Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | Soil Analysis Part 3

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | Soil Analysis Part 3

PPLM Soil Sample FAQ Series, Part Three:

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments

 

As we have been learning in Part One and Part Two of PPLM’s Soil Sample FAQ Series, a lawn soil analysis evaluates key nutrient levels and related factors present in a sample from a lawn’s soil. Once a soil sample is taken, it is submitted to a professional laboratory which will produce and return a lawn soil analysis showing the requested data. A turf management professional can then interpret these results for a homeowner to discern which values are insufficient for healthy turf growth and may be in need of faster, targeted correction.

In Part One of this series, we learned that having a soil sample taken is like having blood drawn at the doctor’s office. In Part Two, we discussed how a lawn soil analysis report is like the bloodwork results that the doctor uses to identify why a patient feels sick. A soil sample is analyzed at a professional laboratory or through a local extension office. It’s important for the lawn soil analysis to then be interpreted by a local turf management professional to give the results context and professional recommendations. A typical soil analysis will show data such as the soil’s pH, nutrient levels like those of phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, the soil cation exchange capacity, and the amount of organic matter present in the soil. A lawn soil analysis usually has a three to five week turn around with a professional fertilization company like PPLM. If a homeowner is investing in having a lawn soil analysis performed, then the company with whom the homeowner is working should be providing the homeowner with the soil analysis results and an explanation of what they are showing.

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | (804)530-2540 | Green Lawns In VA

A batch of soil samples ready to be submitted to the lab for analysis.

In this part of the PPLM Soil Sample FAQ Series, we will examine what is involved in having a soil sample analyzed and the basics of receiving and interpreting a soil analysis report. The greatest value for a homeowner in having a professional applicator perform a soil analysis for them is the ability of this person to then interpret the soil analysis report. A professional applicator can then use this interpretation to make recommendations for the most effective fertilizer program to correct the soil deficiencies.

This installment of the PPLM Soil Sample FAQ Series will take a closer look at what can be done when a lawn soil analysis shows deficiencies in the quality or composition of a yard’s soil. Getting blood drawn and having a doctor interpret bloodwork results lends a patient and their physician knowledge, but the best use of this knowledge is to make recommendations for treatments that will help correct the problems revealed. Likewise, a professional applicator will make recommendations for corrective lawn treatments to address flaws in the soil that are keeping a lawn from achieving its best possible health.

What is a Corrective Fertilizer Treatment?

If a homeowner is investing in fertilization treatments, they should be familiar with the year round, multi-application process involved in their lawn’s typical treatment plan. This standard series of routine fertilizer treatments is called a maintenance program, which means that it is designed to be the standard course of fertilizer needed to maintain a healthy lawn. A corrective treatment is what a lawn care professional will recommend when there are significant issues shown by a lawn soil analysis that are resulting in a lawn that isn’t as healthy as it should be for a maintenance program.

To put it another way, a maintenance fertilizer program is like an everyday multivitamin; a corrective treatment or corrective program is the high powered B-12 or iron supplement a doctor prescribes when bloodwork shows that the patient needs more of that nutrient than they’re getting from their multivitamin. Corrective treatments for a lawn are usually an extra strength fertilizer or lime application that is added into the maintenance fertilization program for the season following the lawn soil analysis. The corrective treatment is built in either as an extra visit or in place of one or more of the standard maintenance applications with a stronger product that will be better for the lawn’s unique needs.

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | (804)530-2540 | Green Lawns In VA

An example of a soil analysis showing high potassium levels within acidic soil.

Why is my Soil pH Low?

To review the lessons we learn in middle or high school science class, pH is the measure of acidity on a scale of 0 to 14 with a pH of 7 being neutral. A high pH is referred to as basic, but a low pH is known as acidic. For this reason, a low soil pH is indicative of soil acidity. Generally, the ideal pH for fescue is in the range of 6.4-6.7, which is slightly acidic. A pH any lower than this range results in decreased activity of the beneficial microbes in the soil, binds up nutrients in the soil to the point that they cannot be properly absorbed by the turf, and contributes to an environment supportive of weeds, fungus, and grubs.

A low soil pH is one of the most common issues that shows up on a lawn soil analysis. A lot of outside forces contribute acidic input to the soil throughout the year like rain, decaying leaves, run off, tree roots, fertilizer, and more. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that a homeowner can do about these outside forces creating acidic conditions in the lawn. Since a lawn’s soil resultantly tends toward acidity, it’s very normal to see a low pH if there hasn’t already been some intervention with a basic product like lime.

 

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | (804)530-2540 | Green Lawns In VA

Professional products appropriate for correcting soil acidity as well as low calcium or magnesium levels.

A low soil pH is one of the most common issues that shows up on a lawn soil analysis. A lot of outside forces contribute acidic input to the soil throughout the year like rain, decaying leaves, run off, tree roots, fertilizer, and more. Unfortunately, there isn’t much that a homeowner can do about these outside forces creating acidic conditions in the lawn. Since a lawn’s soil resultantly tends toward acidity, it’s very normal to see a low pH if there hasn’t already been some intervention with a basic product like lime.

 

Why Are Some of my Soil Nutrient Levels Low While Others Are High?

If it hasn’t been implied in this series already, soil nutrition is a complex and fickle science. With bloodwork, it is possible to have a terrible level of one vitamin and an off the chart level of another vitamin at the same time. The same holds true with a lawn soil analysis: each variable being measured can come in at a unique level, but they all relate to each other in how they impact a lawn. As a result, it’s important for anyone interpreting a lawn soil analysis to look at the individual values as well as the whole picture to best understand what is happening with the soil.

In a local area such as the service zone of a fertilizer company, there are going to be geological trends that bring consistency to the soil composition seen in the majority of lawn environments. As a result, there become “typical” lawn soil analysis result patterns that are familiar to professionals interpreting numerous soil analysis reports each season. The strong majority of these patterns will have low and high nutrient values on the same report. Trends throughout the data pool as well as a balance between low and high values on an individual report give context to the composition of the soil and help predict issues with weeds and other risks to a lawn.

 

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | (804)530-2540 | Green Lawns In VA

This image, taken from an interactive map provided by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy via the Division of Geology and Mineral Resources shows the geological deposits most prevalent in one part of RVA.

 

Corrective fertilizer treatments are flexible and customizable enough that they can be formulated by a professional applicator to target the nutrients that are insufficient without continue to raise the levels of nutrients that are already in their ideal range. Based on how acidic the soil is, nutrients like phosphorus could be reading low simply because the phosphorus is mineralized in a way that makes it unavailable to plant absorption. If this is the case, corrective treatments should target the soil’s pH before they address low phosphorus. Each lawn soil analysis yields unique results, which is why the recommended corrective treatments should be unique for each property as well.

My Lawn Soil Analysis Was Sent to me with Recommended Corrective Treatments.  Is This an Upsell?

We’ve all experienced the “do you want fries with that” sales approach. A client signs up for a standard service only to be flooded with upgrades and add-ons that can come across as an excessive sales tactic rather than a true recommendation. With so many ancillary service options in the lawn care industry, this is a very easy miscommunication that can occur between clients and applicators where corrective treatments are concerned.

At PPLM, we do not consider corrective fertilization recommendations an upsell. That’s why the recommendations are being given to our clients by the head of our fertilizer division, not by a member of our sales team. Rather than viewing the corrective treatments that come with a lawn soil analysis as an upsell, here’s the better way to look at it:

        ● – Corrective treatments do come at an extra cost with most companies, but this is only because they require a stronger, more                          expensive product.

        ● – Corrective treatments are not obligatory, and a good maintenance program will eventually yield the same results; it will just take                    more time.

        ● – Corrective treatments are recommended simply because lawn care professionals want nothing more than to see health and                          success for the lawns they maintain, and corrective customizations are the surest way to do so.

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | (804)530-2540 | Green Lawns In VA

This lawn soil analysis shows an extremely high magnesium level, an above average CEC for the area, and low levels for everything else.

I Want to Do the Recommended Corrective Treatments Based on my Lawn Soil Analysis, but I Don’t Think I Can Afford the Extra Cost.  Is There an Alternative?

There is always an alternative! At the end of the day, professional lawn fertilization is a luxury service for most homeowners more than a necessity. As a result, there is sure to be a budget where lawn care is concerned. If that budget is already reached with the maintenance fertilizer and perhaps more important supportive services like fungicide or grub control, a good turf management company like PPLM will gladly offer DIY recommendations to clients who wish to explore that option.

DIY corrective treatments using the products and application rates recommended by a professional applicator will usually be a lower out of pocket cost if the homeowner doesn’t mind the time it will take and is comfortable with the process as well as physically able. If DIY isn’t a good fit for a homeowner either, it’s important to remember that corrective treatments are not obligatory. A strong maintenance program paired with monitoring a yearly lawn soil analysis will achieve a healthy lawn with suitable soil, but it will be a more slow and steady process.

Lawn Soil Analysis & Corrective Treatments | PPLM | (804)530-2540 | Green Lawns In VA

An example of a lawn soil analysis for a yard that has a long way to go.

Corrective treatments are a valuable acceleration to the process of achieving optimal soil properties for the successful growth of a residential lawn. A lawn soil analysis provides the information a turf management professional needs to make the proper recommendations for these corrective treatments based on data that reveals what the soil might be lacking. The season following a lawn soil analysis is important for the development of healthy soil, but what does the process look like in the long term? Be sure to follow up with our final installment in the PPLM Soil Sample FAQ Series to learn more about how a lawn soil analysis will change season to season.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lawn Care Services That PPLM Provides

 

 

● – Tailored and Detailed Fertilization Programs

● – Weed Control

● – Aeration and Overseeding

● – Mosquito Control

● – Fungus Control

● – Grub Control

● – Nutsedge Control

● – Plus More…….

 

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