Folks, we are approaching crunch time. In lieu of that I decided to do away with my witty “lead in” and get right down to business. I’m sure all of you have been anxiously awaiting step 3. If you have not read my UPDATED steps 1 and 2, you may want to take a few minutes and do so now. You can find the previous 2 steps listed in the right hand margin.
Let’s roll with Step 3!!!!
By now, I hope you are beginning to understand the importance of healthy, well balanced soil when it comes to creating the PERFECT LAWN!!!! Step one we identified soil texture and made ourselves aware of the importance of pH. Step two taught our readers where to purchase a soil test kit, my personal steps to gathering the ideal sample and how to send your sample and paperwork to the lab.
Today, we are going to analyze the results of a few random soil samples that I have stored away in my bag of tricks. We will break down the results line by line then formulate a plan for correcting any deficiencies. Pretty cool stuff. FYI, This report was generated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Your cooperative extension service will connect you with a reputable University Lab in your state.
Test Result 1.
This homeowner, who shall remain nameless, called me because he was having problems growing grass. After an intense walk of his grounds and a brief interview, the owner informed me that former owners had livestock on the property and prior to that the land was used a farm. Soil texture was very sandy in some parts with very little visible presence of organic matter in his soil. Take a few minutes to read through this report to make yourself familiar with it then read on as I break down the report line by line. It may seem a little confusing when you first read through. It’s not as confusing as it sounds… the remedies are much easier than the scientific verbage.
Results and Interpretations– This line describes the acidity of the soil. In this case, we are dealing with highly acidic soil which makes it very difficult to grow grass varieties that thrive in the Mid-atlantic region. Conversely, this property’s hydrangea and evergreens are thriving(Both love acidic soil).
For this soil test, when we filled out our paperwork, we considered our primary crop turf grass and the secondary crop to be ornamental shrubs.
Lime Requirement Index(LRI)– self explanatory as listed in soil report.
Macronutrients(pounds per acre)– Macronutrients are consumed in larger parts by plant life and are essential to the all around health of a plant. Our report shows that our macronutrients are all over the place which is a direct result of the highly acidic soil. I don’t want to make this any more confusing than it needs to be so I won’t get into exactly how plants use each micro and macro nutrient. The purpose of this 10 part series is designed to help the “Average Joe” create his own “Perfect Lawn”. As you will read through this report, the scientists have done the work for us and given us precise steps to correct our problems. If you are one of those people who must know, send me your email address and I will send you a free copy of an e-book that I wrote titled “Soil: 101”. It took me 3 months to write and covers EVERYTHING about soil!
Micronutrients(parts per million)– Micronutrients are used in much smaller quantities by plants therefore they are listed in parts per million. This particular report lists our boron as slightly low and iron extremely high.
Special Test Results– we did not request any special testing. Remember that we are trying to keep this as simple as possible. The soil test kit offers several upgrades but I have never found the need to purchase these extras because the basic test covers everything we need to create the perfect lawn barring extreme circumstances.
pH, Calcium and Magnesium Recommendations– this section recommends that we apply 25 pounds per 1000 square feet of lime using calcitic limestone(very fine so it works it way into the soil faster) as opposed to dolomitic, pelletized or pulverized. This property is well over an acre and will require 60 bags of lime! Continuing to read the recommendations for “Secondary Crop” the report recommends applying 20 pounds per thousand square feet of gypsum to correct the calcium deficiency.
Fertilizer Recommendations– This section is boiler plate. This lab recommends fertilization once or twice per year using an organic fertilizer as well as returning the grass clippings into the ground(don’t get nervous, I have a complete step on cutting grass). If you know anything about fertilizer, the recommended Nitrogen-Phosphorus-Potash numbers of 1-0-2 listed on this recommendation may be much lower than you are used to seeing. My plan is to create the “Perfect Lawn” that will be very close to self sustaining and need very little fertilizer. This report also goes on to mention recommendations for “Next Year”.
If you read this report closely you will notice that the state of New Jersey prohibits the application of Nitrogen or Phosphorus based fertilizers after November 15th and before March 1st. These restrictions are relatively new and are just the beginning! No need to worry, my 10 step plan is way ahead of the curve!! By the time these restrictions hit the rest of the country, your PERFECT LAWN will already be established, self sustaining and GORGEOUS!!!
Micronutrient Statement– This statement goes into brief detail about the effect that micronutrients have on plants. As you read through, you will notice that the majority of micronutrient efficiency is based on soil pH.
Comments– this is a summary, of sorts that mentions not putting a round peg in a square hole. Basically, don’t plant an acid loving plant in alkaline soil! Unless you want to work against mother nature and spend lots of time and money.
My Plan of Action:
Once I received this soil report, I immediately went into action to create a plan. Here goes…
Cut lawn as close to the ground as possible(1 1/2″).
Rent a Core Aerating Machine(mechanically extracts small plugs of soil from your lawn allowing water, air and nutrients back into the soil)and run through entire property in 2 different directions so to thoroughly open up existing soil.
Apply a 1/2 to 1 inch layer of Pennsylvania Mushroom Compost(this job requires a tractor trailer load) over entire lawn area. Areas where there is little to no existing grass will have compost roto-tilled in to soil to a depth of 3 inches.
In no specific order, apply recommended lime and gypsum.
Apply premium grass seed mixture to include a fast germinating rye grass and a premium fescue(Once again, I have an entire step on different types of grass).
Completely and thoroughly rake entire lawn area to embed seed and insure adequate coverage of all applications as well as work compost into aerated soil.
Apply starter fertilizer. This project will be treated with Sumagreen(sumagreen.com-I DO NOT receive compensation from them for mentioning their product) liquid all natural fertilizer(You guessed it, I have an entire Step devoted to fertilzer!)
Set up temporary irrigation system that will use garden hoses, tri-pod sprinklers and a battery operated timer to insure adequate watering. It is essential to keep newly seeded lawn areas moist(not saturated) until all varieties of seed have germinated. This process will involve trial and error, as far as how long sprinklers will need to run, to keep soil moist but not puddle and wash soil/seed/amendments away.
SOIL REPORT NUMBER 2
I’m not going to go into as much detail in this second soil report. This second report comes from a newer neighborhood in a shaded setting.
As you can see, the pH is in the ideal range however Potassium, Phosphorus and Calcium are low. Calcium is easily amended with the addition of Gypsum. Potassium and Phosphorus levels will rise over time due to the recommended application of an all natural fertilizer 4 times per year. This lawn was a much easier fix with the spring application of gypsum and subsequent fertilizer applications. As always, a thorough aerating and top dressing of compost will be applied to insure we freshen up the organic matter and beneficial bacteria associated compost.
One last thing. This lawn consists of partial shade to full shade. The root system of the mature trees uses most of the water and nutrients in the soil. The process of aerating and top dressing with compost puts essential nutrients back into the soil and allows water and air to circulate back through the various root systems.
If you have read through to this point, I am extremely proud of you. If you have actually taken the steps to identify your soil texture, then buy a soil kit, then collect the soil sample, then send it to the lab…. you are in the top 1 percent! The technical, scientific stuff is just about over, from here we start to see results!!
If you are confused about this step or either of the previous 2 steps, feel free to post a comment at the end of this article. I will receive immediate notification and answer your questions as quickly as possible. Also, feel free to contact the extension service where you bought your soil kit. Most extension centers have a help line where can quickly receive answers to any landscape or gardening question.
As you are probably aware, I pride myself on educating my readers on the right way to do things! Build healthy soil and your healthy lawn will follow closely behind!
If you are interested in my services, feel free to contact me in any of the following ways…
Cape May, NJ 08204