Soil Testing

Landscaping, Lawn Care

By Evan Rivers

Every homeowner strives to have beautiful grass. A healthy lawn will grow more evenly, appear greener, and compliment the overall look of your home and property. However, many homeowners are not aware of all the steps they can take to promote the health of their lawn. To promote the greatest health for your lawn, it is essential to get a soil test. Testing the soil in your lawn can give you a “behind the scenes” look at what is going on in the soil, and it can help you develop a plan to improve the health of your lawn. Continue reading to learn about the benefits of soil testing and how to get a soil test.

Why should I get a soil test?

Some homeowners feel that they’re doing everything right in regards to their lawn and landscape. They may have applied fertilizer, and they may even water religiously or have an irrigation system installed. Some people, though, still find that their grass and plants do not grow as well as they wish. While this may be the last thing to come to mind, the answer may lie in your soil.

Just as your plants and grass depend on a delicate balance of water to stay healthy, they also need the soil to be just right in order to stay healthy. Imagine this: you decide you want to go on a family vacation, but you do not plan which route you will drive beforehand. This is essentially what you are doing when you do not test your soil. You are deciding on a destination without planning the journey. Soil testing is the journey that will help you create a plan to reach the destination of a beautiful lawn and landscape. 

What is a soil test?

Now that you know the importance of getting a soil test, you may be wondering, “what exactly does a soil test measure?” Most simply stated, a soil test measures how fertile the soil is. It determines this measurement by 1) measuring the pH level of the soil, and 2) measuring the levels of certain elements in the soil. 

Why is the pH of the soil important?

The pH is the measure of how acidic or alkaline something is. A lower score means the substance is more acidic, and a higher score means it is more alkaline. Most grasses, trees, plants, and vegetables prefer a pH that is acidic. However, specific plants prefer a more acidic environment, while others prefer a less acidic environment. When the pH is too high or too low, the soil does not have the correct nutrients to promote growth of plants. This can result in disease or death of the plant Therefore, it is important to know the pH of your soil so you can determine which plants and grasses will or will not grow well in your soil, and you can make adjustments based on your desired lawn and landscape. Learn more about the importance of the soil’s pH from the experts at the North Carolina State University Extension.


What influences the pH of my soil?

Now that you know why pH of the soil is so important, you may be wondering, what influences the pH of my soil? Unfortunately, there is not one simple answer here. The pH of your soil is influenced by many different factors, including the amount of precipitation you receive in your area, the type of rock it is formed from, what plants have grown in the soil before, and what previous fertilizer was used in the soil. 

Which elements does a soil test detect?

Along with testing pH, soil tests also monitor levels of certain elements in the soil, such as:

  1. Potassium
  2. Magnesium
  3. Calcium
  4. Sodium
  5. Phosphorus 
  6. Zinc
  7. Sulfur
  8. Manganese
  9. Copper

Testing for the levels of these elements helps to create a better picture of what is going on in your soil, and this will help to inform decisions on what steps are needed to make corrections, what fertilizers are necessary, and which plants may grow best in your soil.

How do soil tests help me choose a fertilizer?

After receiving the results of your soil test, you will be better informed on which fertilizers may work best for your lawn and landscape. Once you learn which nutrients you have less or more of, you can choose a fertilizer that may help correct any imbalances. 

Top Benefits of Soil Testing

After obtaining a soil test, you will quickly learn that it has many benefits.

1. Inexpensive

Testing your soil through an agency like the Clemson Extension Office is very inexpensive, and it will pay off in the long run. This is especially true since you can rest assured your plants and grass will be healthy, leading to lower replacement costs.

2. Quick Results

Once you send your soil sample in by mail to the Clemson Extension Office, you can expect your results quickly, within a couple of weeks. This allows for rapid planning for how you will continue to upgrade your lawn and landscape

3. Will know which fertilizer to use

 Once you learn what nutrients your soil needs more or less of, you can make an informed choice on fertilizer that will meet your needs. 


4. Will know how much fertilizer to use

Not only will a soil test teach you which fertilizer to use, it can also help inform the correct amount of fertilizer to use. When you are not sure of your soil’s needs, you can easily overuse fertilizer. Excess fertilizer can lead to an increased cost to you, and end up in water sources, leading to pollution.

5. Know which plants will grow best on your property

 Once you learn more about what the soil on your property is like, this may help you determine what plants will work best on your property. Don’t fret, though, if the plants you desire do not match up with the current pH of your soil, there is a solution, which we will discuss in number 6.

6. You can fix deficiencies

Your soil test may discover that you are deficient in certain nutrients. As a result, it may be difficult for certain grasses, plants, and trees to grow in your lawn and landscape. However, Rivers Lawn and Landscape can help you correct these deficiencies. We can talk about your plan for your lawn and landscape, and then we can select and spread a fertilizer that will help to increase the levels of the nutrients you will need to make your ideal yard a reality.


7. Prevent disease in plants

Having a nutrient or pH imbalance in your lawn and landscape may lead to disease and death in your grass or plants. Selecting a proper fertilizer not only helps you select plants, but it can also help to prevent disease in your lawn and landscape.

8. Better looking plants and grass

By this point, you have gone through the work of designing your lawn and landscape, selecting a fertilizer, and balancing the pH in your soil. When you plant your grass and establish your landscape, your plants and grass will thank you. They will be greener, healthier, and more beautiful as a result of your hard work.

9. Can help you plan your garden

Not only will soil testing help with your lawn and landscape, it can also benefit your fruit and vegetable garden. If you love the taste of homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers but don’t know where to start, make sure to get a soil test.

How can I get a soil test?

Although soil tests are likely available at many of your local stores, these are often unreliable and may lead to results that will not benefit your lawn. To get a reliable soil test, reach out to your local Clemson Extension Office, where you can submit a sample for soil testing in person or by mail. If you choose the mail option, you can expect to receive your results within 10 days of them receiving your sample.

Rock by RLL

How often should I test my soil?

Luckily, soil tests can be taken any time of year. Many homeowners aim to get a soil test annually, especially if the nutrient levels in their soil are very high or very low. Be careful not to do any major planting (like seeding or sodding your lawn or establishing a new landscape) before getting a soil test, because your soil test may recommend fertilizer.

Next Steps

If you need help with any step of the soil testing process, give Rivers Lawn and Landscape a call. We can help you with:

  1. Sampling your soil
  2. Submitting your soil sample
  3. Interpreting your results
  4. Planning what changes you want to make in your lawn
  5. Selecting a fertilizer that will help you reach your goals.

If you need help with any of these steps or would like to learn more about soil tests, contact us.