Soils are the foundation of life. They serve as an anchor for plant roots.* Plants need live, healthy, balanced soil for productive growth and protection against pests. Areas set aside for lawns usually have one or a combination of soil types, including clay, silt, loam, sandy loam,* sand, gravel, and rock.
All soils have five major components: organic matter, minerals, water, air, and living organisms. The seldom-discussed living organisms are very important and consist of earthworms, insects, plants, algae,* bacteria, fungi, and other microorganisms. Healthy soils need a balance of mineral nutrients, approximately the following percentages:
- Calcium: 65 to 70 percent;
- Magnesium: 12 to 22 percent;
- Potassium: 4 to 5 percent
- Other trace minerals.
The pH of your soil should range between 5.5 and 7.5. If the pH is above or below this range, then grass plants have difficulty absorbing certain essential nutrients they need to thrive, so you'll have to adjust it and perform more maintenance on a regular schedule. Sometimes the pH healthy balance has been negatively affected by the application of harsh synthetic fertilizers and chemicals and the regular removal of dead organic matter. What this can leave a homeowner with is dry, sterile dirt.
In order to know what you're dealing with in terms of soil, you may wish to determine its chemical characteristics by having the soil tested. The tester should be a company that will give you detailed information about your soil's chemical composition as well as organic fertilizer recommendations. Local nurseries or agricultural offices may be able to provide this service.
One of the best soil tests is to dig out a piece of soil measuring 30 cm (11.75 in.) by 30 cm (11.75 in.) by 18 cm (7 in.) deep and count the earthworms. If there aren't several earthworms, you will need to aerate the soil and add organic matter. The structure of the soil at depths of 30 cm (11.75 in.) and 60 cm (23.5 in.) is important for drainage and deep root development, but the structure of the top 18 cm (7 in.) is the most important. That's where air, organic microbes, earthworms, and feeder roots* are concentrated. Next...