Did you know that 90% of the weight of a turfgrass plant is below ground level in its roots? Beneath the surface of the grass, what’s happening within your soil is extremely important.
Your soil is the powerhouse that fuels the health and nutrition of your lawn.
Truth be told, many homeowners spend very little time thinking about their soil.
So let’s change that by taking a look at what you need to know about your soil, whether you hire a professional to manage your lawn or decide to do it yourself.
First, you’ll need to know the composition of your soil: type, structure, nutrients, pH, organic matter, and more.
Never assume you know the composition of your soil without doing a soil test, because looks can be deceiving when it comes to dirt.
During soil testing, take samples from a variety of places in your yard and perform an individual test on each sample. You’ll probably be surprised to see that your soil varies quite a bit across your lawn.
Ideally, turfgrass soil is composed of at least 6 inches of somewhat loose, workable organic material.
It might include loam, sandy loam, clay loam, silt loam, sandy clay loam or other soil suitable for the geographic area and for your type of grass.
Your soil also impacts the drainage of your lawn. A soil that is more than 40% clay, for example, tends to have poor drainage that can create soggy spots and areas of poor grass growth.
How compact or loose is your soil? Has it been aerated recently? These factors contribute to the level of drainage within the lawn and the amounts of water and oxygen your plants are receiving.
Your turfgrass needs proper nutrition, sun, and moisture to survive.
Take some time to consider the health of your soil and whether your lawn might need additional fertilizing, sunshine, or watering to look its best.
Remember the impact of competition. Your grass competes for nutrients with other things nearby: trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables, and more.
If you have large trees that absorb a lot of water through their root systems, they could be depriving your lawn of what it needs to thrive.
One of the trickiest aspects of lawn care is establishing the right watering schedule. A variety of factors can impact how much you water: rainfall, wind, sun, temperature, and soil makeup, just to name a few.
Here’s a technique that will help you understand how much water your lawn needs. First, water the lawn in the amount you believe is best.
Next, choose a spot to dig down into the soil and check how it looks below the surface where the grass roots sit. Turfgrass roots are typically shallow and sit relatively near the surface of the soil.
When you examine the soil, how does the dirt around the turfgrass roots look? Is it still dry, or are the roots getting plenty of moisture? This information can inform your future application of water.
Believe it or not, the foot traffic on your lawn has an effect below the surface of the ground. Foot traffic compacts the soil and reduces the amount of oxygen and water that can reach the roots of the grass.
This effect is especially pronounced after periods of heavy rain when the ground is soggy. Try to minimize foot traffic after heavy rains or watering and give the grass and soil some time to recover.
Rocks and Debris
Large rocks, loose sticks, and other debris can cause problems with your soil. Remove as many of them as you can without doing major damage to your turf.
In fact, large rocks down within the soil are hot spots in your lawn that attract excess heat and disturb the roots of your turfgrass. These must be removed to promote the health of your lawn.
Changes Over Time
Supporting the health of your soil isn’t just a one-time job. Soil moves and shifts over time, which means you must constantly change your approach to match the current state of your yard.
With age, drying, watering, fertilizing, lawn mowing, and foot traffic, your soil might be a lot different today than it was just a couple years ago.
Perform additional soil tests as time goes by and take into consideration the forces that are shaping the health of your lawn.
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