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How to Test Your Soil

The health of your soil is crucial for maintaining healthy grass and plants. Starting with the soil ensures better grass quality. Regularly fertilizing your lawn is beneficial, but you need to know the specific nutrients necessary to see improvement.

For instance, excessive nitrogen might not enhance your grass’s quality or growth, especially if it’s uneven across your lawn. The most effective initial step is to use a soil testing kit to identify the necessary nutrients for your lawn.

To test your soil, collect samples from various parts of your lawn using a plastic probe or baggie. Then, register your soil testing kit online and mail the dry soil sample to a turfgrass expert or local cooperative extension for analysis.

What is a soil test?

A soil test identifies the macro and micronutrients in your soil and assesses the nutrients needed for optimal pH levels. Based on the results, companies often recommend amendments to enhance soil quality.

These tests vary in form but generally involve collecting a soil sample in a small container or baggie for analysis, which can be mailed or delivered to a turfgrass expert.

Why should I use a soil test?

A soil test is a cost-effective method to determine your soil’s needs, including pH and essential nutrients, ensuring optimal performance. It prevents the unnecessary application of fertilizers, like nitrogen, by revealing existing nutrient levels, thus avoiding environmental harm from runoff.

This allows you to make informed choices about fertilization tailored to your soil type and its specific pH, ultimately enhancing your lawn and garden’s health.

How to test soil pH

The process of submitting a soil sample depends on each organization’s requirements. Some may send you a container, while others instruct you to use your own. Our soil test kit will be sent to the address you provided with a brown paper bag to collect samples in and a postage-paid envelope.

Always adhere to the specific collection and submission guidelines provided. Gathering soil from various parts of your yard and mixing these into a single sample to minimize variability and provide a more representative soil analysis is advisable.

Instructions for collecting a soil sample

Step 1: Get a Soil Test Kit

You’ll start by collecting several soil samples in plastic probes or baggies, so make sure to have these ready. They should be thoroughly cleaned before use so they don’t contaminate your sample. For our soil kit, we make it easy by providing you with a brown paper bag for collection.

Step 2: Collect Soil Samples

Choose four representative areas of your lawn or garden. Use a shovel or soil probe like the ones listed below to collect the samples. Each sample should remove soil from the top 2–4 inches from the soil’s surface using a shovel like the one below or soil probe.

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Step 3: Clean Out the Soil Samples

Afterwards, remove any plant material, mulch or natural soil organisms like worms and drop the soil samples into a plastic bucket. Mix the samples well to make sure it’s blended.

Step 4: Fill Your Container

Gather the soil and fill it with about 1 pint of soil. Our soil kit has an indicated fill-line on the sample bag.

Step 5: Mail Your Sample

Combine your samples and mail them to the lab for analysis. Our soil kit comes with a postage-paid envelope to make this task easy.

Track Your Sample and Interpret Results

A national agriculture lab will test your soil with an in-depth analysis. If you use one of our soil kits, track your sample’s progress by logging into your online account.

Once your soil test is ready, easy-to-understand results and treatment recommendations will be delivered.

When is the best time to collect and submit a soil analysis?

Warm Season Grass

The optimal time to collect and submit a soil sample depends on your location and grass type. For warm season grasses like zoysia and bermuda, test soil between March 15th and April 30th.

Cool Season Grass

Cool season grasses like Kentucky bluegrass should be tested between August and September.

New Lawns

Test your soil before applying chemicals to kill off your old grass and before installing the new sod, seed or plugs. This allows you to assess the soil conditions and make any necessary amendments prior to laying the new sod.

Testing the soil before installation provides valuable information about nutrient levels, pH and more. This gives you the chance to address any deficiencies or imbalances by adding appropriate amendments before planting anything new, giving your lawn the best environment for healthy growth.

How often should I test my soil?

  • Every 1–3 years to maintain lawn and garden health.
  • More frequently if you notice issues such as poorly performing turfgrass or ornamentals.
  • After storms or excessive rain, as flooding can alter soil salinity.
  • During prolonged dry periods to check if nutrient levels have been affected.
  • After major changes like construction or extensive landscaping to understand new soil conditions.

Where to take soil samples for testing

There are two main options for getting a soil test done:

1. Soil Test Kit from a Company

You can purchase a soil test kit from a company like ours and mail the sample back to them. We have a professional lab analyze the sample and provide detailed results and recommendations tailored to your location and needs.

2. Local Cooperative Extension Office

Another option is to contact your local cooperative extension office. They can provide instructions on collecting and submitting a soil sample for testing. The extension office typically provides the analysis and recommendations.

Whichever route you choose, carefully follow the instructions provided for collecting and submitting the soil sample to ensure accurate and helpful results.

How long does it take to receive my soil testing results?

When you submit your analysis to a local cooperative extension office, timelines may vary, however, our timeline is 48 hours after the lab receives your sample.

What is the best lawn soil test kit?

Sod Solutions offers homeowners an affordable, easy-to-use and fast soil testing service that delivers clear recommendations for addressing soil and nutrient deficiencies. Our soil kit also keeps your soil’s history so that you can go back and see changes or alterations over time.

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How do I read a soil analysis?

Soil test results can vary, typically provided as a paper or digital report detailing nutrient deficiencies and abundances in your soil.

Our soil test simplifies this by recommending specific products based on the analysis, eliminating the need to interpret complex data.

Tests may range from basic N-P-K (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) assessments to more comprehensive analyses including pH, sulfur, calcium, magnesium and trace minerals like iron and zinc.

The pH scale ranges from 1 (very acidic) to 14 (very alkaline), with optimal nutrient absorption between pH 6.0 and 7.0.

It’s crucial not to over-apply macronutrients and to balance essential micronutrients and carbon, which are vital for maintaining soil and plant health.

How do I improve my soil after a soil analysis?

Soil test results may come with product recommendations. Still, if not, you’ll need to understand how to read fertilizer labels to choose the right products for your soil.

Alkaline soils typically need nutrients to make them slightly more acidic (6.0-7.0 pH range). In contrast, acidic soils need nutrients to increase alkalinity.

One recommended solution is the Lawnifi Fertilizer Annual Subscription Program. Lawnifi uses Catalyst Technology to nano-size its nutrients, allowing for more efficient plant absorption and delivery.

This results in needing 80 percent less nitrogen while still achieving better results and improving soil health by balancing C:N ratios.

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How do I test my soil? – Answered

To test your soil, collect samples from several areas across your lawn to ensure a representative analysis. Use a clean plastic probe or baggie for collection. Our soil test kit comes with a brown paper bag to make things easy.

Submit this sample to a soil testing service or your local cooperative extension office, which will analyze the nutrient content and pH levels. Many soil testing kits provide specific instructions on collecting and submitting your samples, so follow these closely to get accurate results.

Soil tests are invaluable, affordable tools that provide essential information for improving your lawn and garden’s health. We hope this blog has answered your questions about the benefits of soil testing for your landscape.

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