Analyzing soil

LCOs use testing to grasp how to treat turf.

March 1, 2016
Kristen Hampshire

What’s underground largely impacts how products work on the turf surface. “Soil content will tell you how many fertilizer applications you need to put down,” says Henry Velez of Green Acres Landscape in Salem, Oregon, relating that soil test are essential for learning what nutrient levels a client’s property requires.

For example, sandy loam soil will leach fertilizer and water more quickly than clay. “There aren’t as many nutrients in the (sandy) soil so it will need more fertilizer applications each year closer together, every six to eight weeks,” Velez says.
Meanwhile, clay calls for a slow-release fertilizer. “We use a soil probe to test the pH,” Velez adds. “If a client has highly acidic soil, we’ll definitely want to put down some lime and bring that soil to the proper pH levels, and then commence with fertilizing about every four to eight weeks.”

In Georgia, annual lime applications are required for most lawns in the fall on warm season grasses, and in mid-summer for tall fescue, says Chuck LeBar, president, Magnolia Lawn Care in Atlanta. Soils farther south in Florida are generally low in potassium. “Potassium is part of our regular treatment and the rate depends on the year,” says, Tyron Jones of Deans Pest Control in Fruitland Park, Florida.

Tyron Jones, president of Deans Services in Fruitland Park, Florida, conducts numerous soil samples when enrolling new clients in a program. “We have done hundreds of soil samples over the years, and if I was starting a brand-new company, I’d run out and do 50 to 100 soil samples to get a good idea of what you’re working with on your lawns,” he says.

Soil health is the foundation of lawn care programs at Heritage Lawns & Irrigation, where products are custom-blended using Dr. Elaine Ingham’s Soil Foodweb principles. “We make sure we are not damaging the soil and we are building it up, which allows us to use less fertilizer,” Ory says.

Specifically, soil health is addressed by using products that do not contain chlorine or muriate of potash, which can harm soil microbes, Ory says. “We keep our salt content low so we are not drying out and killing microbes in the soil,” he says. “We already have a carbohydrate source in our first treatment it could be a compost ingredient or a molasses base if it’s a liquid treatment.”

Turf type is also a significant factor in how a lawn care program is structured. “We fertilize our warm-season grasses more heavily May through August, especially Bermudagrass,” LeBar says. “Tall fescue we are fertilizing more heavily in spring and fall.”