Too late to soil test this year?

emcd124(5)September 6, 2012

I am a first time home owner and really trying to learn and practice organic lawn care. But I am also a mom to a toddler and I work full time, so I'll admit I've been slow on the uptake of good organic practices. So far I've just abstained from using chemical fertilizers or weed suppressants, and I've switched to deep infrequent watering, and high mow with mulching mower.

I have heard on here that knowing your soil better is really important, but I'm wondering if it is too late to do that this year. Would it be better to wait until the spring to get a soil test done? or go ahead and do it now because not much will change?

So far all i know from digging around a bit is that the soil seems to be sandy, but when it gets really dry it is so rock hard I can barely drive a shovel into it while jumping on the shovel.

Can anyone shed some wisdom on an eager newbie?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
jenniferg76(6a MA)

You sound like me (except I'm not a mom). I just had a soil test done. I think now is probably a good time to do it. The UMass extension site says they get really busy in the spring with soil testing, and encourage people to send them in at other times of the year to get a faster response.

I've found out that my soil is very acidic (not too surprised) and lacking in nutrients. I think I'm going to spread some compost, overseed, and add lime. I wanted to wait on the test results to see if I really needed the lime, and it looks like I do. I knew I was going to add the compost & more grass seed either way. (My front lawn isn't looking so good - big dead section.)

    Bookmark   September 7, 2012 at 6:06PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Now is the time to have a good soil test done so you can start making the corrections you may need to this fall so your soil will be ready next spring. If corrections to soil pH need to be done fall is the time to do that since that takes time and adding what is necessary in the spring is not going to make the necessary corrections by the time plants are up and growing. In addition to that soil test form your states ag school, (Cooperative Extension Service) these simple soil tests may be of some help,
1) Structure. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. A good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drains� too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2012 at 7:33AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Okay, thanks for the advice! I dug up a bunch of soil samples from different areas of the lawn per the UMass instructions. As soon as its dried and sifted I'll send off their required 1 cup and use the rest to do the jar test that Kimmsr suggests.

But I can tell already that our soil doesn't smell putrid, but neither does it smell earthy and good. And there are almost no earthworms anywhere except in my raised garden beds in the back. Never when digging in the lawn have i seen an earthworm. The texture is odd. It looks and feels sandy, but when it is dry, if we havent gotten rain, the lawn is so hard I can barely get a shovel to do into it by standing on it and putting all my weight into it. I needed a hammer to try to chip out some soil samples and finally gave up and waited for rain to sample.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 10:00AM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Increasing height of celebration bermuda
Our lawn was sodded with bermuda celebration a bit...
overseeding help !
Hi All, I have a 5000 sft lawn with tall fescue, in...
Weed identification
Hi All, Can some please help identify this weed ......
Best Organic Weed Control Ideas?
Hello, I am doing a project in which the objective...
Basic Outline to Follow for Organic Lawn Care
I have made earlier post describing the problems I...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™