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It doesn’t matter if you’re a golf course superintendent with 30 years of experience or a first time homeowner, soil testing is a very valuable tool. While it’s true that, for a time, most lawns can get by on a somewhat generic fertilization program with an emphasis on nitrogen, it’s just as true that the long-term health of the plants is anything but a sure thing on this type of maintenance. Unless the minimum levels of all necessary nutrients are met and the soil pH is at an acceptable level, the lawn will eventually suffer and decline.

Soil-related turf problems are often misdiagnosed and mistreated. This can result in a wasteful use of chemicals, hard work, and money. Proper soil testing prevents this.

Regardless of home age, lawn soil chemistry is always unique and should be tested. Bio Green sends all of our customers’ soil samples to the Virginia Tech Soil Testing lab. This inexpensive test may uncover nutrient deficiencies or pH problems significant enough to require additions of phosphorus, potassium, micronutrients, or lime.

Symptoms of Soil Problems

If your turfgrass behaves in the following ways, it’s a sign that there’s trouble down below, and that it’s time to investigate:

  • Shallow root system
  • Little top growth
  • Yellowing (chlorotic) leaves
  • Wilting
  • Poor density
  • Persistent weed problems
  • Poor response to fertilization and pesticides
  • Moss or algae build-up
  • Leaf growth surges after feeding that don’t last

Some sites may have all of the above symptoms, while others may have just a few. Some symptoms may take a long time to show (root growth), while others are quickly visible (top growth). Many other factors can cause the symptoms described above, making a definitive diagnosis nearly impossible. Thus, soil testing is a necessity.

How to Pull a Soil Sample

  1. Using a soil probe, pull samples with three to four inches of soil (be sure to remove thatch).
  2. Take roughly one plug for every 1000 square feet of turf area, but be sure to pull at least eight plugs (in order to fill the sample box). Plugs should be taken evenly throughout the lawn with an emphasis on problem areas. For larger areas, take 12 to 15 plugs per acre.
  3. Be sure to take the sample before fertilizer or lime has been applied.
  4. Allow the sample to dry completely before submitting to Virginia Tech. A word of caution: drying samples in the oven might seem like a quick way to get them dry, but this will result in altered and inaccurate test results. Let your samples air-dry.
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