How To Get Healthy Soil & Grow a Beautiful Lawn
September 14, 2012
The base for a beautiful, healthy lawn is soil. Many homeowners do not consider soil composition as a potential threat to the health of their grass. But more often than not, many grass problems can be attributed to unhealthy soil. Just as an engine powers your lawn mower, soil houses the fuel grass and plants need to grow.
Whether you're renovating your lawn or starting one, it's important to consider the type of soil particles your grass needs to grow.
Choosing the Best Lawn Soil Composition
To get a healthy lawn, your soil will ideally be made up of a balance of sand, silt and clay. This is called loam soil. Loam soil holds moisture but also drains well when you water the lawn. It is able to retain nutrients and allow air flow, making it the most ideal soil for plants.
- Sand is the largest soil particle. Sandy soil drains well, is quick to warm up in spring and easy to cultivate. Sandy soils, however, don't retain water well and dry out quickly. Even though plant foods tend to wash out, it can be a productive soil with careful management.
- Silt is a soil particle that is smaller than sand but larger than clay particles. It feels smooth and powdery.
- Clay is the smallest soil particle. Clay soil is sometimes called heavy soil because it is sticky when wet and retains water and contains a lot of nutrients.
Soil Testing Steps
The next step is to find out if your soil is healthy with soil testing. A soil test is used to determine the pH, nutrient levels and soil type.
- Start at the County Extension Office or a local garden center to obtain a soil test kit, costing around $10-$15.
- Choose 20 test locations, taking sun, shade, pet areas and shallow foundations into account.
- With many test locations, your soil testing results will more accurately gauge soil health.
- Dig soil out with a small shovel or spade. The soil samples need to be 4-6 inches in depth and a couple inches wide.
- Lay each of the 20 soil samples on a newspaper to air dry. Once dried, thoroughly mix the sample and fill the soil test container.
- Send or take the sample containers to the soil testing facility for results.
Understanding Soil Testing Results
Below is a breakdown of soil testing results! These results will include soil pH level, soil nutrient levels, soil type. All of which play an important role for a healthy lawn.
How to Fix Soil pH Problems: If you find that your soil is too acid, you can add ground limestone to make it more alkaline. If your soil is too alkaline, you can amend it by adding sulphur, shredded leaves or peat moss.
- The soil pH scale runs from 0 to 14. Neutral is 7, the middle of the scale. Any number below 7 means acidic (sour) and any number above 7 means alkaline (sweet).
- Most flower, vegetable garden plants and grass prefer a slightly acidic soil. If you aim for a pH between 6 and 7, most soil nutrients will be available for absorption by the green life.
- With too much acid or alkaline in the soil, nutrients will not dissolve to later be absorbed by the plant roots.
How to Fix Soil Nutrient Problems: Adjusting soil to create a loamy soil texture can take several growing seasons. To change the texture, add compost and work it into the soil several inches deep, over several seasons.
- Soil nutrients are just as important as soil pH. Nitrogen, the most important nutrient for supporting plant growth, will not necessarily be listed in your soil test results.
- The nitrogen content of soil changes so rapidly that it's not helpful to report what the number may have been on the day soil samples were taken.
- The most helpful information from the soil test results are soil type.
- Ideally you will have a loamy soil mix with phosphorous, potassium and other nutrients.
- Newly built homes or new lawns may experience soil layering issues. This occurs when the top soil is scraped away for construction, and then a thin layer of soil is put back before planting the new lawn.
- The finer soil layer on top of the coarser textured soil can prevent roots from taking hold, making it difficult for water and nutrients to penetrate the soil structure.
How to Fix Soil Layering Problems: Aerate the lawn this spring to blend soil layers letting in water and nutrients.
Understanding your soil is just the first step to an overall healthy lawn. Briggs & Stratton provides more resources to ensure your grass is the envy of the neighborhood, including lawn care tips, mower engine information, and small engine parts for maintenance and repair!
For any other lawn maintenance questions, find a Briggs & Stratton Dealer in your area!