A healthy landscape starts from the ground up. Regardless of how you care for your turf and shrubs, if your soil is unhealthy, everything else will suffer.
The development of chemical fertilizers in the early 1900s revolutionized gardening and farming for people across the globe. From wheat fields to residential lawns, petroleum-based fertilizers and herbicides have allowed farmers, gardeners, and landscapers more control over the types of plants they grow, and helped them to achieve successful harvests in challenging conditions.
But as Scientific American points out, these benefits ”haven’t come without environmental costs—namely the wholesale pollution of most of our streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and even coastal areas, as these synthetic chemicals run-off into the nearby waterways.”
Additionally, the availability of chemical fertilizers has contributed to an increase in their overuse. Often, chemical products are marketed as a fix-all approach, leading people to apply them in the wrong ratios to fix soil problems. This not only spells bad news for the environment but also results in unnecessary time and money being spent.
So how do you make your soil healthier without nuking it with chemical fertilizers?
The good news is there are some highly effective, natural solutions for improving soil health. These methods not only limit the use of aggressive chemicals and pesticides but also encourage your soil to respond better to fertilization and herbicides. That means less time and money spent on treatments and healthier long-term outcomes for your landscape. What’s more, naturally healthy soil produces plants that are less susceptible to pests and diseases, allowing them to grow stronger for longer.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of these methods, let’s take a look at the science behind soil health.
What is healthy soil?
When soil is healthy, it functions as a living ecosystem that supports plants, animals, and humans. Healthy soil provides clean air and water, nutritious produce, grass for grazing, and a diverse population of plants and wildlife.
Soil is made from four basic elements: organic matter, minerals, air, and water. Minerals account for around 45-50% of the total composition, with water and air accounting for about 20-30% each. The remaining 5% is organic matter, including bacteria, fungi, and bacteria, fungi, and even earthworms.
Additionally, the soil is full of nutrients in the form of macronutrients and micronutrients. Plants require large quantities of macronutrients to stay healthy, with deficiencies leading to a variety of problems.
There are six plant macronutrients in total:
In addition to requiring the correct quantity of each nutrient, plants also need them in the right proportions. Too much of one substance in comparison to the others can be equally detrimental to a plant’s health as a nutrient deficiency.
Even though soil needs smaller amounts of micronutrients, the right ratio and quantity of each are still important.
There are seven essential plant micronutrients:
Knowing your soil's nutrient makeup is crucial to improving its health. By knowing where the deficiencies and excesses lie, we can fine-tune treatment to get the balance just right.
Soil Testing for Lawns
All soil presents its own set of challenges, so learning your unique composition of yours is the first step to a healthy lawn routine. A soil test will identify the ratio of macro and micronutrients in the soil, as well as its natural pH.
Gathering the soil sample is a quick and non-invasive process that won’t cause any harm to your lawn. Using a soil probe, plugs of soil are removed and sent off to a specialist laboratory for testing. For the best results, we’ll normally take a few samples from different areas of your lawn or plant bed, to gain a complete picture of the landscape.
Once collected by the lab, testers will use an extraction solution to pull any nutrients from the sample. The laboratory then tests these nutrients to identify what is present and in what quantity. PH levels are also analyzed to determine how acidic or alkaline the soil is and how much lime is needed to correct it.
This data allows us to make informed decisions about PH neutralization and achieve a healthy balance of nutrients, based on your soil’s unique starting point. Creating a good nutrient management strategy starts with understanding the pH and fertility level of the soil.
With this information, we can produce an effective nutrient management plan that only uses the exact type and quantity of fertilizers your soil needs to produce healthy, happy grass and plants. What’s more, it means we can avoid using too much fertilizer, because each drop of fertilizer we add targets a specific problem. When you know exactly what type of fertilizer your soil needs, you can avoid wasting money on ineffective fertilizers. As well as benefiting your wallet, this approach is also better for your plants and kinder to the environment.
A Better Way to Grow Your Lawn
If you’re looking for an alternative way to improve your lawn without the use of expensive, corrosive chemicals, then you’re in the right place. At T.Lake we have more than 30 years of experience finding green and cost-effective landscaping techniques that work with your outdoor space, not against it.
Using soil reports as a guide, we formulate tailored amendments to maintain and improve your soil. We reject old-fashioned fertilizers in favor of innovative formulas that promote natural and lasting health for your turf. Using professional-grade solutions like LESCO CarbonPro and Moisture Manager, we encourage healthy root growth, increased nutrient uptake and efficiency, and reduce watering expenses.
This natural method just makes sense.
When you are ready to start a discussion about the projects and challenges surrounding your landscape, fill out our contact form, and connect with a fully licensed pesticide applicator. You can also call our East Dublin office at 478-272-3878 or Macon office at 478-750-7733 and we’ll be happy to help!