Soil quality is vital to the growth of all plants. If your plants never seem to do as well as you think they should, it could be caused by poor soil quality. How do you determine what kind of soil you have? How can you improve the quality of your soil? We're going to share some simple, easy to use tips for testing and improving the soil in your landscape. Keep reading to learn more!
What Determines Soil Quality?
There are many factors that effect soil quality and the soils ability to grow plants. The mineral contents of the soil are important, but they are the only factors which determine if your soil is good or bad.
In the video below, Bryce Kirkpatrick, our turf program director, discusses some aspects of soil quality. He explains what effects the quality of your soil, how you can figure out what soil you have, and some ways to improve it. Watch the video, then we'll dig deeper into soil quality and what can be done about it.
As Bryce stated in the video, the type of soil you have is an important factor in determining the quality of your soil. You can get a good idea of the type of soil you have in your lawn by performing a simple test. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you figure out what type of soil you have in your yard.
Improving Your Soil Quality
If you're wanting to plant in an area with clay or sandy soil, you will need to improve soil in order for your plants to be successful. This is easy enough to do for small to medium-size planting areas, such as a flowerbed. Improving larger areas, like entire lawns or big, expansive bed areas, can be a bit more of a hassle to take on by yourself.
Small to Medium-Size Planting Areas
The simplest way to fix the soil quality issues in a specific area is by adding some good, fertile dirt into your planting area. You can purchase high quality garden soil that's ready to use right out of the bag.
Once you have some fertile topsoil to work with, the next step is to mix it into your planting area.
First you need to determine the boundaries of the area you'll be planting in. Mark the area out and clear away any debris and weeds so that you have a bare dirt patch. Spread a layer of your garden soil evenly over the patch, then till it into the soil. It's best to use a motorized tiller for this, if you have one available.
Ideally, you want to continue tilling in topsoil until the dirt takes on the darker color of the high-quality soil. This may require several bags depending on the size of your planting area. You can also add in fresh compost material if you have some. Make sure to till down deep enough for the root system of your plants to have room to grow as well.
When you're finished you can check the consistency of the soil again using the test above to make sure it is taking on the qualities of that good silt soil. Once you are ready to plant, dig out the holes you will place the plants in. Add some more of your topsoil into the holes directly and then plant your plants.
Improving soil for large areas, such as an entire lawn, can be done similarly to small areas only on a much larger scale. This means you'll need larger equipment and more materials.
If you want to completely refurbish your yard and re-sod it, you can use the same principle for that we described for small areas, just on a much larger scale. Again, this obviously will require tearing up the existing turf and re-sodding the yard.
To improve the soil without having to tear up your grass, you'll need to look into a process called topdressing. Topdressing involves applying an even layer of soil across the top of the lawn. Small lawn areas can be topdressed manually using a shovel and wheelbarrow full of topsoil. The soil is spread by slinging it from the shovel so that it spreads out evenly.
For larger lawns, manual topdressing isn't very practical. It is best to use a topdressing machine when addressing medium to large areas.
It's recommended that you get help from a lawn improvement professional if you want to refurbish or topdress your lawn. They will be able to help you get the job done right. It will also be fast and more efficient than trying to take it on yourself, unless you specifically have experience in doing this type of work. Trying to take it on yourself without proper experience and equipment can result in wasted time, money, and effort if the work isn't done correctly.
Digging Deeper into Soil Quality
While knowing the type of soil you have will tell you a lot about how good it will be for growing plants, there's many other factors which affect soil quality such as pH and mineral content. These factors require more sophisticated tests to measure.
You can purchase DIY soil testing kits to help you better understand the makeup of your soil using tests you can do at home. Here are a few soil testing kits which you can use at home.
DIY soil test kits will only tell you so much about the make-up of your soil. If you want the best and most in-depth results though, you should consider sending off soil samples for analysis at a lab.
Contact your local county extension agent for more information on soil sampling. They can provide you with the necessary information and materials to collect and send off samples of your soil to be analyzed.
Understanding and improving soil quality is a science. It can get a bit complicated at times and takes some work to get it right.
If you have any questions or need help improving your soil, please feel free to reach out to us. We're always happy to provide advice or give you a hand to help get the job done!
By: William Adams
In 09/2018 William started at Real Turf working in the field having never done manual labor before. He wasn't expected to last the first day. Terry recognized ways William could benefit the company more, and after 5 months of working full-time on lawn service and enhancement crews, William was given a position doing digital marketing, IT, & quality control work.