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What's Under Your Soil?

Getting a Soil Test

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To improve your soil, you need to understand what you have in order to apply the right soil amendments. The best way to test your soil is to send a sample to a Cooperative Extension Service (CSREES) (usually located at or affiliated with a state university) or commercial soil laboratory (check out the print or online Yellow Pages under “Laboratories—Testing” for commercial soil-testing labs).  The best time to test soil…

Amend soil

Step 3: Amend the Soil

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This is your best opportunity to add amendments such as fertilizer, organic matter, and lime or sulfur.  Use a soil test to determine the best amendments for your particular soil. The best way to test your soil is to send a sample to a Cooperative Extension Service (CSREES), which is usually located at or affiliated with a state university, or to a commercial soil tester.    

soil_sample

Step 3. Adjust Your Soil’s pH

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It is best to test your own soil, or obtain test results from a professional testing service, before applying any amendments. If your soil test shows that the soil pH is low, add lime according to the test recommendations.  If you did your own pH test, see the table to determine how much lime to apply. If you are unsure of your test results, be conservative.  Too much of an…

Fertilizer Guidelines

Step 4. Add Nutrients

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Use a slow-release fertilizer, and avoid putting down more fertilizer than you need. Adding too much nitrogen can cause rapid growth and a thinning of plant cell walls, which makes grass more susceptible to disease. The excess fertilizer may also leach and eventually find its way into waterways, polluting them. Tested Soil When restoring a lawn, apply the fertilizer as recommended by the results of your soil test. Untested Soil If you…

Planting Your Lawn

Step 5: Planting Your New Lawn

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There are four methods to planting a new lawn: Sod, Seed, Sprigs, and Plugs. Sod Apply a starter fertilizer high in phosphorus, such as 2:1:1 or 1:1:1 ratio, then lightly water the area.  Have the pallets of sod delivered to a shady spot if possible and begin work immediately upon delivery of your order.  Sod can go bad quickly, especially if it heats up or dries out.  If you cannot…

Compost

Step 5. Increase Organic Matter and Microbes

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Applying fertilizer will not help if your soil does not contain an adequate population of microbes; you need billions of these microscopic organisms per handful of soil.  Your soil must contain 2- to 5-percent organic material to have a thriving microbe population.  Microbes not only digest grass clippings, dead grass roots, and old stems, they make nutrients available to living grass plants.  A top-dressing of compost mixed with topsoil followed…

What's Under Your Soil?

Work on the Down Low to Improve What’s on Top

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Horticulturists agree that time spent improving what is happening below the surface of a lawn greatly reduces the time needed to maintain what is on top of it.  The ideal soil for grass meets five requirements: 1) it is slightly acidic; 2) it contains an adequate supply of nutrients; 3) it allows for deep root growth; 4) it supports a thriving population of beneficial microbes, and 5) it retains adequate…

Amend soil

What is a Soil Amendment?

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Adding a soil amendment, also called a soil conditioner, helps improve plant growth and health.  The type of amendment or amendments added depends on the current soil composition, the climate, and the type of plant.  Some of the various amendments include: Lime (makes soil less acidic) Fertilizers for plant nutrients (i.e. manure, peat, or compost) Materials for water retention (i.e. clay, shredded bark, or vermiculite) Gypsum (releases nutrients and improves…