Soil Testing – Just Do It
You may be asking yourself why a picture of water is over a blog post about soil. The two go hand in hand. As we are closing in on the end of August, many of you will be thinking about over-seeding your lawns and fertilizing or perhaps broadcasting a winterizer product. The vast majority of you will not take the time to soil test first. Think about it, you’re going to apply a chemical/nutrient product to your soil without knowing what your soil actually needs. It seems so simple but few people ever test their soil. What if your doctor prescribed cough medicine for every ailment like say a broken arm or diabetes. Different medications are for different problems like different fertilizers for different soil conditions. Fertilizing without first knowing what nutrients are deficient in your soil is just as ridiculous as the doctor prescribing cough medicine for every malady. Fortunately, the doctor would soon be facing disciplinary actions from government agencies and would be put out of business. Unfortunately, businesses and do-it-yourselfers all across the continent will use “one size fits all” products based on the name of the product, the picture on the package or any other ridiculous reason. If your local agricultural agency does not offer the service for free or a nominal fee, your agent will certainly be able to recommend a lab that can provide soil testing services. If you live in an urban or suburban area, don’t be fooled by the word “agricultural”. You may be having pastoral visions of sheep grazing on lush green hillsides. Everywhere has an extension. How about the New York City? Yes,even New York City has an extension service! Sometimes these agencies are called “cooperative extensions”. If you haven’t become familiar with your local extension agent…do it. There are multiple services and programs offered by these agencies payed for with your tax dollars. To find your local agent, type <Your City/Town/County,State> agricultural extension in to your favorite web browser and presto.
So why the water pic? Every year, TONS (not figuratively but literally) of nutrients contaminate streams, rivers, oceans and groundwater. Even if you don’t let your fertilizer get into the street to wash into storm drains, it can still runoff with surface water. Fertilizer pollution causes enormous algal blooms know as dead zones. These blooms deplete the oxygen levels in the water. Some algae emits toxins that can kill fish, birds and make humans sick. Not to mention, our seafood becomes polluted. There are more than 400 of these dead zones, totaling more than 94,000 square miles of ocean. One of these dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico is roughly the size of New Jersey, growing larger each year. Hopefully you’re considering a soil test by now. Even if you don’t want to deal with your local extension, at least use one of the inexpensive products available at your local nursery or hardware store. These will give you and idea of your soil’s pH as well as Nitrogen, Phosphorous and Potassium levels. These are the three macro-nutrients that the numbers on your fertilizer represent of called the N-P-K. For example if your fertilizer numbers are 26-0-4, then it is 26% Nitrogen, 0% Phosphorous and 4% Potassium. It doesn’t matter if your fertilizer is organic or synthetic, if you add too much, pollution will be the result. The data from your soil test will give you recommended amounts of each nutrient to add for your type of lawn and soil composition. This is not hard or complicated at all. Do not let fear cause you to be part of the problem. Soil test and become part of the solution. Remember, soil test now so that the results are completed before you need to fertilize.
-Best wishes for good growing – The HH team