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.
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.
The Ph That Turfgrasses Like
Most lawns and turf grasses thrive at a pH range of between 6.0 and 7.0. PH has an effect on plant growth, and important nutrients for plants tend to be available in soil when the pH is at those levels. With a very low pH there are risks of toxicity for aluminum and manganese as well as interactions between elements that reduce the availability as well, says Friedericks. Highly acidic soil can also directly damage roots.
Also Check: Who Sells Murray Lawn Mower Parts
How To Carry Out A Soil Test
If a sample of your soil needs to be taken, just follow the process below.
One thing to remember when testing your soil is that if you have different soil types or terrains throughout your garden, so make sure you take a separate test from each area.
As I said above, you dont want to apply the wrong fertiliser/amendments to your lawn or end up having to carry our additional tests, being organised will save you time in the long run.
Q: When And How Often Should Soils Be Tested
A: Soils can be tested any time during the year. However, allow enough time for the analysis and for fertilizer and lime application. Lime reacts slowly and, if possible, it should be mixed with the soil two to three months before planting. Generally, fall is the most desirable time to sample because landscapes and gardens are usually dry and easily accessible.
Once medium or high fertility levels are established, lawn and ornamental areas need to be sampled every two to three years.
Vegetable gardens should be sampled every 1 to 2 years.
Don’t Miss: Best Time To Kill Creeping Charlie
Where Can I Get A Soil Test Kit
Soil test sampling kits are available for a fee from most of Rutgers Cooperative Extension’s county offices, which are listed in the blue pages of your telephone book under county government. Kits are also available from the Rutgers Soils Laboratory, located at the Cook College Campus in New Brunswick. Separate soil samples will need to be taken from areas used to grow different types of plants. For example, separate soil test kits should be used for lawn areas and vegetable garden areas. Samples from rhododendron, azalea, and other broadleaf evergreen areas should be kept separate from other shrub areas. Also sample separately areas that have previously received different lime or fertilizer treatments and areas that are noticeably different in plant or soil quality. For further information, visit our web site, njaes.rutgers.edu/soil-testing-lab.
Why Should You Get Your Soil Tested
Only by way of performing soil test services by a qualified lawn expert can you genuinely determine if certain problems with the soil are preventing your lawn from reaching healthy and sustainable growth. Soil testing services for lawns can indicate what steps need to be taken in order to help lawns grow and thrive. The soil test service results develop future lawn care treatments, the right composition of fertilizer to use, and more. Even for lawns that seem to be growing well, lawn soil testing services can often predict when future problems may crop up. In this sense, a soil testing service for lawns can act as a prevention tool and not just as a way to diagnose current problems.
When Should I Sample
Submit samples for planting and gardening projects several weeks before you plan to plant. This will allow plenty of time for you to get the results back and amend the soil before planting.
Soil samples can be submitted for testing any time of the year. Results are usually ready within a few weeks and are posted online. Winter and spring are the labs busiest seasons. Samples submitted during these times may take longer to process. Check current processing times.
Soil Testing Offered By Ut Extension
Ready your garden for spring by learning what is in your soil. The University of Tennessee Extension offers an affordable basic test so gardeners can learn the proper amount of lime and fertilizer needed for lawns and gardens. Heres how to get your soil tested:
- Get a soil sample box from your countys UT Extension agent, or use a sandwich bag with a zip seal.
- Fill the box or bag with at least one cup of soil collected from several areas of the yard or garden. Dig down six inches for your sample.
- Enclose a check for $15 made out to the University of Tennessee, and send the package or deliver it to the Soil, Plant and Pest Center, 5201 Marchant Drive, Nashville, Tennessee, 37211. Your soil will go through a nine-step process in the lab and will be checked for potassium, phosphorus and other elements.
Your report should arrive in a week or so by email or mail. It will show the phosphorus and potassium levels you want both to be high. The report will make recommendations for amending the soil to give you a proper balance for a productive crop.
You May Like: Can I Fertilize My Lawn Every 2 Weeks
How Do I Submit Samples
Boxes and forms for sampling are available from any Cooperative Extension center . During the free season , Chatham County Master Gardener Volunteers will deliver completed soil samples dropped off at the Chatham County Agriculture and Conference Center once a month. During the peak fee season , completed samples should be mailed to the N.C. Department of Agricultures soil testing lab in Raleigh, whose address can be found on the soil sample box and submission form. .
Soil Test : The Percolation Test
It is also important to determine whether you have drainage problems or not. Some plants, such as certain culinary herbs, will eventually die if their roots stay too wet. To test your soils drainage:
If the water takes more than four hours to drain, you have poor drainage.
The Spruce / Jayme Burrows
Also Check: How To Kill Creeping Charlie In Lawn
What Will I Find Out From My Soil Sample
Home Lawn and Garden Soil Test Mailer results will determine your soil type, pH, level of organic matter and provide you with a reading for nutrients including phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium. The results will also provide a recommendation for nitrogen and will determine how much lime should be applied based upon the type of plant you specify.
Soil probe used for taking soil samples. Photo credit: Rebecca Finneran, MSUE
Abcs Of Ph: Why How And When To Soil
. How do you grow and manage a healthy lawn? Well, a lot of the dirty work lies beneath.
Any healthy lawn begins with a well-balanced soil at its base. But before you start adding fertilizer, lime or other soil amendments, dig in and send a soil sample for a pH soil test.
Soil testing provides information about the soil that is necessary to manage the soil for good plant growth, says Jim Friedericks, Director of Outreach and Education at AgSource Laboratories. Its like the sensor code reader used by a car mechanic. The warning light may or may not be flashing, but if you plug in the sensor code reader you will find out what is going on with the car and can plan to fix it.
Recommended Reading: How To Get Rid Of Violets
How Long Before I Receive My Test Results
You should receive test results in about two weeks. The lab analysis takes three to five working days from the time samples are received. Remember, MSU recommendations are in pounds of nutrient needed, not pounds of fertilizer to be applied!
Your results will also include an area calculator that helps you determine how many square feet you need to apply fertilizer.
Determining Your Soils Nutrient Needs
A soil test is a valuable tool in assessing the nutrient needs and nutritional balance of your lawn. By determining the soil nutrient levels, and pH, soil tests allow you to determine how much fertilizer and lime to put down. The University of Massachusetts Soil Testing Lab provides the following information.
- to save money and conserve energy by applying only the amount of fertilizer needed.
- to protect the environment from contamination by runoff and leaching of excess fertilizers.
- to identify soils contaminated with lead or other heavy metals.
- to improve the soils nutritional balance.
- to aid in the diagnosis of plant culture problems.
When to sampleSampling can be done at any time but if pH adjustments are necessary, test as early as possible prior to planting. Avoid sampling soils that have very recently been fertilized.
How to sample
Don’t Miss: Revive Lawn Lowes
How Do I Collect A Soil Sample For Testing
To get the most accurate results:
- Collect your soil sample from the area of the soil where the plant roots will grow. About 6 to 8 inches deep is good for most garden plants.
- Remove any roots, grass or mulch from the sample for the most accurate test result.
- On a budget? Collect soil from different areas of the garden and mix together into one soil sample. This will give you an overall idea of your garden soils.
- Trying to problem solve or fine-tune? Collect soil from individual garden areas and test each area separately. Make sure to name your samples and make a map so you can match the results with your garden!
Best Home Soil Tests Available
According to recent research only a very small percentage of homeowners have carried out a soil / plant test. The main reason is that people feel they know what grows well in their garden, and therefore there is no need to spend time and money on testing their soil. However, there are many people that use guess-work, true sometimes is works, other times it doesnt, but we have all been in a situation where we are wondering why our neighbours plants and grass look so amazing and we simply do not have the same results. Sometimes we wish the fence was higher and we were not able to compare our results, that simply shows that we are not at the same level as them! Well not anymore
There are 2 simple ways of testing your soil. Firstly, you can purchase HOME TESTING DIY KITS or you can send your soil to a LABORATORY for more detailed analysis.
Home Testing Kits are cheap and readily available from places like Amazon. There are kits that vary slightly but in general they will measure the pH value of your soil, moisture, sunlight and temperature. Below I have included the most popular and highly rated kit from Amazon. The operation is very easy, you simply insert the provided sensor probe into your soil about 5 to 10 centimetres deep, wait for a few minutes and then will see the reading on the scale dial. This is a very easy and fast way of testing your soil and understanding what is going on underneath, and what nutrients are needed to achieve best lawn results.
Also Check: Mower Deck Leveling Gauge Lowe\’s
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.
Reading Your Soil Test
Your soil test will report ranges and numbers for various nutrients extracted from the soil. Plants can use only certain forms of nutrients, which account for a small portion of the total amount of that nutrient measured by your soil test. So how do you interpret the measurements? Below are some of the more important results to review for lawns soils.
- If your pH is below 5.6, and you have weeds or moss invading your lawn: Add wood ash or wood ash tea to raise the pH to a more desirable level.
- If your pH is above 7.6, and you have weeds invading your lawn: Apply compost or pine needle mulches to slowly lower the pH.
- Avoid lime, gypsum, or sulfur, as they can be toxic to microorganisms, leach out other important nutrients, and they are mined, non-renewable resources.
Calcium and Magnesium
Balanced soil has between 65-80% Calcium and 10-13% Magnesium , which are both salts.If your Magnesium is a lot higher than 10-13%, and/or your Calcium a lot lower than 70-80%, soils can become very compacted and grass may not thrive. How to adjust calcium and magnesium levels:
How to increase phosphorus:
Read Also: How Much To Pay Someone To Mow Lawn
Environmental Concepts Ma10 Moisture Analyzer
The Environmental Concepts MA10 Moisture Analyzer Meter has a dual probe system that helps you get accurate readings every time. It automatically measures the moisture in your soil so you will always know what you are working with. The red, green and blue display show readings from 1 to 10 and they are very bright and easy to see.
The EC meter does not use batteries and it is very simple to use. It even comes with information on how to measure and analyze moisture correctly for over 150 plants.
Gardeners and agriculturalists will benefit from using this moisture analyzer and your plants and flowers, fruits and veggies, trees and shrubs, grass and lawn will produce a bountiful harvest and be fresh and flourishing.