Q. Can I send in soil samples myself, or do I need to go through a coop or garden center?
You can absolutely send in a soil sample yourself. If you are local, you can bring the sample into our facility. 13611, B Street Omaha, NE 68144
Q. Measuring your lawn with a Google Earth (GIS) tutorial.
How to measure your lawn so you can convert one of our recommendations for nutrients based on your soil test into fertilizer that you will be purchasing. Visit Measuring your lawn with Google to get a free general estimate.
Q. How to calculate nutrients needed for your lawn?
You’ve received your lawn analysis and your looking to utilize the data to treat your lawn. To do so we recommend watching How to calculate nutrients needed for your lawn by Midwest Labs. You will find a quick tutorial breaking down the conversion to read a soil bag.
Q. Why can’t I get my grass to grow in the shade?
A. Sunlight is necessary even for shade blends of grass seed. Sun allows all blends of grass to grow on our lawn. It’s important to know if you seed in the fall or spring under high shade areas, it may result in getting a stand of grass, and by mid-summer, it may die off. This is because the canopy of the trees has filled in and cut the sunlight, no longer producing nutrients which eventually kills the grass. Privacy fences, houses, and neighboring trees can exacerbate this issue. Options to correct this problem would be to thin out the tree canopy, trim the lower branches up high or try using ground cover instead of grass.
Q. What do the numbers on a bag of fertilizer mean?
A. The numbers on a bag of fertilizer are the guaranteed analysis. This is what the manufacturer guarantees by law to have in the bag. There are three numbers on the bag; the first is nitrogen (N), the second is phosphate (P205), and the third is potash (K20). These are all considered essential nutrients and are macronutrients. Plant requirements of these three elements are much higher than other essential nutrients. Typically lawn fertilizers will have higher levels of nitrogen and much lower concentrations of phosphate and potash. The application rate suggested on the bag will be based on the amount of nitrogen. This generally calculates out to 1.0 pound of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Any time you are applying nitrogen, this the target rate you want. If the first number on the bag is 25%, this suggests that in 10 pounds of product, you will receive 2.5 pounds of actual N. There may be other nutrients included on the bag such as sulfur (S) or iron (Fe).
Q. Are all fertilizers created the same?
A. The most significant difference in fertilizer sources would be the type of nitrogen used. I always suggest purchasing a fertilizer that contains a portion that is slow release or insoluble. This allows the nitrogen to be spoon fed to the plant. There is enough, immediately available that will be available at a later time in the season. This reduces the potential for turf diseases from fast, lush growth. These slow release sources also minimize potential nitrogen losses. When determining if the product contains any slow release or insoluble nitrogen, check on the back side of the bag where the panel is located.
Q. Fertilizer Timing for Turf?
A. There can be many thoughts on the timing and frequency of fertilization for your yard. There will be differences that need to be taken in to account based on whether the grass is a warm season or cool season species. Typically, with a cool season, high maintenance yard, there would be 4-5 applications per year. Conventional applications would begin in the spring and often have a preemergent added to the fertilizer. This is for the summer grass annuals. Be sure to time this application with the soil temperature (55 degrees) for the most effective control. Too early of applications can result in poor late summer control of these summer annuals. Additional times would possibly be May June, August, September, mid-October. By using slow-release fertilizers in the fall, it helps build root reserves going into the winter and will also have earlier greened up in the spring. This may help reduce the need for that early spring application unless the herbicide is needed. Warm season grasses in the Midwest will have a shorter season and may require the applications to be on a monthly basis to ensure the required rates of nitrogen are applied.
Q. Do pine needles acidify my soil?
A. This is one of the most common myths that I have heard over the years. The fact is that this is not necessarily true. Many pines in the wild will often grow in soils that may be acidic. However, they do not alter the pH of your lawn. The pH of fresh needles are acidic (approx. 3.5) as are many other species, yet, this acid will have little impact on the soil acidity. Dried needles carry minimal acidity. A soil test from this area would suggest whether fertilizer and lime are needed. Don’t just assume that if there was a pine tree the area needs to be limed. This can cause more issues. Test the soil and then amend if needed.
Q. When is the best time to apply lime to the soil?
Lime requires an amendment when the soil test suggests the pH is acidic, less than 7.0. Lime applications should be made when the pH is less than 6.0 on established turf and less than 6.5 on soils that are to be seeded. Garden soils should be limed if the pH is less than 6.8. Lime is not soluble so it needs to be incorporated which can be done before seeding. If the turf is established, the application of lime should be made after the area has been aerated. This allows the lime to move down into the soil more easily.
Q. Mulching vs. Bagging
A. I would suggest mulching or leaving the grass clippings on the lawn. The grass clippings are a source of fertilizer and can reduce your annual rate of N by 20-25%. High maintenance lawns may require 3-5 pounds of actual nitrogen per 1000 square feet per year depending on the nitrogen source. The clippings should provide approximately one pound of N per 1000 square feet over the growing period. This also reduces the amount of material to the landfill.
Q. Watering the Lawn
A. The amount of water needed for turf will vary depending on the time of year, the grass species, the soil types, exposure and usage. If you desire green turf all year, there may be times where supplemental irrigation is necessary. During times of low rainfall, apply 1.0 – 1.5 inches per week or as necessary. Remember that the 1.0 to 1.5 inches should include any rainfall.
The amount will vary based on soil type. The objective is to wet the soil to a depth of approximately five inches. Lighter soils will require less each time, however, more frequent to sustain good soil moisture. Watering early in the morning when there is less evaporation is best. With most soils, one deep watering per week may be best. Be sure to calibrate your sprinkler to determine how much and how even the application rates are.