How to Sample and Test Your Lawn Soil

Friday, April 19, 2013

If you want to maintain a healthy lawn and keep it looking green, soil testing can provide you with the vital information needed to help make your lawn look its best. Soil testing is the process of analyzing what is present in the soil. You can learn the composition, mineral density, acidity, and much more and it also helps determine the nutrients in the soil. A soil sample can help determine what nutrients your soil needs and what type and how much fertilizer you will need to maintain a healthy lawn. Let’s take a look at the basic steps for taking a soil sample.

•    Use a trowel, corer, spade or auger. Penetrate 4 to 6 inches deep into the soil and keep the samples uniform in diameter.
•    Take around 5 to 10 core samples from random test areas around your lawn.
•    Mix the samples thoroughly in a clean container, removing any grass, roots and stones. Allow mixture to air dry.
Once you have the sample, you can proceed to perform some simple soil tests like the squeeze test, the percolation test, and the earthworm test. You can also perform a pH test to check the acidity level of your soil. Every home and garden center carries pH test kits.
The squeeze test consists of taking a handful of soil and giving it a firm squeeze to determine its composition. Different reactions of the soil when squeezed and poked can tell you what kind of soil you have. Loamy soil will hold its shape when squeezed but crumble when poked. Clay soil will hold its shape whether squeezed or poked. And sandy soil will crumble immediately. The percolation test determines whether your lawn has drainage problems. You’ll first need to dig a one-foot hole. Fill the hole with water and let it drain. Then refill the hole once again, this time timing how long the water takes to drain. If the water takes more than 4 hours to drain completely, then you have bad drainage. Earthworms are generally present in healthy soils. Thus, the earthworm test can be performed as a measurement of soil health. Perform the test when the soil is warm and somewhat moist. Take a one-foot wide and one-foot deep soil sample and place the soil on a piece of cardboard. Sift through it with your hands and count the number of earthworms you come across. Most people say that finding 10 or more earthworms means your soil is thriving and healthy. Testing your lawn soil to determine how to best maintain and care for your lawn is easy by following these steps.

Philip Brown is a lover of green, healthy lawns. A former lawn care services professional, Philip now spends his time sharing what he knows with others and blogging about it at The Lawn Enthusiast.