being converted to other forms, especially a gas, and these changes take place quite quickly.

Standard soil testing does not measure nitrogen.

Farmers do require a nitrogen test. What they do is take a soil sample and freeze it right away. They take it to the lab frozen, and the lab keeps it frozen until it is tested. This will provide a correct nitrogen value. Home owners rarely have this test performedit is complicated and more costly.

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Which Plants Are You Growing

In order for the lab to provide you with NPK fertilizer recommendations, they will ask you to specify the type of plant you are growing. Each type of plant has an optimum level of soil nutrients that will produce maximum growth. This works well for farmers. They might have 100 acres, of say corn, and they can fertilize specifically for corn. As a home gardener you probably grow 100 different types of perennials, shrubs and trees. It would be impossible to fertilize specifically for each type of plant.

To overcome this problem labs will provide fertilizer recommendations for general plant requirements. I guess that is better than nothing?

Soil Quality Test Kit

The Soil Quality Test Kit Guide describes procedures for 12 on-farm tests, an interpretive section for each test, data recording sheets, and a section on how to build your own kit. The NRCS does not build or sell soil quality test kits.

For an abbreviated and economical build-your-own Soil Quality Test Bucket and associated Soil Quality Kit – Guides for Educators, visit Soil Quality for Educators.

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Types Of Soil Test Kits

Not all soil test kits are the same. Different products provide different readings and data for you to better understand your soil.

Instant-read probes: These soil testers feature a probe that you push into the soil to get data instantly. The display typically has a dial, and the device usually doesnt require batteries. Most models provide basic information such as light exposure, pH, and moisture content.

At-home lab test: At-home kits are a great choice for little scientists-to-be or gardeners who are looking for a more hands-on testing option. Most kits include indicator strips that can be used to test soil pH. Some at-home kits also enable you to check the nutrient composition of your soil.

Mail-in lab test: This type of test requires you to take a soil sample and mail it to a lab for analysis. There is a waiting period involved, but mail-in results are typically very accurate. Expect to receive data on soil pH and nutrient composition. The results dont include information on light exposure and moisture content, however. Some mail-in kits can also provide you with region-specific planting suggestions and advice on how to remedy any deficiencies in your soil.

Does Water Ph Affect Soil Ph

Lawn Soil pH Test

Soil can be affected by water depending on its texture. Soil particles that are smaller, like clays and clay loams, are more influenced than coarse, sandy soils. Fine-textured soils have a higher number of very small particles called colloids. These colloids are sites where positively charged ions are retained. The ability of soil to retain these ions is called its cation exchange capacity. Ions in the soil solution are exchanged with ions on the colloidal particles. Negative ions in the soil solution have less influence on soil pH. In short, yes, soil can be affected by water pH but it depends on the type and even on how deep the water has managed to penetrate.

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