In order for your lawn to thrive throughout the year, you need to understand what’s going on underneath the grass. And in order to do this accurately, you need to carry out a soil test.
Simple soil tests will show you how acidic your soil is, which nutrients are most prominent, which nutrients are least prominent and if you should be adding any soil amendments.
All this information will not only help you to ensure proper grass growth and health, but it will also prevent you from accidentally damaging your lawn, such as applying the wrong fertiliser / material.
In this post I’ll be explaining everything you need to know about testing your soil, and how easy the process really is…
Best Home Soil Tests Available
According to recent research only a very small percentage of homeowners have carried out a soil / plant test. The main reason is that people feel they know what grows well in their garden, and therefore there is no need to spend time and money on testing their soil. However, there are many people that use guess-work, true sometimes is works, other times it doesn’t, but we have all been in a situation where we are wondering why our neighbour’s plants and grass look so amazing and we simply do not have the same results. Sometimes we wish the fence was higher and we were not able to compare our results, that simply shows that we are not at the same level as them! Well not anymore…
There are 2 simple ways of testing your soil. Firstly, you can purchase HOME TESTING DIY KITS or you can send your soil to a LABORATORY for more detailed analysis.
Home Testing Kits are cheap and readily available from places like Amazon. There are kits that vary slightly but in general they will measure the pH value of your soil, moisture, sunlight and temperature. Below I have included the most popular and highly rated kit from Amazon. The operation is very easy, you simply insert the provided sensor probe into your soil about 5 to 10 centimetres deep, wait for a few minutes and then will see the reading on the scale dial. This is a very easy and fast way of testing your soil and understanding what is going on underneath, and what nutrients are needed to achieve best lawn results.
You can also purchase soil pH Test Strips, the colour on the strip will again provide accurate and fast results. This is a slightly different way of achieving the same results. Again below I have included a link to the most popular test available on Amazon.
Last update on 2021-03-01 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
How to Carry Out a Soil Test
If a sample of your soil needs to be taken, just follow the process below.
- Use a clean, rust-free trowel or soil probe to take samples from up to 10 areas of your lawn.
- Dig several holes in the lawn around 5 to 10 cm deep.
- Take a slice of soil from one side of each hole, save 2 to 5 cm from the middle of the slice, and discard the rest of the sides, top and bottom.
- Mix the samples in a clear and clean container, and send it all to the laboratory (you will need to pay a small fee but it will be worth it).
- If you have decided to use your own DIY Soil pH Test Strips, follow the instructions on the box. (avoid touching the soil sample with your hands, let the soil dry to make it easier to work with)
One thing to remember when testing your soil is that if you have different soil types or terrains throughout your garden, so make sure you take a separate test from each area. (labelling will be important so you know what sample relates to what area)
As I said above, you don’t want to apply the wrong fertiliser/amendments to your lawn or end up having to carry our additional tests, being organised will save you time in the long run.
When To Carry Out a Soil Test
You can test at any time you want to be honest. Just remember that you could get misleading results if done within 3 months of a lime, fertiliser or organic matter application.
They can cause changes in soil moisture level, plant growth and microorganism activity which in turn affect soil nutrient level.
In saying that however, most soil tests are carried out in spring (specifically March) and it’s probably a good idea to ask your local agronomist of the best time to test in your area. This just means you can continue with absolute certainty.
Many homeowners also carry out a soil test when they move into their new house. It can save lots of money on purchasing plants that will simply not grow well, or at all, in that particular soil. By carrying our a simple DIY soil test, they will know what plants are suitable and will thrive rather than struggle, saving time and money.
Understanding your Soil and pH Scale
Below I have included a pH scale to explain in more detail the different levels. A pH 7.0 is considered as NEUTRAL, this level is in the middle of the scale.
An acidic soil has a pH value below 7.0 (from the middle to the left), and an alkaline soil has pH value above 7.0 (from the middle to the right of the scale).
Interpretation of pH Results
Probably the biggest thing you’ll learn about from your test is your soil’s pH level, so it is important that you understand exactly what each level means.
pH 3.0-5.0 (very acidic)
Plants and grass find it very difficult to survive in conditions like these. Because of the high acidity, most plant nutrients (such as calcium, potassium and magnesium) become more soluble which means it is easier for them to be washed away.
As well as that, bacteria can’t rot organic matter when the soil’s pH level is lower than 4.7 so there will be fewer nutrients made available for the grass roots.
This, of course, makes it much harder for them to get the feeding they need.
So to counteract this, and to boost your soil’s pH level, you’ll need to add lime to your lawn.
pH 5.1-6.0 (acidic soil)
No action really needs to be taken here to help your soil. You can sometimes see unwanted plants growing, in which case you would add lime to prohibit their growth, but other than that you should be fine.
pH 6.1-7.0 (moderately acidic)
A pH of 6.5 is generally the best pH for the majority of gardens as it allows for a wide range of different plants/grass to grow – other than lime-hating grasses. This is because the availability of major nutrients is at its highest at this pH, and earthworm activity is at an optimum level.
So you should not need to add anything, if your lawn has this level of pH.
Some nutrients, like phosphorus, iron and manganese, become less available for absorption in soils with this level of pH, which could lead to lime-induced chlorosis.
In order to reduce the pH level you can add things such as sulphur, iron sulphate and other acidifying agents.
To ensure your soil and lawn health over the long term, you will want to carry out a test at least every 3 years. This allows you to keep on top of your soil’s pH and nutrient levels.
Just make sure you follow the tips in this post and you’ll be well on your way to a great looking lawn.
Thanks for reading my article. Of course, gaining information on your soil’s pH level is a very important aspect of good lawn care, but it is probably not the most important.
In my opinion, and possibly yours too, lawn mowing is the most important part of your lawn care regime, and because of that I think you need a great mower to have a great lawn.
So to find a lawn mower that is suitable for both you and your lawn requirements, and will provide a healthy and good looking lawn, check out my lawn mower reviews by following this link –
Below I have also included other relevant helpful guides to help you achieve a healthy and attractive lawn –