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The Importance of Soil and Soil Care

May 2, 2016

After you have planned out how you want your lawn to look, the next step is to put your plans into action. If you are replacing your existing lawn, you will first need to get rid of your old lawn. Most people will choose to kill-off the old lawn with a broad-spectrum herbicide before they begin to plant. Once the grass and weeds are dead, they are tilled into the soil.

For those of you planting a new lawn from scratch, you will first need to determine is what kind of soil you have, what kind of soil you need, and how you want to grade your lawn.

What kind of soil you have:

One of the most overlooked, yet important factors in growing a healthy lawn is your soil composition. Your soil is the foundation for a healthy lawn, and once established, cannot be changed unless replanted or renovated. So it’s important to establish the proper soil base before you begin planting.

There are three different types of soil – Clay, Loam , and Sand. Most people don’t have a purely clay or purely sandy soil, but have a combination (i.e. sandy-loam, Clayish-Loam, etc.). We have put together 3 general descriptions to help determine what type of soil you have and its relative properties:

Clay: Clay soils are made up of tiny particles that cling together and subsequently cling well to water. To help determine how much of your soil is clay you can simply take a handful of your soil and try to squeeze it together. Once squeezed, release your fingers and see if the soil is still in a ball. The more clay it has, the more solid and less-brittle it will appear. Although it is not unique to any one place, you can usually find an abundance of clay soil in the southeast portions of the U.S.

Sand: Sandy soils are made-up of less-dense soil and sand particles that have much poorer moisture and water holding properties than clay. To help determine how much sand is in your soil, you can simply take a handful of your soil and squeeze it together (the same as we did with the clay). Once squeezed, release your fingers and see if the clump of soil falls apart. Unlike clay, sandy soil will not cling together well and should break apart in your hand after squeezing. Although it is generally not unique to one place, you can usually find an abundance of sandy soils in the southwest regions of the U.S.

Loam: As you’ve probably already guessed, loam is a combination of sandy and clay soils. In fact, most people tend to have some sort of this combination in their lawns. But for purposes of comparison, it is good to think of the extremes so you know where in between your soil may be. When applying the same squeeze test we used with the previous soil types, loam will be somewhere between the solid ball of clay and the brittle mass of sand. In short, only you can determine what kind of lawn you want and can manage. Once determined, you should have a good idea of what kind of soil combination will best fit your needs!

What kind of soil do I need?

Once you have determined the type of soil you have, the next step is to determine the composition of the soil. This can be accomplished by sending samples to a professional soil testing laboratory near you, or simply purchasing a home-testing kit and doing the test yourself. By testing your soil, you are determining the pH balance, and how much nitrogen, phosphorus, inorganic amendments, and Humus (organic amendments) you need to add to your soil. By amendments, we are talking about those things you add to your soil to improve its composition and texture. There are two common types of amendments used in soil:

Humus (Organic Amendments): Humus is the decomposing remains of animals and plants that were once alive. They are commonly used in sand and clay soils to improve both aeration and water drainage and penetration. They also provide your soil with added nitrogen. The most commonly used forms of humus are: peat moss, shaved tree bark, manure, sawdust, leaf mold, wood shavings, and sawdust. Just remember that humus from wood tends to be low in nitrogen so make sure to add any additional nitrogen accordingly.

Inorganic Amendments: – Inorganic amendments are commonly used with Humus to provide nutrients and elements that the particular humus used may not provide. These amendments often come in a powder or granular form and should be mixed in with the humus when tilled. The most common types of inorganic amendments are lime, gypsum, sulfur, and iron. Lime adds calcium to soils, creates clumps in clay soils (increasing aeration), and raises the pH of acidic soils. Gypsum is commonly used on soils low in minerals and provides both calcium and sulfate to the soil.


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