Q: Is soil analysis really necessary for growing a healthy lawn or garden?

A: Soil testing is simply a tool that will assist you in knowing what nutrients and organic matter your soil contains.

Based on those results we can advise you on what soil attribute is required to enable optimal growth of the chosen plant type. You can certainly grow a nice lawn or garden without a soil analysis, but you'll be guessing on what to apply for the best production. When you guess the chances are high that you'll either put too much down and potentially harm the environment or too little and see marginal results.

If you follow our recommendations you should see a noticeable improvement in your lawn or garden. As you implement the program we suggest over time you will improve your soil's health to the point that maintaining a green and lush lawn can be accomplished using far less nutrient additives.

Q: What exactly is pH?

A: A numerical measure of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution, usually measured on a scale of 0 to 14. Neutral solutions (such as pure water) have a pH of 7, acidic solutions have a pH lower than 7, and alkaline solutions have a pH higher than 7. The pH of lemon juice is 2.4; that of household ammonia is 11.5. The letters pH stands for potential of hydrogen, since pH is effectively a measure of the concentration of hydrogen ions (that is, protons) in a substance.

Q: Why is it so important to have my pH in a specific range to grow turf?

A: The pH of the soil impacts the plant's ability to absorb nutrients. Turf Type Tall Fescue grows best in a pH range between 6.0 and 7.0. However, we recommend narrowing that down to between 6.2 and 6.8. But other grass types require a different pH to thrive. Centipede grass, for example, does best in more acidic soil in a range between 5.0 and 5.5. Bermuda grass on the other hand is best grown in a wider pH range between 6.5 and 8.0. Perennial Rye grass does best in a pH range between 5.75 and 7.5.

Q: What's the best method to correct my soil's pH?

A: If your soil is below 6.0 (for turf type tall fescue) lime must be added to correct the pH. There are two primary types of lime, calcitic or dolomitic. Dolomitic lime contains naturally occurring magnesium that may well not be required for your soil. Also dolomitic lime will take several weeks to months to affect the pH. Calcitic lime does not contain magnesium and it also begins to raise the pH within a matter of weeks. Either way be sure to apply the granular variety.

If your soil tests alkaline, i.e., above 7.0 for turf type tall fescue it may be necessary to apply sulfur. Again, correction of a high pH will take months, if not years and many applications. NOTE: Sulfur is best absorbed into the ground when temperatures are high and in those seasons when we receive plenty of rainfall.

Q: If my soil's pH tests as acidic - well below 6.0 - how long will it take to correct this condition?

A: Bringing your soil's pH back into the optimal range may take multiple years and lime applications depending on your soil's condition at the outset. If your soil's pH is highly acidic correction may take up to 5 years. The key is to not apply all that's recommended in one application. Doing so is wasteful and may harm your turf. Spread out your applications over several months and be prepared for additional applications throughout the year and perhaps for some time to come. Never apply OVER 50 lbs. of lime per 1,000 sq. ft. at any given time or season.

Q: Why don't you offer to show the amount of nitrogen in my soil?

A: The problem with testing soil for nitrogen is that the chemical is so changeable. It evaporates readily in one form and it easily forms many different compounds with other chemicals. A simple chemical analysis simply cannot identify and measure all of the nitrogenous compounds in the soil.

Most off-the-shelf testing kits only measure the amount of nitrogen available in the soil at that exact time. Just be aware that the nitrogen levels fluctuate throughout the year. Also, once the soil warms in late spring and early summer microbial activity increases causing release of nitrogen making for different readings.

Q: What are the most critical variables for me to pay attention to in my soil analysis results?

A: Well the most accurate answer is all of them. But from our vantage point there are a few to really pay attention to. Those variables include:

  • pH
  • Percentage of Organic Matter
  • Nitrogen (N)
  • Amounts of phosphorous (P) and potash (K) in the soil

When these nutrients exist in proper amounts and ratios you have only to add about 3 to 4 pounds of nitrogen per year per 1,000 square feet of turf. Of those three to four pounds 1/3 should be applied in the early spring and the remainder in two applications, one in mid-fall and the last in early winter.

Q: Is trace mineral analysis necessary for growing healthy crops?

A: Yes. It is not uncommon for most soils to be deficient in one or more of the essential micronutrients, such as boron, iron, or zinc. Trace mineral deficiencies can restrict the availability to plants of certain major nutrients, even when a sufficient supply of those nutrients is present in the soil.

Q: How long will it take to correct my soil and get it back into balance?

A: Correcting soil deficiencies is dependent on your starting point and how well you follow the recommendations given in your Think Soil Analysis Report. In some cases we've seen it take as many as 5 years to bring soils up to maximum fertility.

In most instances we see reasonably good balance occurring within 3 years. You should begin to see significant improvements the first year and continued improvement thereafter. The bottom-line is to not expect your soil issues to be corrected in a single year. You many well see improvement in the first growing season but set your expectations for a longer period.

Q: When will I receive my analysis results?

A: Once your sample is received at the Stewardship Labs it will take us 24 hours to complete all testing and to post your analysis results on the Think Soil webpage. You can search for your results by entering the ORDER NUMBER or searching by your name and address.