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Test soil to determine your plants lime and fertilizer needs

POSTED: January 24, 2014 1:00 a.m.

In January, the Hall County Extension office begins to get calls relating to pruning times, soil testing and turf maintenance.

Since I already covered pruning in my Dec. 27 column, I will focus on the soil testing.

Soil testing is an important task to be completed in the winter months.

What is a soil test?

A soil test is a process by which elements such as phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfur, manganese, copper and zinc are chemically removed from the soil and measured for their “plant available” content. The quantity of available nutrients in the sample determines the amount of fertilizer recommended for a certain crop such as grass, vegetables, flowering annuals and perennials, shrubs and trees.

A soil test also measures soil pH and exchangeable acidity. These analyses indicate whether lime is needed and, if so, how much to apply to grow a successful crop of plants.

Why conduct one?

A soil test result encourages plant growth by providing the best lime and fertilizer recommendations. When gardeners guess about the need for lime and fertilizers, too little or too much is likely to be applied. By using a soil test report, the gardener does not need to guess.

For example, when applying too much lime, soil pH may rise above the needed level, causing nutrients to be less available to the plant.

Tall fescue and Bermuda turfs require different amounts of lime and fertilizer based on a soil test result. By using a soil test report early on, your turf grass will result in the correct amounts of lime and fertilizer needed for the season.

Fertilization and lime needs on Bermuda and fescue turfgrass starts early in the year. Bermuda grass needs lime in January. Check with the extension office for specific times once you have your soil test results.

Remember lime needs to be applied well before the growing season because it takes a long time for lime to break down in the soil to be effective. So get your turf grass soil test done soon.

You can call the extension office here in Hall County for specific details on how to get the soil tested.

Wanda Cannon serves as Master Gardener coordinator and horticulture assistant for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. Contact her at 770-535-8293 or wcannon@hallcounty.org. Her column appears biweekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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