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Soil Health - Focus on Feeding the Soil

"Our most important job as vegetable gardeners is to feed and sustain soil life, often called the soil food web, beginning with the microbes. If we do this, our plants will thrive, we'll grow nutritious, healthy food, and our soil conditions will get better each year. This is what is meant by the adage "Feed the soil not the plants."  - Jane Shellenberger

  • The underlying principle adopted by all at recognizes soil as a living, dynamic and ever-so-subtly changing ecosystem.
  • We are committed to advancing programs and products designed to improve and maintain soil health. 

Soil Properties - Structure & Texture

  • Structure is the amount of aggregation and pores in soil. Texture is the proportion of clay and sand particles in soil. 
  • Both affect soil fertility by affecting water movement through soil, root penetration and water logging.  
  • When soil structure and texture are unfavorable for water movement through soil water erosion and waterlogging may be increased.  
  • Soil salinity is a chemical property but can affect soil physical fertility by decreasing the movement of water through the soil. 
  • Good soil structure is one of the major factors for soil health and sustainable soil fertility.  
  • Good soil structure is present when the soil forms stable aggregates or cohesive groups of particles producing pore spaces which encourage root penetration and easy passage of water, nutrients and air.  

Soil Organisms - Why They Are Vital to Soil Health

  • Helps soil to form from original parent rock material.
  • Contributes to the aggregation of soil particles.
  • Enhances cycling of nutrients.
  • Transforms nutrients from one form to another.
  • Assists plants to obtain nutrients from soil.
  • Degrades toxic substances in soil.
  • Causes disease in plants.
  • Minimizing disease in plants.
  • Assists or hinders water penetration into soil.

Organic Matter - #1 Driver of Good Soil Health

  • The number one driver of a healthy soil - Soil Organic Matter.
  • Many things effect soil health, or non-health.  Some are inherent properties such as texture, mineralogy, depth (to bedrock or other restrictive layer), geographical climate (precipitation, temperature), rocks, and land form/aspect.
  • These conditions or properties are quite difficult to change.
  • However, all can be modified to some extent by human manipulation.
  • SOM is what we strive to increase as much as possible because it has so much influence on virtually every other factor, property, or indicator of soil health.
  • If your SOM levels (and biological activity) are high, all other balances (systems, processes, cycles, etc.) seem to "self regulate".

Organic Matter - Benefits of Adding to the Soil

  • Doing so disturbs the physical, chemical and biological balances in the soil.
  • It can change the:
    • Amount of nitrogen that is available to plants
    • The way soil sticks together (soil aggregation)
    • The number and type of organisms present in the soil 
  • Incorporating organic matter into soils can change the amount of nitrogen (and other nutrients) that is available to plants.   
  • Adding organic matter can also increase the activity of earthworms, which in turn can also improve soil aggregation.  
  • If organic matter is retained in the soil, the number of microbes in the soil increases because the microbes can use the organic matter as a source of energy allowing them to grow and multiply.

Soil Structure - Critical for Good Soil Health

  • Physical properties and processes of soil affect soil fertility.
  • Physical soil characteristics important to soil fertility include:
    • Soil structure
    • Soil texture
    • Water repellence.
  • Important physical properties that affect fertility include soil structure and texture.
    • Structure is the amount of aggregation and pores in soil.
    • Texture is the proportion of clay and sand particles in soil.
  • Both affect soil fertility by affecting water movement through soil, root penetration and water logging.
  • When soil structure and texture are unfavorable for water movement through soil water erosion and water logging may be increased.
  • Soil salinity is a chemical property but can affect soil physical fertility by decreasing the movement of water through the soil.
  • Good soil structure is one of the major factors for soil health and sustainable soil fertility.
  • Good soil structure is present when the soil forms stable aggregates or cohesive groups of particles producing pore spaces encouraging root penetration and easy passage of water, nutrients and air.

Watering - What's Enough?

  • Moderation is the key so too little water can be as bad as too much. 
  • If augmenting Mother Nature be sure to apply about an inch of water twice per week. 
  • Plan on watering for about 15-30 minutes to apply an inch. 
  • Be careful – sprinklers dispense water at different rates and in an uneven pattern. 
  • Measure application rates per unit of time by placing shallow containers in the watered area. After 30 minutes retrieve the cans and see how much water has been accumulated. Reach a depth of one inch you’ll have a good idea of the required watering duration.

Watering - What's the Best Time of Day to Water?

  • Running the sprinkler all night sets up perfect conditions for fungal disease to grow. 
  • As summer temperatures and humidity combine to a total of 150 conditions are ideal for disease. 
  • Rule of Thumb – Don’t water after 10:00 AM. 
  • But if the situation demands schedule the sprinkler for 4-7 PM. In the hot afternoon, much of your water can be lost to wind enhanced evaporation. 
  • Reside in the dry southwest water in the evening or night to reduce evaporation. 
  • If not given opportunity to dry the lawn becomes a place where fungal diseases can thrive. 

Grasses: Going Dormant Is Normal

  • During prolonged drought cool-season turf becomes dormant and turns brown. 
  • daily_vs_weekly_wateringDormancy enables energy conservation-enabling survival during drought. 
  • In a dormant state the plant will survive for periods of up to 2 months.
  • When dormant it is important to keep foot traffic to a bare minimum. 
  • Cool-season turf is resilient and will revive when rainfall and cooler temperatures return. 
  • Warm-season grasses also enter into a dormant state - but in the late fall and winter. 
  • Dormancy is not "death" but simply a time when the plant is "resting", a means of the plant coping with unfavorable weather.
  • Once favorable condition return the plant will come out of its "sleep" and with proper care return to its previous green state.

Mowing: Rule #1 - Sharp Blades

  • The quickest way to improve lawn quality and turf health is to mow with a sharp blade.
  • Cutting with a dull blade results in jagged edges at the cut and provides a point where diseases can enter plant.  
  • Sharpen the blade at least three times per growing season
    • Start the year off with a sharp blade (perhaps you can do this when you put the mower away for the winter).
    • Sharpen it again in late spring.
    • Once more in mid-late summer.

Mowing: Rule #2 - Don't Cut Too Much!

  • Use the "1/3rd rule" of mowing.MowerBladeSharpness
  • Never remove more than 1/3rd of the leaf blade at any single mowing.
  • Removing most of the foliage in a cutting shocks the plant.
  • Forces the plant to redirect its food resources from roots and stems to growing new leaves.
  • If the grass has gotten away from you, resist the temptation to scalp it in a single mowing.
  • Instead, slowly drop the mowing height every 2-3 days while returning the turf to its ideal cutting height.

Mowing: Rule #3: Don't Bag Those Clippings

  • Return clippings as often as possible to your turf.
  • Clippings are nothing more than organic fertilizer for your lawn.
  • Follow the 1/3rd rule, you will never produce enough clippings to cause problems with your lawn.

Mowing: When to Stop?

  • sharpen_blade_295231760If environmental conditions, no rain, hot temperatures or a combination of both, cause the grass to stop growing...stop mowing.
  • Continued mowing will cause more stress to the grass plants.
  • Fescue grasses will turn brown under stress conditions and is nothing more then the plants protective response. They will usually recover with adequate moisture.

Plug Aeration - A Must "To Do" in the Fall

  • As a lawn ages, increased soil compaction can occur. 
  • This is a result of foot traffic, sports activities, pets, vehicle traffic and other forces that harden the soil and eliminate pore space in between soil particles.
  • Without this pore space, air and water flow dramatically decrease.
  • Because of this vital microbial activity ceases and the soil begins to die.
  • The result is poor top growth, increased summer stress and die-back, increased erosion, and soil that is pale in color and hard as a rock.

Grass Seed - Certification of Quality in the Bag

  • The Turf and Gardening Store and have put a tremendous amount of research and ebluetagffort into selecting new grass  varieties.
  • These new varieties in our private label blends and mixes are developed to be finer textured, greener, and more tolerant of shade, drought, or punishing sun. 
  • We purchase only the best premium seed and take the steps required to insure our seed carries university field trial proven performance.

Grass Seed - Be Aware Treated vs.Coated

  • When buying a seed that’s been treated with special nutrients vs. being “coated” are you getting the amount of seed stated on the bag? The answer is absolutley not! 
  • Coated seed has weight and consumes space in the bag. 
  • If the seed is treated and the bag states it contains 50 lb. of seed then you actually get 50 pounds of seed – always the case with our seed. 
  • Not so with coated seed where you many get up to 30% less seed per bag. Bottom-line, you are paying for 50lbs. of seed but getting considerably less.

Grass Seed - Base Your Purchase on Information on the Bag

  • Grass seed bag labels list the types and varieties of grass seed in the mix as well as their germination percentage. 
  • Quality seed is considered to have a germination rate of 85% or higher. 
  • Bargain seed often have a lower rate so you’ll have to apply more seed to get the same amount of grass. 
  • There is a tremendous amount of seed in a bag. A small weed seed percentage equates to hundreds of weeds. Weeds equate to more work, more expense, and more time caring for the grass. 
  • Look for the most weed-free grass seed mixes possible, or 99.99% weed free.

Best Practices for Newly Planted Grass

  • The methods you should use to care for newly sown seed are markedly different from those you use on the established areas of the yard. So exactly what should you be doing?
  • Watering New Grass NPK_01
    • Watering becomes a vital part of what it takes to establish a new lawn. 
    • The sown area should be kept moist. Do not allow the seeded plot to dry out once germinated.
    • Applying a light watering twice a day usually in the morning and again at mid-day should be adequate.
    • If your grass seed dries out after it has started to sprout, it will die out. 
    • Once your new grass is established and you've mowed at least once you can start watering less frequently. 
    • Be sure to keep the seeded area moist. As the grass matures begin watering twice a week applying a minimum of ? inch each time. Be sure water is getting down into the root zone 
    • Bottom-line, check the area to root depth and water such that the soil 3-4 inches below the surface is moist to the touch.
  • Mowing newly seeded grass 
    • Do not mow the newly seeded area until the grass has reached a height of 3 inches. 
    • Make sure mower blades are sharp, and then cut your grass only in dry conditions. 
    • Avoid mowing your new grass too short - removing no more than 1/3 of the height. 
    • Mow as needed but reduce the frequency to limit traffic on new seedlings.
  • Feeding new grass 
    • Apply a time-release fertilizer with a relatively high level of phosphorous such as Professional Starter 14-20-14 or  10-20-10 Natural Base
    • Applying a starter fertilizer at planting should be followed by another feeding 6-8 weeks later. 
    • The starter analysis can be used again as the phosphorous will help establish the root system while at the same time providing needed nitrogen.
  • Weeds in new grass 
    • Dormant weed seeds are present in the soil - seeding will bring them to the surface. 
    • Wait until after mowing at least 3 times before treating with weed-control products. 
    • Follow product label directions for information about the product you're using. 
    • Do not apply herbicides when average weekly temperatures reach 90°.
  • Bugs in new grass 
    • Most products labeled for insect control can be applied any time on newly planted grass. 
    • Always read and follow the label directions before applying an insect control product. 

Cool Season Grasses

  • Cool-season greases are best adapted to the cooler areas of the country thriving in temperatures from 65 to 75° F. 
  • Cool season grasses emerge from dormancy and grow rapidly in the spring. 
  • They are somewhat intolerant of stress periods when temperatures and humidity are high and growth is slowed considerably in mid-summer. 
  • Growth rates rise again in the fall but not at the same extent seen in spring. The cool-season grasses maintain their green color well into fall and may remain green through a mild winter. 
  • Most of the root mass of cool season grasses is in the upper 12 to 18 inches of the soil.
  • Seed types best suited to Cool Season climates include:
    • Turf Type Tall Fescue
    • Bluegrasses
    • Ryegrasses; and,
    • Bentgrass

Warm Season Grasses

  • In contrast warm-season grasses have root systems that usually reach 3 feet into the soil.
  • This is a primary reason this grass type is better adapted to drought requiring less water than their cool-season cousins.
  • Seed types best suited to Warm Season climates include:
    • Bermudagrass
    • Zoysiagrass
    • Centipedgrass
    • St. Augustinegrass; and
    • Bahagrass


Your Lawn - How Grass Benefits Us All

  • Grass is a great ground-cover and is terrific at absorbing water and runoff. GrassBenefitsCollage
  • Lawns are 2,000 times more effective at preventing erosion than bare soil. 
  • Reduces storm-water runoff. 
  • Absorbs and filters rainfall.
  • Counterbalances hard urban surfaces.
  • Reduces negative inputs 
  • Absorbs as much carbon dioxide as trees. 
  • Cuts down on noise and air pollution. 
  • Reduces sound levels by 30% and provides 2x the protection against traffic noise. 
  • Dissipates heat to reduce temperature. 
  • Enhances your lifestyle
  • Provides fun and recreation.
  • Creates a relaxing environment.
  • Reduces allergen-producing weeds.
  • Adds extra value  
  • Increases property values (up to 11%).
  • Boosts curb appeal. 
  • Decreases heating and cooling needs.

Moles - How Do I Know I Have Them?

  • Have you walked across your lawn  tripping over a tunnel or pushed up dirt mound?
  • If so there are critters using your lawn as a highway and feeding area.
  • Moles are subterranean animals that wreak havoc on our lawns and mulch beds by tunneling throughout our properties searching for food.

Moles - Their Favorite Foods

  • Their main food sources are white grubs and earthworms.
  • But they will eat practically any insects found in the soil. 
  • If you are seeing damage caused to your ornamental plants that is more than likely caused by voles. 
  • Moles only eat meat.

Moles - Methods for Control

  • There are many “old wives tales” about different methods of mole control.
  • Everything from Juicy Fruit gum to a child's pinwheel toy. 
  • There are, however, only a few proven methods of control: 
  • Mechanical traps such as the Victor Mole Plunger Trap
    • Use these in a series of 3.
    • Place directly over the tunnel and subsequent traps set to each side to cover any diversion from their travel path. 
    • Time and a shovel (requires a great deal of patience)
    • Take the time to roll over the tunnels to flatten them down.
    • Then sit and watch for new tunnel movement.
    • Then using the flat side of your shovel in a quick downward motion directly over the tunnel area.
  • Chemical Control
    • Use a pesticide called Talpirid Mole Bait. 
    • This is a proven product designed to look like the moles favorite food, earthworms.
    • Flatten existing tunnels and wait 24 hours to see which ones are being used.
    • Wear a glove and place the worm into the active tunnel. 
  • Natural Repellants
    • Apply Repellex Mole, Vole and Gopher Repellent  or if a larger size is required try the 24lb. Pail.
    • Start by spreading a band around your house and move out 6-8 feet per week until they are gone.
    • Apply a perimeter treatment once they are out of the lawn area.
    • Product is effective for 45-60 days.

Spreaders - Rotary Pros/Cons

  • The rotary spreader pros and cons
  • A rotary spreader, also called a broadcast fertilizer spreader, broadcasts material in a half circle pattern in front and to the sides of the spreader.
  • When the hopper is opened, fertilizer drops onto a spinning disk positioned directly under the hopper. 
  • The disk spins when the spreader is being pushed, throwing the fertilizer is a specific pattern. 
  • The width of the spread pattern will depend on spreader design and how fast you walk.
  • rotaryspreader_131712479

  • There are two primary advantages of this spreader.
    • Can cover a lot of area quickly because of the width of the spread.
    • Usually don't get the streaks that often occur with drop spreaders. 
  • Broadcast fertilizer spreaders are the most often used type for large areas.
  • Most of the fertilizer will fall within the first three-quarters of the broadcast diameter.
  • The outer edges of the broadcast range will be the thinnest, so the outside edge will be overlapped during the next pass. 
  • These broadcast fertilizer spreaders are more forgiving than drop spreaders.  
  • Disadvantages 
  • A broadcast fertilizer spreader is not as precise as a drop spreader.
  • You could broadcast fertilizer into water gardens, and onto driveways or sidewalks. 
  • Some broadcast spreaders have a shield that covers one side of the disk. 
  • When the shield is in place, it keeps most of the material from spreading on the covered side.

Spreaders - Drop Spreader Pros/Cons

  • A drop spreader, as the name sounds, drops fertilizer directly under the spreader when the hopper is opened.
  • It takes some practice to be able to cover a lawn completely without missing anything. 
  • When the hopper is opened, fertilizer drops directly onto the grass.
  • When you make the next pass, care must be taken to make sure there are no gaps between rows or you will get streaks in your lawn.
  • Advantages:
    • Drop spreaders are more precise in terms of where you want the fertilizer to go.
    • When fertilizing the edges of flowerbeds, water gardens, etc., the drop spreader can be a better choice. 
    • A couple passes around the garden, then if you want, you can switch to a rotary spreader.
  • Disadvantages:
    • It can take skill to use properly. It is really only best for small areas or where precision is needed.
    • You can use a drop spreader on a large lawn, but it will take much longer. 
    • Most common complaint with drop spreaders is how much care must be taken to make sure of walking straight. 
    • Swerving or leaving spaces between rows will cause discoloration where some parts are fertilized and other parts are not.

Spreaders - How to Calibrate Rate Settings

  • The first step before attempting spreader calibration is to make sure your spreader works properly.
  • Check to make sure the hopper opens and closes properly and all moving parts are working as they should. If not working properly try to fix or consider purchasing a new spreader.
  • Two methods:
    • The first spreader calibration method requires very little math.
    • The second spreader calibration method is faster and easier, but requires the use of simple math. 
  • The formula, however, is easy so no worries.
  • Spreader calibration without using math
    • Fertilizer programs are based on a certain number of pounds of fertilizer for every 1,000/sq. ft.EARTHWAY_fertilizer_spreader
    • Begin by measuring an area of lawn 1000 sq. ft. The area could be 20ft X 50ft.; 25ft. X 40 ft.; or 10 ft. X 100ft. or anything that equals 1,000 sq. ft. 
    • You can use two smaller areas that equal 1000 sq. ft. if you need to. If your area is small, you could measure 500 sq. ft. and multiply the results by 2.
    • Check to see how much the fertilizer bag or your fertilizer plan says to apply per 1,000 sq. ft. (If a 25 lb. bag covers 5000 sq. ft., you would need 5 lbs. for 1,000 sq. ft.) 
    • For this example, we will use 5 lbs. as the amount needed to apply.
      • You will need to measure out 5 lbs. of fertilizer. Always measure out a little more fertilizer than you need. The extra fertilizer will make sure it keeps flowing accurately as you get down near the bottom.  A total of six lbs. is a good round amount to measure out. Place the bucket on the scale and then readjust the scale back to zero.
      • After placing the measured amount into the spreader, begin walking the test area. Open the spreader as you start walking and close it the second you stop walking to prevent the fertilizer from pooling on the ground. Note: Your spreader may have come with a sheet giving approximate spreader openings and application amounts. The fertilizer bag also lists settings for popular spreaders. If none of these apply, you will have to guess at the opening size.
      • When you have finished spreading the fertilizer over the 1,000 sq. ft., measure the amount you have left.  If you have only one pound left, it is calibrated accurately for 5lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.   If you have less than one pound, you are using too much and the spreader openings need to be closed more.  If you have more than one pound, you are using too little and the spreader openings need to be opened a little more.
      • If you measured out 500 sq. ft. as the test area, then multiply the amount of fertilizer used by 2. 
      • This will give you the amount for 1,000 sq. ft. 
      • You may need to repeat the test if it was way off the mark. 
      • Don't test over the same area.
  • Spreader calibration using math
    • Using math for spreader calibration reduces the amount of work and effort needed for accurate results.
      • Weigh out a specific amount of fertilizer. To use the example above, measure 6 lbs. to put in the hopper.
      • Measure out a test strip. A longer strip is better for accuracy. It could be 50 ft. long, for example.
      • Walk the length of the strip, spreading fertilizer as you go. 
      • When you have walked the 50 ft. strip one time, close the hopper and weigh the fertilizer that is left. 
      • Subtract the amount left in the hopper when you finished from the amount you started with and you will have the amount of fertilizer you used. For this example, let us say it was 2 lbs. used.
      • The spreader calibration formula is "amount of fertilizer used- times 1000 - divided by the area of the test strip".
      • If using a rotary spreader: Lets say your spreader makes a 10 ft. wide strip. Now, multiply 10 by the length of the test strip, which is 50 ft. 
      • Your answer is 500 ft. So,500 sq. ft. is the area of the test strip. 
      • The amount of fertilizer you used to cover the 500 sq. ft. was 2lbs.
      • Here is what we have: 2 lbs. X 1,000 ÷ 500 sq. ft. = 4 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. 
      • If you needed 5 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft. you will need to open the fertilizer openings more and run another test. 
    • With a little experience, spreader calibration can be performed very quickly and accurately.
  • For a drop spreader 
    • Measure the spreader width opening.
    • A two foot wide fertilizer strip times 50 ft. long test strip, equals 100 sq. ft. test area. 
    • Let's say the amount of fertilizer used to cover the 100 sq. ft. was 1/2 lb.
    • Here is what we know. On the 50 ft. test strip, the spreader dropped ? pound of fertilizer X 1000 ÷ 100 sq. ft. test strip area.
    • It will look like ? x 1000 ÷ 100 = 5 lbs. per 1000 sq. ft. That is the amount you needed to apply over 1,000 sq. ft., so the spreader opening and spreader calibration is good.
    • Adjust 

Wiregrass - Total Kill Approach

  • To date, the best control was the use of a product like Quik Pro that would kill the bermuda, but take out any turfgrass along with it.
  • Bermudagrass control requires completely killing the whole plant - roots and all.
  • This means the plant must be growing as healthy as possible at the time, which is usually during July and August.

Wiregrass - A Proven & Selective Control Method

  • The combination of three products, Turflon Ester, Acclaim Extra and Spreader Sticker applied 4 times a year per growing season for two consecutive years will result in control of common Bermudagrass with minimal to no damage to your tall fescue turf.
  • The cocktail should be applied monthly beginning in May and with applications recurring in June, July and August.
  • Spreader/Sticker is a surfactant that aids in the herbicides spreading completely over the entire plant to ensure effectiveness.
PRODUCT                 RATE/1,000 SQ. FT.
Turflon Ester         3/4 oz. / per gallon of water
Acclaim Extra        2/3 oz. / per gallon of water
Spreader-Sticker    1 tbls / gallon of water
  • May    1st annual application
  • June    2nd annual application
  • July    3rd annual application
  • August    4th annual application

Converting the Lawn from Cool to Warm Season Grass

Warm Season Program

Start dates between May 15th and July 1st

Week 1  

  • Mow existing lawn as low as possible without damaging lawnmower blades, bagging clippings, or raking lawn to remove debris
  • Spray a non-selective, glyphosate-based herbicide such as Killz-All at a rate of 3 oz. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Week 2   

  • Spray a non-selective, glyphosate-based herbicide such as Killz-All at a rate of 3 oz. per 1,000 sq. ft.

Week 3

  • Power rake/dethatch entire area at a depth of 1/8 in. to 1/4 in.
  • Apply Earthworks 8-2-2 at rate of 1lb. nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.
  • Apply MyTurfandGarden's Premium Over-seed Blend
  • Broadcast Premium Over-seed Blend at a rate of 10 lbs. per 1,000 sq. ft.
  • No need to aerate.
  • Watering -  Keep seed thoroughly moist until germination (14-21 days)
  • Do not allow seed to dry out!

Week 6

  • Apply Earthworks Replenish 8-2-2 at a rate of 1/2 lb. of Nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.

Week 10

  • Apply Replenish 8-2-2 at a rate of 1/2 lb. of Nitrogen per 1,000 sq. ft.

Week 14

Soil Analysis Results - Why It's So Very Important

  • A soil analysis provides essential information on relative levels of organic matter, pH, lime requirement, cation exchange capacity (CEC), and levels of plant-available nutrients contained in the soil.
  • Encourages plant growth by providing the best lime and fertilizer recommendations. 
  • Diagnoses whether there is too little or too much of a nutrient.
  • Promotes environmental quality.
  • Saves money that might otherwise be spent on unneeded lime and fertilizer. It can put money in your pockets!
  • How To Take Samples
    • Take samples in advance of applying any fertilizer or lime.
    • Use clean equipment.
    • Sample each unique area
    • Take a core sample to correct depth [4” for established lawn and 6” for landscape bed]
    • Collect at least 10 samples from the area you have identified and mix them together in a clean plastic bucket    

Soil Analysis Results - How to Interpret the Results

  • Report Number
    • All sample reports are filed by their report number.
  • Laboratory Number
    • This number is assigned Stewardship Labs to each individual sample.
  • ppm (parts per million)
    • Results for major and minor elements are reported in ppm on an elemental basis.
    • This unit of measurement is equivalent to pounds of nutrient per million pounds of soil.
    • One acre of mineral soil 3 to 3.5 inches deep weighs about a million pounds. 
  • Nutrient level ratings – individual nutrient elements are rated with five levels
    • Very low or low level means the soil is deficient and the addition of the element is beneficial for most plants.
    • Medium level means the addition of the element is beneficial to the plant 50% of the time. 
    • High level means enough nutrient is in the soil and the addition of the element is not likely beneficial to the plant, however some addition is needed to maintain a good fertility. 
    • Very high level means no additional nutrient is needed for most plants. It should be emphasized that at this level the plant can grow quite well and not suffer from toxicity.
  • Phosphorus
    • This test measures phosphorus that is readily available to plants.
    • The optimum level will vary with plant, yield and soil types.
    • 40 to 100 ppm is adequate for most lawn and garden plants.
    • Certain specialty plants may need higher levels.
  • Potassium
    • This test measures the available potassium in a soil.
    • The optimum level will vary with the plant, yield and soil type.
    • A potassium level of 120 to 200 ppm is adequate for most plants.
    • Higher levels are generally needed on soils high in clay and/or organic matter, versus soils that are sandy and low in organic matter.
  • Magnesium and Calcium
    • Calcium deficiencies are rare when the soil pH is adequate.
    • Magnesium deficiencies are more common.
    • Calcium will be in optimum range once lime is applied to adjust to the pH range appropriate for the plant.
    • Apply dolomitic lime if the magnesium falls below 70ppm.
  • Sulfur
    • This test measures sulfate-sulfur.
    • It is a readily available form preferred by plants.
    • Optimum levels usually range from 20 to 30 ppm.
  • Micro-nutrients (zinc, manganese, Iron, copper, boron)
    • Turf grasses need very little amount of these micro-nutrients and soil can provide enough if the pH is below 7.0.
    • For garden and flower plants, the adequate range for Zinc is 6 -10 ppm.
    • Manganese is 20-40 ppm.
    • Iron is 10-50 ppm.
    • Copper is 0.4-5.0 ppm.
    • Boron is 0.8-2.0 ppm.
  • Sodium
    • Sodium is a non-essential nutrient for most crops.
    • Its effect on the physical condition of a soil is of greater importance.
    • Soils high in sodium may cause adverse physical and chemical conditions.
    • Excessive levels of sodium can be reduced by leaching and/or through the application of calcium sulfate (Gypsum).
  • Soluble salts
    • Excessive concentrations of various salts can develop in soils.
    • This may be natural cause, the result of irrigation with high salt content water, excessive fertilization or contamination from chemicals or industrial waste.
    • Above 1900 ppm is hazardous and need leaching.
  • Soil pH
    • This test measures active acidity or alkalinity. A pH of 7.0 is neutral.
    • Values higher are alkaline while values lower are acid.
    • A pH of 6.0 to 7.0 is the desired range for most plants grown in mineral soils.
    • A pH of 5.0 to 5.5. is desired for organic soils (greater than 20% organic matter).
  • Acidity (H)
    • This represents the quantity of the acid.
    • For a given type of soil the lower the pH
    • The higher amount of acidity exists and more lime is needed to neutralize it.
  • CEC (Cation Exchange Capacity)
    • CEC measures the soil's ability to hold elements with positive charges (cations) such as calcium, magnesium potassium, sodium and hydrogen.
    • The CEC of a soil will increase with the increasing amount of clay and organic matter. 
  • Percent Base Saturation
    • This is the proportion of the CEC occupied by a given cation or a combination of cations referred to as bases.
    • Based on ideal soil concept, soil should have 85 to 90% base saturation, that is 65 -75% Ca, 10-15% Mg, 2.5-5.0% K, 5-13% H. 
  • Organic matter
    • Organic matter is expressed in percent.
    • It measures the amount of decomposed plant and animal residues in a soil.
    • Soil color is closely related to the amount of organic matter.
    • A darker color is usually associated with high organic matter.
    • Dark -colored soils often test above 3.5% organic matter.
    • Organic matter can improve soil physical properties and enhance plant growth.
    • High number is good but 3 -5% is sufficient.