A fresh perspective on soil testing. How often do you need to check your garden and lawn soils? Every year? Two times during the growing season?
According to the University of Maine, you need to test your soil once every three years! And yet, there are gardeners and lawn enthusiasts who will test their dirt every year.
If there are problem areas in your lawn or garden, you should test those areas annually for any nutrient deficiencies.
How to Test for Soil pH
Proper soil pH allows your plants to take up available nutrients from the ground. However, whether the pH is too high or too low, plants won’t be able to take up those available nutrients.
Your local garden center, hardware store, or big-box retailer will have soil test kits available for you to purchase. Soil test kits that you buy contain small tubes for soil collection. Follow all of the directions for a successful test.
You should test your soil in the early spring after the last freeze or in the fall before the ground freezes.
If you need to collect a soil sample to send to your local county extension service, follow these steps for collecting a good sample:
- Use a clean spade or trowel to collect soil samples
- If you’re testing the soil from your garden, dig out the ground from a depth of 6” to 8”. Take samples from different areas in your garden.
- Use a clean container to hold your soil sample. Use two different containers—one for lawn soil and another one for garden soil.
- If you’re testing your lawn’s dirt, then only go a depth of 3”-4”. Again, collect your samples from different parts of your yard.
- You can lay out your samples on a newspaper and crush any soil clumps. Remember, keep your garden soil and your lawn soil separate. Then, mix up the soil from your yard together and place them in a container. Then, break up garden soil clumps and put them in a separate container.
- Fill out the paperwork making sure to label garden soil and lawn soil, so samples don’t get mixed up. There’s usually a fee associated with a soil test. Put them in a mailer and ship off to the county extension.
- The extension will test your soil and will send you a report about your soil, including the pH levels. The report should also give you recommendations for improving your soil.
What Does Lime Do To My Soil?
If your soil test results showed that your garden soil or the ground underneath your lawn has a low pH reading, you could use lime to improve the pH levels.
Lime for soil comes from ground limestone that contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. You can also use dolomite lime from dolomite rock. Dolomite lime contains a larger amount of magnesium than limestone. And your yard grass and garden vegetables need magnesium to thrive.
Soils with a low or a high pH keep plants from absorbing essential nutrients and minerals from the ground. For example, you may find that some garden plants have yellow leaves with green veins—meaning they have chlorosis. If your vegetable plants have chlorosis, they’re low on iron.
Your vegetable garden prefers slightly acidic soil at a pH range of 6.0 – 7.0. Lawn grass, meanwhile, prefers a pH range of 5.8 – 7.2. The right amount of lime for soil pH will balance out any pH that’s too low.
When is the best time to apply lime? According to the Spruce, fall is the best time. If you mix lime in your garden and lawn, you’ll notice an improvement by next spring.
Brinly-Hardy Lawn Care and Garden Attachments Help You with Applying Lime to Your Garden and Lawn
At Brinly, our lawn care and garden attachments make adding lime to your soil easy and fast. Here are four lawn care and garden attachments that we recommend for applying lime this fall:
Pennington.com, “Why, When and How to Apply Lime to Your Lawn.”
SFGate.com, “Can You Add Too Much Lime to the Soil for a Garden?”
TheSpruce.com, “Garden Lime: What Is It, How’s It Used in Landscaping.”
UMaine.edu, “Bulletin #2286, Know Your Soil: Testing Your Soil.”