With the New Year in full swing, it’s a big time for planning and new goals. It’s the same with your lawn. Just remember the 5 P’s for your lawn and for you personally. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance. If you are going to come up with a plan for your lawn, the first thing you should is to get a soil analysis done. A soil test determines the nutrient and contaminant content, composition, and other characteristics, such as acidity or pH level.

When is a good time to take a soil sample?

Soil samples may be collected at any time of the year, provided that the area is not suffering form prolonged drought, no sulfur has been used in the last six months, and no nitrogen has been applied in the last 30 days. Late spring and early summer sample shows the soil’s fertility at its best and gives time to plan a soil fertility program, which can begin directly following harvest if necessary.

Components of a Soil Test

The total exchange capacity (TEC) refers to a soil’s ability to hold and exchange nutrients. A TEC of 20 can hold twice the amount of a TEC of 10. A balance of nutrients in the soil is critical; TEC is used to factor the amount of nutrients we apply. A soil test analyzes the ratio of calcium to magnesium, which is primarily responsible for a soil’s physical structure and a plant’s development. Calcium loosens soil while magnesium acts as the glue to tighten the soil. Many soils in Northeast Texas have both high Ca and Mg levels. An excess or deficiency of any one of the nutrients in the soil can increase or decrease the level of pH. The goal is to balance the soil to lower the pH closer to 6.5.

Where to Test

Divide your year into areas that have the same soil color, slope, texture, drainage and past history of erosion. Each area should have the same cropping history and fertilizer treatment. Avoid eroded hillsides, ditch banks, animal droppings, drought stressed areas, and fertilizer and lime areas.  A soil probe is recommended for easiest and best sampling results. Put the soil into the sample bag and remove obvious debris like leaves and roots. A cupful of soil is more than enough. Make sure your sample represents the entire soil profile.

Emerald Lawns is a family own business specializes in professional lawn care that services the Greater Austin area, including Buda, Kyle, and Manor counties.