Soil testing: Mill Creek, Bothell and Seattle areas
If you plan on living in your house for more than three years, it is a good idea to consider soil testing. It’s very inexpensive, and the benefits outweigh the cost.
A soil test will tell you exactly what your soil quality is and what can be done to improve it. If you don’t know what is in your soil, the health of your lawn is at risk.
A soil test measures its health, just as a lab test measures yours. A simple laboratory test shows the nutrients in the soil as well as its pH, which determines whether those nutrients are available for the plants’ use. There is no way to judge what is in your soil just by appearance.
The results will be more than just the pH level. A soil test can help you reduce pest problems, weeds and drainage issues. A soil test is about physics and biology, not just acid/alkaline levels.
If you can get soil biology balanced, the appearance of your lawn and landscape will be greatly improved while also spending less money on fertilizers, weed control and maintenance.
There are 2 to 3 million species of micro-organisms in a healthy soil profile. To have plenty of micro-organisms, a high quantity of food (carbon) needs to be present to feed them. Synthetic nitrogen removes carbon from the soil.
This is why I now carry both organic and 60 percent slow-release synthetic fertilizers. The most important thing to understand is that to support healthy microbe numbers, a good soil test will tell you what needs to be done on your property to get and keep a healthy soil profile.
How often should you test?
Soil should be tested every year if you have problems to correct and/or if you are tracking progress. Testing under normal circumstances should be done about every three years. Testing should ideally be performed at the same time of year to get accurate and controlled results.
I recommend either a university or commercial laboratory.
Why should I get a soil test?
Before paying for an extensive soil renovation, it makes sense to consult with a soil and plant lab. Harris Laboratories in Lincoln, Neb., has a good reputation. Their soil test will tell you about:
- Organic material in your lawn
- Cation exchange capability
- Soil fertility
- pH levels
- A complete scientific readout
This is a road map for your soils’ future. The test will show what your current soil conditions are and tell you what changes to make to achieve the highest results.
Stewart Armour is the owner and operator of Aerating Thatching Co. in Seattle. Armour has extensive education in turf management in Western Washington. The first turf class he attended was Golf Course Construction and Design in 1981, taught by Jerry Mackie at Bellevue Community College. In 1994, he majored in turf management at South Seattle Community College. After several years, he advanced to Clover Park Technical College and studied under a local golf course superintendent, John Ford.
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