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. Lawn soil pH 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.
Your soil conditions may be naturally acidic or alkaline. 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.
- Rain. Rain is intrinsically acidic, says Friedericks. It carries with it a certain amount of nitric, sulfuric, and carbonic acid absorbed from the atmosphere. Your location makes a difference as well.
All of which translates to: If you live in a rainy area, your soil may tend to be acidic.
What Will A Soil Test Measure
A good soil test will evaluate the basic texture of your soilsand, silt, or clayand determine its aciditythe pH level. The available amounts of nutrients, including magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, will be calculated and recommendations will be made for raising each to the correct levels for optimum plant growth. Armed with this knowledge, you can make the proper improvements. Too much of a good thing can be just as harmful as too little so let your soil test be your guide.
What Will Soil Testing Tell Me About My Soil
One of the most important things the soil test measures is soil pH, or how acidic or basic your soil is. Soil pH levels in North Carolina range anywhere from 3.5 to 8.0 or higher. Most ornamental plants, vegetables, fruits, and lawns prefer to grow in soils where the pH is 5.5 to 6.5, though acid-loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, gardenias, loropetalum, and blueberries prefer a soil pH between 5.0 and 5.5.
Soil testing is the only way to know if your soil is too acidic, if you need to add lime to raise pH, and if so how much. Many people apply lime unnecessarily, which can raise soil pH too high, resulting in poor plant growth. Soil test results will also tell you which nutrients you need to apply for the type of plants you are growing. If nutrients are needed, they can be supplied with either natural or synthetic fertilizers.
Soil test results will not determine if there are diseases or herbicide residues in your soil, or if poor drainage or soil compaction are causing plant problems. If you suspect these issues contact your local Cooperative Extension office for advice.
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Lawn Soil Testing Advice
Last modified on December 26th, 2020 by
In order for your lawn to thrive throughout the year, you need to understand whats going on underneath the grass. And in order to do this accurately, you need to carry out a soil test.
Simple soil tests will show you how acidic your soil is, which nutrients are most prominent, which nutrients are least prominent and if you should be adding any soil amendments.
All this information will not only help you to ensure proper grass growth and health, but it will also prevent you from accidentally damaging your lawn, such as applying the wrong fertiliser / material.
In this post Ill be explaining everything you need to know about testing your soil, and how easy the process really is
How To Take An Accurate Soil Sample
Knowing your starting point is the only way to know you’re feeding your lawn or garden what it really needs. Soil testing provides this information, but test results are only as good as the samples you give to the testing laboratory. By taking accurate samples, you can target your lawn or garden’s specific needs.
Here are five steps to take an accurate soil sample:
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What Do Garden Soil Tests Measure
Garden soil tests generally inspect some or all of the following characteristics:
- Soil Texture
- Soil Nutrients
- Soil Organic Matter
- Soil Heavy Metals
Soil samples should be taken from several spots on your site and sent to a reputable soil-testing lab, such as those found at agricultural universities. You will discover your soils organic matter content, its pH, and levels of essential nutrients including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Its also wise to ask for a heavy metal analysis, especially if you will be planting edible natives.
Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, by Arthur R. Kruckeberg & Linda Chalker-Scott.
Testing for cation exchange capacity and soluble salts is also common. Further soil analysis can also be done for other chemicals, including helpful micronutrients or potentially harmful contaminants . In-depth particle size analysis is also available at many soil laboratories for a higher fee .
Detailed on-site soil analysis in available but uncommon, and includes inspection of soil structure, compaction, percolation, soil life, general plant health, and elevation of water table. Testing of plant tissue of plants growing in the soil is also sometimes added to a site investigation plan.
What Soil Sampling Tools Do I Need
A soil sample is best taken with a soil probe or an auger. Samples should be collected in a clean plastic pail or box. These tools help ensure an equal amount of soil to a definite depth at the sampling site. However, a spade, knife, or trowel can also be used to take thin slices or sections of soil.
Push the tip of a spade deep into the soil and then cut a 1/2-inch to 1-inch slice of soil from the back of the hole. Be sure the slice goes 6 inches deep and is fairly even in width and thickness. Place this sample in the pail. Repeat five or six times at different spots over your garden. Thoroughly mix the soil slices in the pail. After mixing thoroughly, take out about 1-1/2 cup of soil and mail or, preferably, take it to your University Extension center. You can also mail or deliver it to the MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory in Columbia or at the Delta Research Center in Portageville. It is important that you fill out the soil sample information form completely and submit it with your sample. By indicating on the form the crops you wish to grow, you can get specific recommendations.
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Identify The Areas Of Your Lawn With Similar Characteristics
Your lawn is diverse and likely doesnt have the same chemistry across the board. Identify areas where the characteristics are the same and take samples from each of these areas.
Some examples are:
- Shady Areas
- Areas where youve had grass problems in the past
Youll need to take samples from each of these areas to get the best results. Clearly label your bags and note where each sample came from for your records.
Dig down to 4 inches in the soil and make a small hole.
Scrape a sample from the edge of the hole, remove roots and organic matter.
Place the soil in your plastic bowl or bucket once its clean.
Dig in a zig-zag pattern and select 2-3 other places in this area to dig to ensure you get a good mix. When you have 3-4 samples from each area, mix them together.
Let the soil dry out if its damp.
Fill the mixed sample in your soil test bag up to the fill line.
Clean out your plastic container and wipe off that trowel to repeat this procedure in testing the other key areas of your lawn.
Package up your bags of soil and send them off to the lab for testing.
Phase In Ph With A Professional
Whether youre familiar with pH testing or youre a newbie, the topic is so extensive that youll never learn it all. When you get those results, figuring out how to best fertilize your soil can make your head spin. However, if you want a green, healthy lawn, finding out your soils pH must be done. But you dont have to do it alone.Time is a precious commodity, so dont spend yours worrying about your lawn care. Local, experienced, highly rated professionals in your area can take the load off your shoulders without costing an arm and a leg. Call or click now for a free, no-obligation quote.
Main Image Credit: sherez / Adobe Stock
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How Does The Lab Test My Garden Soil
Soil testing laboratories test soil in a number of different ways. Many soil analyses involve weighing the sample, looking at it, and/or mixing the soil with a particular chemical solution to see what happens. Labs typically purchase equipment and get certifications for the tests which are in demand in their area. All labs dont do all kinds of soil tests.
Most agricultural and horticultural labs estimate soil texture by manual inspection instead of running the sample through a detailed particle size distribution test. Particle size distributions are generally reserved for construction applications, and are not commonly used for horticultural soils. Manual inspection by an experienced lab technician is generally adequate to classify the soil by texture.
Texture analysis can be estimated using a finger test . As a rule of thumb, a soil must comprise at least 45 percent sand to have a sandy character, at least 40 percent silt to have a silty character, or at least 20 percent clay to have a clayey texture.
Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, by Arthur R. Kruckeberg & Linda Chalker-Scott.
Elemental nutrients are generally tested by mixing the soil with a reactive chemical solution, although there are many methods.
Many chemical solutions have been proposed to extract potential forms of P in soils.
Selection of an Appropriate Phosphorus Test for Soils, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
From April November Have Your Soil Tested At No Charge
For questions, contact Matt Jones
Soil testing is the only accurate way to know if you should add nutrients to your lawn or garden.
Healthy soil is the foundation of successful gardening. The first step to cultivating healthy soil is having your soil tested.
Collecting soil samples only takes a few minutes and has many benefits. It can help you save money in your lawn, garden and landscape, can result in healthier plants by telling you which nutrients are already in your soil and which you need to add, and can protect water quality by preventing unnecessary fertilizer applications.
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Why To Get Your Garden Soil Tested
Get your garden soil tested so you actually know whats out there! Do you know the ballpark percentages of sand, silt, and clay in your soil? What about the percentage of organic matter? And what about the pH of the soil, its drainage characteristics, and the available nutrients?
My dad always said that its better to plant a $1 tree in a $10 hole than the other way around. But why? Lets look at why spending your money on a soil test is perhaps a more important investment than the actual plants you buy.
Having soil tested at a laboratory is always recommended. This should be considered a basic cost of starting any urban agriculture project. The cost will depend on the size of the proposed site, the number of soil samples needed, and the type of analysis conducted by the lab.
California Community Gardens, School Gardens, and Urban Farms, by Rachel Surls, University of California Cooperative Extension
Beyond understanding how the soil will support plant life, its also prudent to do what you can to ensure the soil is safe for gardening activities. Like anything in our environment, soil and groundwater can become contaminated:
How Much Does Garden Soil Testing Cost
The overall cost of soil testing depends on the labs prices, how many samples you submit, and what kind of soil analyses are requested.
A basic garden soil test at college soil lab will often test nutrients, pH, and lead for a fee of about $10-$20 per sample. These labs are generally associated with the local agricultural school or horticultural department of a university. Additional testing and more detailed testing from the school lab will incur additional costs. These tests often take about a month to get results.
Soil testing is generally most expensive at private soil laboratories. A detailed particle size analysis or a nutrient analysis at a private soil lab can be as much as $100 for a single sample. Check prices and confirm availability prior to choosing the lab and taking soil samples.
Soil testing for small and medium-sized community gardens, where the site has no unusual features and no past uses of concern, should cost approximately $200 to $500. If there are many issues of concern, there is a chance the cost of your soil test will increase, so be sure to discuss this with the lab.
Soil and Water Testing Guidelines for Home and Community Gardens, County of Los Angeles Public Health
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To Fix This We Recommend An Acidic Treatment Call A Local Trusted Lawn Care Company To Fix Your Ph Level If Planning On Doing It Yourself Make Sure The Product Is Being Spread At The Proper Rates
Bottom Line: You need a premium soil ph to create and maintain a healthy, lush lawn. To make sure your soil ph is optimal, test it today following the easy-to-do steps above. If your ph level needs to be corrected, call a local trusted lawn care company to make your lawn more enjoyable for your family.
If Soil pH is not your issue see if these other problems could be what is causing trouble in your lawn:
Since 2007, Green Meadow Lawn Care has provided homeowners throughout the greater Tolland, Connecticut area with premium fertilization programs, tick control, mosquito management, seeding & aeration and tree & shrub care.
To speak to our Customer Service Manager, please callDave with any questions. Dave has been in the industry for 30 years and is always happy to help with his expert advice.
How To Perform A Soil Test
When our plants or trees are in trouble, our first instinct is to reach for a hose to hydrate them or lay down fertilizer and hope for new growth.
But problems with plants arent always about whats going on above groundsometimes we have to dig deeper. When the soil isnt in good shape, it can really affect the plants health. In fact, it’s estimated that a whopping 80% of problems with plants can be traced back to unhealthy soil!
Thats why its so important to test your yards soil. A soil test gives you all sorts of valuable information about the best way to care for your plants. Below, find how, and why, to do a soil test.
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What Do The Test Result Numbers Mean
Some labs report soil test values as amounts of available plant nutrients, and others report extractable nutrients that will become available to the plants . Fertilizer rates are given in pounds of actual nutrient to be applied per 1,000 square feet.
The MP555, Soil Sample Information for Lawn and Garden form for MU soil testing laboratories is available online.
Figure 6. A soil test report from MU Soil and Plant Testing Laboratory shows the results of soil analysis and recommends fertilizer and limestone needs to improve plant health and productivity.
Why To Get A Lab Soil Test Instead Of Doing A Diy Soil Test
Soil testing done at laboratories is held to a higher standard than home test kits are. Testing is done at at certified labs with the right equipment following standard testing procedures with your soil sample. Technicians are experienced in testing many different soil types and the lab should have various quality control standards in place.
Laboratory testing methods generally offer a much higher level of accuracy and precision than home test kits are able to provide. The reliability of quality lab tests is one of the main reasons they remain so popular. Soil test kits sold at garden centres are also quite limited in the characteristics they can inspect, and generally dont test for heavy metals or other contaminants.
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Determine Your Type Of Soil
Your soils texture can determine what types of turf can thrive in your yard. Figure out your soil type by grabbing a fistful of soil and squeezing. The soil in your hand should fit one of these descriptions:
- Clay: soils with high clay contents should pack together firmly in your hand. Clay-based soil contains large amounts of potassium, calcium, and magnesiumnutrients important to a plants health. Other particles in clay soil are unable to absorb nutrients, sometimes making it necessary to supplement your soil with organic mulch.
- Loam: this soil sticks together at first, but falls apart if prodded. The ideal soil type, loam-type soil is usually higher in nutrients and boasts good airflow and drainage.
- Sandy: sandy soil does not stick to itself and will fall apart as soon as you loosen your grip. Oxygen easily penetrates sandy soils, preventing plants from forming strong roots. Wetting agents and organic mulches are your best bets for growing non-hardy plants in sandy soils.