You need good soil to grow good grass

The quality of your soil is a big factor in growing a nice lawn. Hopefully you've stopped using synthetic chemicals in your lawn and have gone to a more natural, organic lawn care program.

So what makes good soil? Good pH, proper nutrients, texture, and organic matter are very important. To determine what's in your soil, it's best to send a sample to your local extension office for analysis. Most extension offices are run out of a university. Do a Google search to find one in your area.

Calling them or viewing their website will give you instructions on how to best take a sample and send it to them. Some have different levels of tests and the pricing varies by the complexity of the test as well as the extension office.

Along with your soil test report, you will receive recommendations on how to improve your soil. Most extension offices still think along the lines of synthetic fertilizers, but you can provide the same amendments by using organics. For example they will suggest your soil needs, X lbs of something and suggest an synthetic fertilizer but you can always add that X lbs through organic amendments. It will usually take a larger quantity compared to synthetics.

Different extension offices and tests will give you different data, but below are the most common items that will be included in your test results.

This post will give you some information on how to tell if you have good soil or not and tips to improve it.


Unless you deal with soil frequently, you may not know how to classify your type of soil. Luckily your extension office will do this for you. Knowing what type of soil you have will be very helpful in determining how much and often you need to water. If you'd like to determine the type of soil you have, the quart jar soil test is a very easy and effective.

pH, Calcium and Magnesium.

Most grasses grow best when the pH of the soil is in the 6.5-7.0 range. Over time, due to environmental factors, the soil can become more acidic. To raise the pH of the soil you will need to add lime. The soil test should indicate how much lime to add. Lime also adds calcium to the soil. If you're soil is low in magnesium, you'll want to use dolomitic lime. If your pH is fine but you're low in calcium, you can add gypsum.
Calcium is an important for cell division and helps plants resist disease. Magnesium is important for photosynthesis.


Potassium helps resist drought by reducing transpiration. It also strengthens leaf blades making it withstand traffic and other stress.


Promotes strong root development, helps resist disease, and withstand environmental stress. It also is important for lawns going into winter.


Important for grasses to create chlorophyll and give it a nice green color. Some extension offices will not perform a nitrogen test because nitrogen levels can change from week to week. It doesn't persist in the soil like other elements.

Organic Matter

Organic matter is normally the remains of your grass clippings or fall leaves. If your soil is low in organic matter you might want to topdress with compost.
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