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Creating Healthy Soils for Your Lawn

by Gabby Hyman, All About Lawns Columnist

Your lawn can only be as healthy as the composition of the soil in which it takes root. Grass--like all other growing plants--is picky about soil depth, soil pH, and mineral balance. Many homeowners find it beneficial to send a soil sample to their local lawn service or nearby university agricultural extension lab for testing. Because natural or added nutrients leech into the soil over time, it helps to get a baseline reading before seeding, using herbicides, and fertilizing your lawn.

Generally speaking, healthy balanced soils are composed of approximately 4 to 5 percent potassium, 65 to 70 percent calcium, and 12 to 22 percent magnesium. This range is broad enough to meet varying soil conditions across the country. Your lawn loves it most when the soil pH tests between 6.3 and 6.8.

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You should know when the pH has climbed too high when dandelions begin to appear throughout your lawn. These pesky weeds crave soil with a pH level around 7.5. Sulfur can help restore the lower pH that suits most grasses.

Soil and Your Lawn

If you really break down soil composition, you'll see it contains living organisms, decaying organic material, air, and water. Grass uses about the top half foot of soil for most of its growth. If you dig about 3/4 of a foot down into your soil and find few or no worms, chances are good that there's insufficient air and organic matter to sustain healthy life.

If the soil nutrients are leeched out, consider using water-insoluble nitrogen fertilizers on your lawn. In this case, fertilizers with at least 35 percent of their materials composed of time-released nitrogen will promote a healthy, full growing season.

Leaving your clippings on the lawn also helps restore organic nutrients in the soil. Remember that over-watering your lawn does more to leech nutrients from the grass and soil than any other single cause.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.

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