Do you need a soil test? What a simple soil test says about your lawn
Healthy soil is crucial for the lasting health of your land, and may help explain issues you notice in the
landscape. You can craft a pristine landscape and set up a professional irrigation system, but it is just as
important to keep the soil healthy.
Luckily there are a few different options to test the soil, and each may provide important info about
the future of your landscape.
What’s in healthy soil?
While it may simply look like dirt to some, soil is a rich blend of a number of components that are
crucial for plant life and your landscapes unique ecosystem.
At its most basic, soil is a mixture of broken rocks, minerals, and water. But under the surface there
are a lot of important components in healthy soil.
Healthy soil contains a number of different nutrients to support all the plants in a healthy landscape.
Each tree, shrub, or grass type in your landscape will use different levels of these nutrients, so it is
important to make sure the soil has a healthy supply of all of them.
Humus is the common name for the decaying matter that ends up in soil. It can be difficult to spot or
define, but humus comes from the breakdown of things such as plants, bugs, and animals as they
It has a dark, black or nearly brown texture, and generally mixes in well with other aspects of the soil.
Humus is a strong sign the soil is very healthy.
More than just dirt, healthy soil should be teeming with life. Most often, soil is filled with very tiny
microorganisms that help break down dead particles and other nutrients so they are easier for plants
Soil microorganisms love to collect mainly in the topsoil. They are especially abundant around the
roots of plants. Plant roots give off a number of healthy chemicals for them to eat and decompose –
contributing to even healthier soil.
Unfortunately, not all the compounds in soil are healthy. There are a number of soil contaminants
that end up in the earth due to human activity. These contaminants can thwart your best efforts at
keeping your landscape healthy.
This is often why, even with a professional irrigation system installed, you may still see signs of an
unhealthy landscape. Contaminated soil can make the area inhospitable for plants and grass.
Common soil contaminants include:
Petroleum and oil products
How will a soil test kit help?
Getting a simple soil test kit can help identify a number of potential problems in the soil. Correcting
these issues can lead to a happier, healthier landscape for years to come.
Most soil test kits will test for the three main macronutrients in soil – Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and
Potassium (NPK). This can help identify any imbalances in nutrients, or identify issues related to
feeding such as over-fertilization.
Many soil test kits will also have tests for other important micronutrients such as calcium or
In general, healthy soil is slightly acidic or neutral, sitting somewhere between 6.5 and 7.0 on the pH
scale. The acidic environment helps plant matter decompose, and sparks some of the organisms in
the soil into eating. With that said, some plants do prefer alkaline soil.
The important thing to test with a pH kit is that the soil is not too far to the extremes. Extremely
acidic pH down in the 5.0 or below range may cause issues with plant growth. On the other hand, soil
that is too basic may also affect how well plants can take up certain nutrients.
A soil test kit for your specific area should include tests for contaminants known to be in the area. For
instance, if your landscape is near a petroleum factory, the kit should include a test for oil and petrol
To properly test for each contaminant, however, you may need to order specific tests for that
contaminant. The best way to do this is to research the area and see what soil contaminants are
common, and then buy tests for those specific ones.
A landscape’s soil is key to keeping the plants healthy for years to come. If you’ve already checked for
other common issues such as leaks in your sprinkler system , yet your landscape isn’t flourishing, get a
soil test kit to help identify problems in the soil. Visit quenchirrigation.com for more information.