Does your soil present problems for your plants, trees or lawn?
Your Soil Tells a LOT About the Challenges You Face.
Treating a lawn, tree or plant problem without looking closely at the soil is a an easy way to waste a lot of time and money. It’s a bit like gambling. The right guess might be able to help your problem, but the wrong guess will just eat up time and money. That makes customers frustrated and makes the service provider look bad.
At GreenHow we feel strongly that a soil test should be performed on a residence every two years. For new customers, a soil test is an essential part of our service as it gives us the “green intelligence” to be able to put an effective plan together. Soil test results reveal the chemistry of the lawn or garden. In our experience, the main issues in New England are acidic soil, low calcium and low phosphorous. Using your soil test results we adjust our service programs accordingly. Some amendments, such as lime and phosphorous, have additional charges and if your soil test shows a need, we will provide a quote for those services. We prefer to do corrective lime applications based on soil test results that dictate the amount and type of lime required. Lime comes in two types, calcitic and dolomitic. Calcitic lime is more expensive, but is often preferred for its source of calcium. We send our soil tests out to be done by the University of Massachusetts Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory. Testing your soil is so important we have included instructions here how to do it yourself, just click here to go to our webpage on do it yourself soil testing.
Key Findings we look for in soil tests:
Soil pH Soil pH is important to help the plant use nitrogen. Ideal range for turf grass is 6.5 to 6.9. For each point below 6.9, the available nitrogen for the lawn is cut in half, meaning the value of fertilization is reduced until the pH is corrected to allow the plant to use the available nitrogen. To correct the soil pH, we recommend applications of the appropriate pelletized lime broken into maximum applications of 25 pounds per thousand square feet every six months. Lime can be applied any time of year, but is usually applied in the spring and fall. We recommend retesting every two years, unless a prior corrective liming program is still ongoing. For example if the last soil test called for 150 pounds of lime which we would break into 6 applications taking 3 years to complete the next soil test could be postponed until after that program is completed.
Phosphorous is the next item we look at. Phosphorous is essential to root growth and can be lacking in New England soils. In Massachusetts a soil test is required to apply phosphorous to a lawn. This application is done between August 15th and September 21st, as the weather permits, when the plant will utilize it.
Organic Matter levels
Organic Matter levels are the amount of materials containing carbon in the soil. New England soil varies widely with former farmland having much high levels of organic matter than other areas. Soil is made up of a combination of sand, silt, clay, air, water and organic matter. Organic matter is the universal soil improver, helping the soil hold moisture and nutrients.
Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC)
The important Cation Exchange Capacity (CEC) is a measure of the soil’s ability to hold and exchange cations such as potassium, calcium and magnesium. The Percent Base Saturation (below the CEC on the report) shows values for potassium (target 2 to 7%), magnesium (target 10 to 15%) and calcium (target 65 to 75%). By adding materials, we can maintain both the CEC and Percent Base Saturation of potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Lead is in all soil naturally. In New England additional lead to levels oconcern is introduced primarily by paint that weathers off or is removed from structures for maintenance. The Estimated Total Lead number from a standard soil test if over 300 should be a concern and may indicate a need for a Total Sorbed Lead test. This pdf file is the University of Massachusetts Soil and Plant Nutrient Testing Laboratory Soil Lead: Interpretation, & Recommendations. University of Massachusetts Soil Lead: Testing, Interpretation, & Recommendation.