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Soil Testing 101

What’s the key to growing healthy grass, shrubs, flowers, and trees? Regular soil testing to ensure nutrient rich, well balanced soil. You can test your soil any time of year, but it is often best to do so before you add spring fertilizers so you know what your lawn really needs.

Quick Guide to Soil Types

Here in Georgia, we have three main types of soil: clay, sandy, and loamy.

Clay soil is thick and heavy. It drains poorly and is very sticky when wet. It’s difficult for roots to pass through and often leads to root rot from poor drainage. Amend clay soil with compost and organic matter and till deeply. Plants that do well in clay rich soils include day lilies, willows, and poplars.

Sandy soils are more common near the coastlines. They drain very quickly and are usually nutrient poor since rains wash them away so quickly. Add compost to enrich the sandy soil and slow drainage. Mulch well around your shrubs and flower beds to further increase moisture retention. Asters, dianthus, day lilies, and pine trees do well in sandier soils.

Loamy soil is the blue-ribbon winner of soil types. It is dark, rich, and holds moisture in just the right amount. It clumps into aggregates that allow for air pockets and good drainage. Roses, gardenias, and azaleas love loamy soils.

Chances are you have more than one type of soil in your yard, especially if you’ve been working to improve one area at a time. No matter what types of soils you are dealing with, you can test samples easily through the UGA Ag Extension.

Soil Testing 101

What supplements does your soil need to grow healthy sod? Soil testing kits are inexpensive and easy to use. Your local UGA Ag Extension office has a detailed pamphlet for you here: Soil Testing for Home Lawns

Generally speaking, here’s what you’ll do:

  • Use clean sampling equipment to limit contamination
  • Use stainless steel or chrome-plated tools that won’t deposit zinc into your soil samples
  • Dig a V-shaped hole about 4 inches deep to remove vegetative matter, then take a clean slice from the side
  • Mix each soil sample in a separate, clean container
  • Take different samples for areas with different types of soil
  • Sample areas with healthy and unhealthy grass separately
  • Mark each sample/result clearly
  • Dry overnight on a clean surface
  • Package the samples and bring in or mail off to your local ag extension.

You’ll get a detailed report back from them in about 7 to 10 days with a full set of recommendations for amendments and fertilizer treatments based on your results.

Contact NG Turf for your Atlanta sod needs.

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