Welcome to another Popcorn article of mine! This article is very brief and is a precursor on what is next to come in my Soil Series. Today, I am going to quickly talk about the three components of what goes into soil. This is important because when I go over how to read a soil sample and how to figure out what the soil needs - some of my recommendations are based on how the soil feels. A great example of this is if it turns into a ball when I squeeze it, it’s clay based and it does need a heavier application of lime when I need to correct pH. The three components that make up soil is sand, silt, and clay and they have different characteristics.
Sand is the largest particle in soil which is composed of minerals and rocks. They aid in aeration and improve drainage. Sand has a grainy texture as well. My area of New Jersey does not have sandy soil; however when you go down south, they have sandy soil. When you have sandy soil, you need less lime than clay soil to alter the pH.
The next largest particle is silt. Silt gives the soil fertility because it’s composed of different sediments. The sediments found in silt soil broadens biodiversity. You normally find silt based soils along the river beds. You also find this type of soil in agricultural production fields.
The smallest particle is clay. Clay soil is a lot of small, fine particles and which makes it hard for air and water to flow. Clay soil does not drain very well either. To break up clay soil, you do need to add gypsum or organic matter. My area of New Jersey has a lot of clay based soil.
Everywhere you go, the soil is made up of different amounts of sand, silt, and clay. When each element of the soil has equal parts, this is called loam soil. Loam soil is organic, fertile, has great aeration, and great drainage.
Thank you so much for reading my short popcorn article on the components of soil. This is going to pave the way of the next portion of my Soil Series. Next article: Reading a Soil Sample! See you there!
We recently talked about Soil Biota and I have mentioned there are so many organisms in the soil. In this article, I am going to talk about my favorite microorganism that is found in the soil. We are going to step into the field of mycology, study of fungi, and talk about this certain fungi’s biology and why plays a huge part in the ecosystem - especially with plants. I am going to share how to enrich our soils with this fungi and how to continuously promote it in our lawn and gardens.
Out of all 70,000 species of fungi in our soil, one species that stands out to me and that is Mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae is a type of fungus that aids in plant nutrition, soil biology, and soil chemistry. It had a symbiotic relationship with plants because it thrives on the root system. The role of mycorrhizae is to build colonies on the root system to aid in nutrition absorption. There are four major types of Mycorrhizae fungi: arbuscular mycorrhiza, ectomycorrhiza, orchid mycorrhiza, and ericoif mycorrhiza. I will be mainly be focusing on Arbuscular mycorrhiza. Ectomycorrhiza benefits most woody plants. Orchid mycorrhiza benefits plants in the Orchidaceae family and ericoif mycorrhiza benefits anything in the Ericaceae family.
Arbuscular mycorrhiza (AM), helps plants absorb nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and various micronutrients. The biggest symbiosis between Arbuscular mycorrhiza and plants it helps the plants in utilizing Phosphorus. From my one of my previous post, we know that Phosphorus is a critical element for plant nutrition. AM is a tree shaped fungal structure that penetrates the cell wall found on the roots. This increases surface area which allows for nutrient exchanges. You can find at least 80% of Arbuscular mycorrhiza thriving on vascular plants. The relationship between plants and AM is a highly evolved relationship which has created an impact in the ecosystem. They aid in the process of nitrogen cycling by recycling organic nitrogen from the soil and allowing plants to utilize it as well as other biochemical exchanges in the soil to benefit plants.
Upon learning and research on Abruscular mycorrhiza, I have a theory that when soil samples come back with high phosphorus that potentially there is not enough AM in the soil where the plants cannot utilize the phosphorus because the roots do not have enough surface area to be able to take phosphorus in. Soil samples reflect on what’s in the soil but does not state what the plants are utilizing from the soil. The only way to see what the plants are utilizing is by doing a tissue sample to see what is being used on a cellular level.
One of my favorite products is Espoma’s BioTone which is enriched with mycorrhizae to benefit a plant’s root systems. I recommend this product for new plants and spot seeding (for lawns the rate is ten pounds for every 1,000 square feet, or one pound for every one hundred square feet). Mycorrhizae is found in other Espoma products and in ProMix soils. Using products that will enhance and promote mycorrhizae. My favorite saying is when we have a strong root system, we will have a strong plant and these products will help you achieve that!
Thank you so much for reading my article! I am opening up the floor as we continue this soil sample series with your questions! I would like to pick out TEN great questions about soil to answer on my blog! Five more articles to go before we finish up this series! Thank you so much for reading along and following something I am passionate about when it comes to plants: beautiful, healthy soil. Leave some comments and let’s discuss!
Here we are! We are back from our hiatus of managing through life and working really hard and turning back our attention to my Soil Series that I have been talking about. So far we have covered the importance of taking soil samples, various soil nutrients, and other odds and ends! In this article we are going to talk about soil biota, the life found in the soil, and how we can support that life by adding different types of soils to build up the individual ecosystem.
I have been in this industry since I was nineteen and my number one pet peeve is when people call soil “dirt”. To me, dirt has always been known as lifeless grime that collects just about anywhere. Soil is full of life and an ecosystem of its own. Soil is nutrient rich and supporting all kinds of life. Dirt cannot do any of that.
The Soil Biota is known as the living diversity that benefits plant roots and the environment. The Soil Biota is intertwined in all food webs as well as nutrient cycling. Nutrient cycling is the process of energy being moved between living and non-living parts in the environment. Soil Biota consists of the microorganisms and soil animals. Some of the microorganisms are fungi, bacteria, Protozoa, and nematodes. You have earthworms, beetles, mites and microarthopods. These beings are responsible for various biogeochemical cycling, which is the process of how the essential elements are moved to be utilized by organisms. Two great examples of this would be the water cycle and the carbon cycle.
We are not just enriching our plants when we add soil amendments; we are enriching the whole soil community. There are so many different type of products out there to add to our soil to benefit the Soil Biota. We are going to cover the basic three: top soil, humus, and compost. Top soil is the upper layer of soil with the highest amount of organic matter. Top soil varies from region to region when it comes to texture and color. When we add top soil back into our garden, we are adding back nutrients for our plants and creating a better home for most microorganisms. Adding top soil will improve poor soil by rebuilding the natural balance in the soil’s ecosystem. Compost is the natural process of decay of plant matter and vegetable waste. Adding compost to our soil is adding rich, organic matter back into the soil. Compost helps in retaining water and establishes vegetation since its high in nutrient for our plants. Top soil and compost sound really similar by definition. My best rule is that top soil is great for new plantings, grading your lawn, and fixing holes whereas compost is great for adding extra organic matter. Natural top soil is very organically rich where as bag or bulk top soil may not have that same nutrition factor like compost. Humus is also rich, organic matter for the soil. But what sets humus and compost apart is that humus is breaking down even more by anaerobic organisms, which is your protozoans and bacteria. The microorganisms take in the top soil or decaying matter and turn it into the humus allowing it to be utilized by plants and other beings in the soil. Humus is the end result of all decomposition.
When we add any soil based products, we are benefitting this microscopic world we cannot see. One gram of soil can hold billions of bacteria! Bacteria in the soil utilizes the oxygen found in the soil. We have fungi, like mushrooms and mycorrhizae that help with decomposition and having a symbiosis relationship with plants to utilize nutrient. There are earthworms that add castings to the soil to make it nutrient rich and even microscopic worms that help break down decomposing material as well. You can find various arthropods in the soil such as grubs, millipedes, centipedes, and mites. They aerate the soil as they tunnel through it, feed on decaying animals and plant materials to add nutrients back into the soil, and add to the top soil over time.
This complex ecosystem sustains different types of life beyond what we can see. The natural life in the soil sustains everything above the soil. I always tell my customers, when our plant roots are strong, everything above the roots are strong too. Excellent soil is important to our plants because of the life in the soil. Thank you so much for reading the importance of soil life and what we can do to enrich it! We have a few more articles to go before our Soil Series comes to an end! I would like to open up a discussion for any type of soil questions at this time. Please use the contact me page or the comments to send me your soil questions. Thank you so much!
After a couple of years talking about it, the Spotted Lanternfly has finally hit New Jersey in full force and has been one of the hot topics at my garden center among customers. This blog post is going to be related to the Spotted Lanternfly (SPF) life cycle and identification, host plants, and the best Integrated Pest Management tips. In this article, I will be including charts, links and great information in order for us to work as a team and eradicate this pest.
The Spotted Lanternfly, Lycorma delicatula, is native to China, India, Taiwan, and Vietnam. They are in the Planthopper family, Fulgoromorpha. Insects in this family have broad wings that rest in a tent shape, they suck nutrients from plants which makes them vectors for plant diseases by weakening the plant, and they also hop for quick transpiration but generally moves really slow. The Spotted Lanternfly has four life stages.
Females SPF lays their eggs between September and November. Once a female SPF lays her eggs, she covers them with a white putty like substance that eventually dries to a brown in a few weeks. It looks like a mud mark on a smooth tree or any smooth surface. Once the eggs hatch, they hatch into the first instar in May and June. An instar is a phase between each molting for an insect or an invertebrate. The Spotted Lanternfly has four instars before reaching maturity. The first first stage is from May to June and they are tiny black bugs with white spots. They molt to the second and third instar between June and July. The SLF gets larger with each instar. The last and finally instar can be found between July and September. They completely change their appearance for this one. They are a red bodied bug with both white and black dots on them. They molt after the fourth instar to their final stage. Mature Spotted Lanternflies can be found from July to December. They have a really beautiful appearance for such a destructive insect. A SLF’s body is black with yellow striping on its abdomen. They have two sets of wings as well. The first set of wings is tan with black dots and the second set of wings has that iconic red with black dots as well as black and white on it. I hear a lot about how beautiful the red coloring on its wings are and I also think it’s beautiful as well.
Spotted Lanternflies have a one year lifecycle with various hosts plants. The most common plant that their eggs are laid on and that they feed off of is the Tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima. Ailanthus is the preferred host plant to the Spotted Lanternfly because of the sap content running through the tree. You will find the fourth instar and early/mid aged SPF sucking the sap out of the tree. As the season goes on, there is low sap flow causing the adults to switch to a different source. These other sources are grape vines, hops, silver maples, willows, black walnuts, stone fruits, and apple trees.
There are many types of ways to control the Spotted Lanternflies. A common way is to squish them. You can use double sided tape, a great product that has been recommended by the Penns State is a product called sticky bands. You can read more of that product by pressing the link button at the end of the article. I have been using a list from the United States Department of Agriculture for application products regarding treating Spotted Lanternflies. More knowledge can be found on who to contact and how to control here at the link located at the end of the article through APHIS, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service through the United States Department of Agriculture.
The USDA released a list of chemicals that can kill on contact and leave a chemical residue behind. The chemical residue factor is important because it will still kill insects when they go into that treated area. Insect Killing Soap (Potassium salts) and Pyrethrins are your organic based options. Insect killing soap would be good for larvae and egg sacs because it smothers insects. Pyrethrins are good for on contact kill; it also happens to be my favorite insecticide. Both organic based insecticides have a poor chemical residue. Next we have Malathion, Imidacloprid, and Tau-Fluvalinate. These are non-organic and have a good contact kill and do leave behind a residue. These guys are not my top choices for your non-organic based options but will get the job done. Your Malathion and your Tau-Fluvinate would be on contact kill. Imidacloprid would be ideal for a systemic based treatment in early spring before the eggs hatch and feed off of the tree. Tau-Fluvinate is found in BioAdvance’s 3 in 1 Systemic Control. My number one choice for killing Spotted Lanternflies would be using GardenTech Sevin. Excellent on contact kill and excellent residue status. Both versions of the GardenTech Sevin - Ready to Use and Concentrate have really good ratings. This is the product line that I have been suggesting this to my customers. All the products that I have listed, other than the BioAdvance 3 in 1 and the Sevin, you can get it buy the product lines from Bonide at any Independent Garden Center.
In order to truly to eradicate this pest, we need to make sure we are reporting sightings and doing our part with control - whether it’s trapping, stomping, or applying chemicals. You can find out how to report sightings on the APHIS link below. As we find out more about these insects, the better chance we have to get rid of them. One joy about any science based pursuit is that it is constantly discovering and testing new information. If you need to do any research, look at Land Grant universities or Agricultural Extension Agencies articles. I had a customer say that Spotted Lanternflies are poisonous to cats and dogs because they heard it from someone else’s mouth. I had to debunk it by researching it right away. They are not poisonous to our furry family members. You can find that link also at the end of the article. Moving forward, please use excellent sources while researching any plant pest issue to do your part in control. Do check your cars before and after driving to make sure no Spotted Laternflies are on them. Call an arborist if you want your Tree of Heaven removed and use a Triclopyr based herbicide on your Tree of Heaven if needed. Shop vacs work wonders if you have a huge infestation of these pests, according to my co-worker.
How have you been combating Spotted Lanternflies? Comment below! Thank you so much for reading!
I was browsing on the TikTok app and there was an advertisement for a company called Sunday Lawn Care. This company is advising a custom lawn plan and giving everything you need for a set price along with a free soil test kit. I did some browsing on their site and I have a lot of mixed feelings. From working and helping customers with their lawn, I know that lawns are not alike. I do commend their program being organic as possible however, I do know regionally that there are different issues that Sunday does not have a solution for: such as crabgrass control and grub control especially my area of New Jersey.
This product is made to be simple with its liquid lawn fertilizer application. You receive two to four pouched a year to maintain your lawn with your customize lawn plan. I do commend the break down of macro and micro nutrients in the soil when I looked at a sample online. That information is important to me because a soil’s profile tells you what is in your soil and how that reflects to plant growth. I also commend their all natural product line. I do sway more toward using organic based product because I am all for protecting our pollinators and the impact that I leave on the Earth is important to me. I feel their blend of grass seed is very similar to Scott Lawn Products - a universal line that you would have to choose that is suitable for your region. I have looked at Sunday Lawn Care’s herbicides and insecticides; they are both made from naturally occurring or organic based products.
Sometimes the organic product lines does not take care of the major problems. The organic line offered by Sunday Lawn Care does not tackle crabgrass and grub control. Two major issues in New Jersey lawns! The herbicides may kill crabgrass on contact, but Sundays Lawn Control does not have a or emergent for weeds that need to be suppressed before germination - such as Japanese Silt Grass and annual Crabgrass. These things can be controlled with your heavy duty chemicals such as Trifluralin and Imidacloprid respectively. Somethings in our backyard do a lot better with chemical control instead of organic control and that is completely okay if it is done correctly.
One thing that I question with the product line is that it will become a quick fix for homeowners. The ability for plants to absorb fast acting nutrients is not the way to go, especially in the summer months, for example the turf grass goes dormant or when our shrubs stop growing. I also question the fact that it just comes in a box and you are all ready to go. When I interact with customers, I spend a lot of time with them because I educate them on what they can expect now with their lawn and where they are going with it. This limits one on one interaction between homeowner and the professionals.
Sunday Lawn Organics has a lot of potential to join the ranks of existing product lines such as Scott’s products, Espoma, Greenview products, and Bonide products but the jumping onto the trend of boxed products such as Hello Fresh for lawn care is not a good pathway at all for the Horticulture/Green Industry. I do commend Sunday Lawn Organics’s desire to be pro organic but the interaction between professional and homeowner to promote a healthy lawn is very important.
Welcome back to my soil series! Here is a popcorn read for you! One thing that I noticed throughout the years while analyzing and giving recommendations regarding lawns is always giving my customers a time line to raise their pH. pH is known as the measurement to determine if something is acidic or alkaline on a 0.0 to a 14.0 scale. 0.0 being acidic, 7.0 being neutral, and 14.0 being alkaline. Every day items have their own pH. Here are some great examples to put the pH scale in perspective: orange juice is a 3.0, distilled water is 7.0, and bleach is a 13.0. Our lawn likes a pH of 6.2 to 6.8, most vegetables like the pH slightly acidic, azaleas and rhododendrons like a pH between 5.0 to 5.5, and cabbage and cauliflower likes a pH of 7.5 to 8.0.
When our soil pH is off, our lawn or plants will not thrive. When our pH in our soil is too alkaline, our plants cannot utilize many of the nutrients in the soil. When our pH is too low, it creates deficiencies for our plants. It is very easy to alter the pH in your soil too!
To raise the pH, you need to add lime to the soil. The general rule of thumb is that you need 50 pounds of lime for every 1,000 square feet to raise the pH up by half of a point. That means to cover one acre of lawn, 45,000 square feet, you need 2,400 pounds of lime. To lower pH, you need twenty pounds for every 1,000 square feet to lower pH in clay soil or you can do ten pounds for every 1,000 square feet to lower pH to lower pH in sandy soil.
We need to remember when we are trying to alter the soil, that we need to make sure our pH is correct in order that deficiencies do not happen as well as to make sure our plants can take in the nutrients that they need to thrive! Thank you so much for reading if you have a popcorn topic or questions send it in and I will do a popcorn article with an answer!
Here it is! That time of the year again in New Jersey when the Japanese Beetles, Popilla japonica, emerges from the ground to wreck havoc in our gardens! I have seen these small, six legged beetles on rose bushes, crape myrtle, weigela, cherry trees and various flowering plants. Japanese Beetles feast on leaves and flowers; whereas Japanese Beetle larva feast on roots of grasses. Japanese Beetles are easy to identity as they hide in flower blooms. They have a green head and thorax and their abdomen is a bronze color. They start emerging from the grounding during this time of the year and in order to control them, we need to understand their life cycle!
One of my favorite charts ever when it comes to the Japanese Beetles is on the back of any St. Gabriel’s Milky Spore product line.
If you look at the chart, we are just out of June and entering July. During some point of the month of June, the larva goes through a metamorphosis. The larva pupates and emerges from the ground to feast off of our plants and to mate. The adult beetles live between thirty to forty five days. One Japanese Beetle female can produce sixty eggs! The females lay their eggs in the ground in August. The eggs hatch into a C-shaped larva that is the color of a clear white. The larva actively feed on roots from August to September before they make their way down to hibernate in the soil from October to March. Then in April and May, the grubs start actively feeding again and go through their metamorphosis entering June. Then the cycle starts all over again!
There are different types of products that you can use to combat Japanese beetles and their grubs. The products that I will be talking about are products that my garden center stocks during the year. The products are in order on when to apply it during a calendar year. Products have certain time frames when they can be applied during the year. It’s always important to follow all instructions and safety regulations on the back of any application product whether it is a spray or a granular.
The first one is Milky Spore. Milky Spore is an organic option for grub control. Milky Spore is a beneficial bacteria that reproduces in the soil. The beneficial bacteria kills grubs and it stays in the soil. You apply this three times a year: Spring, Summer, and Fall for two consecutive years. By the third year, it is in the soil and ready to kill grubs.
The second one is by BioAdvance, formerly known as the Bayer company, Seasons Long Grub Control with Turf Revitalizer. The active ingredient is Imidacloprid, also known as Merit. Imidapcloprid is a type of neonicotinoid which is harmful to the bees if ingested by them. This one you can apply during May to August and it stays in the ground for the whole year. When we apply it, it kills the grubs who are already in the soil as they actively feed in April and May and then kills out the grubs who hatch in August. I tell customers to apply this in May when they are active in the soil.
The next product is one again by BioAdvance 24 Hour Grub Control. The active ingredient is Dylox. Dylox is an insecticide that immediately kicks in when watered in or after a rainstorm. Dylox is really toxic to the environment but stays in the soil for 48 hours. This product is to apply in late August to early September as thee new grubs just hatched; then next spring I would either start up with the Milky Spore product line or go with the BioAdvanced Seasons Long Grub Control. Both BioAdvanced products are non organic.
Not only are the lawn applications a good practice, but we can also follow up with setting up Japanese Beetle traps! The way that these traps work is that the pheromones attract the beetles into the trap, they go into the trap bag, and they cannot get out. They just die in the bag. Make sure you put up your traps away from the desirable plants and ten feet apart! You may need to change out the trap bags and put in new pheromone bait. Make sure you stock up on those extras! We need to take in consideration that even though we treat our lawns, Japanese Beetles can fly from your neighbor’s backyard into your backyard. The traps are vital.
The last piece of the puzzle to control Japanese Beetles are sprays. Some excellent sprays that you can use is GardenTech Sevin, Bonide’s Eight, Bonide’s Captain Jack’s Deadbug spray, Bonide’s Tomato and Vegetable spray (my FAVORITE application product), and BioAdvanced Insect, Mite, and Disease Control. Bonide’s Captain Jack’s and Bonide’s Tomato and Vegetable spray are both organic options. These products are great to apply once a week to control Japanese Beetle damage. They cannot reverse the damage but it will kill on contact.
This short lived season with the Japanese Beetles can be controlled very easily with the right products and the right knowledge! I hope you enjoyed my post to help you through this short lived season and I hope I helped you pave a pathway for future control! Have a happy weekend!
Welcome to my first popcorn article! My popcorn articles will be follow ups to a blog post or a really good question that I was asked in the industry. This short and sweet post is here to provide information or answers. This morning I posted a decent article about the big three: Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium. That’s just three out of the seventeen vital nutrients for plant life. What are the other fourteen nutrients and what do they do? Let’s find out!
Calcium: Aids in cell walls and membranes. Aids in growth and development. Also contributes to soil fertility and helps with aeration.
Magnesium: aids in the production of photosynthesis.
Sulfur: necessary for chlorophyll formation as well as amino acids and proteins formation .
Boron: cell wall stability, movement of sugar and energy, and aids in pollination and developing seeds.
Chlorine: aids in plant growth; plant needs very little. Too much chlorine will burn out leaves.
Iron: DNA synthesis, photosynthesis, and respiration. Aids in the maintenance of chloroplast.
Manganese: develops and sustain metabolic roles. Helps in plant growth.
Zinc: helps convert starches to sugars, helps in growth and stem elongation.
Copper: required for the process of photosynthesis.
Molybdenum: converts inorganic phosphorus into organic, usable forms, converts nitrate (toxic) into nitrite and usable, takes the nitrite and turns it into ammonia to be synthesize.
Nickel: metabolizes nitrogen into usable ammonia.
Hydrogen: one of the building blocks for plant growth, aids in the process of photosynthesis and plant respiration *non mineral
Oxygen: to convert food into energy, aids in respiration *non mineral
Carbon: aids in the process of photosynthesis, aids in the productive growth in plants. *non mineral
This concludes my popcorn article of the other thirteen nutrients that a plant needs to survive! Most of the nutrients helps plants on a cellular level through cell health, respiration, and photosynthesis! I have a chart below to use as a guide on the potential deficiencies of the nutrients. Thank you so much for reading if you have a popcorn topic send it in and I will do a popcorn article with an answer!
Welcome back to my Soil Series! Today, we are going to talk about the three major elements in our fertilizers: Nitrogen, Phosphorous, and Potash. This is also known as NPK and we see these three numbers on our bags of fertilizer. We are going to talk about what it is and what it does for each plant and what happens if we have too much or not enough. In order to have healthy soil, we need to understand each element in our soil and how to replenish it when we apply our fertilizer.
Nitrogen, aka N, focuses on everything above the soil. It makes our lawns green and increases growth in stems and leaves in plants. Also, nitrogen is a major component of chlorophyll, which is important to photosynthesis. Nitrogen based fertilizer comes in two forms as well: quick release and slow release. The quick release nitrogen based fertilizers are going to give the plants its nutrients right away but does not last really long and will need to be reapplied. Slow release nitrogen based fertilizers will allow plants to receive nutrients over time. When our soil is lacking nitrogen, our plants will turn yellow green, thinner stems, and have stunted growth. When there is too much nitrogen, our plants will be lush green but it will hinder their ability to produce fruit and flowers.
To encourage the fruit and blooms takes me to the next element in fertilizer, Phosphorus, or P. Phosphorus is important in a plant’s ability to utilize and store nutrients. It is also aids in photosynthesis as well. Not only does phosphorous encourage fruits and blooms, but it also strengthens root systems. When the soil has too much phosphorus, the plant cannot utilize some micronutrients and it causes the plant to wither. Too much phosphorus can also cause the plant to grow poorly and potentially die. When our phosphorus is too high, we need to stop adding organic matter to our gardens. When the phosphorus is too low, it cause stunted growth and prevents the plant from having flowers, fruit, and seeds. Lack of phosphorus may cause leaves to turn into a lifeless dark blue color.
The last piece to the elemental trio is Potash, aka K. There is a bit of a difference between potash and potassium. Potash is potassium in a water soluble form whereas elemental potassium is a reactive, silvery metal that is reactive to water. Potash is responsible to help out all parts of the plant - from the roots to the stems. Potash helps plants to use water and being strong during a drought period. It also aids in the development of fruits and vegetables. Potash increases disease resistance and improves over all strength to the plant. When we have too much potash, it affects how plants utilize the nutrients and will cause potential deficiencies. When plants do not have enough potash, the plant will have stunted growth and will be weak. Leaves may looked scorched when there is not enough potassium.
These three are your big three for your plants nutrition and very vital to your plants health. If you suspect your plant lacking any of these, stop into your lock garden center and have them test your soil and they will tell you what you need to put into the soil too. Thank you so much on following my soil sample series! Next up we are going to talk about the actual biome of the soil and talk about the ways that we can make the soil the best that it can be!
In my last post, I talked about why it is importance of getting your soil tested. In this post, I would like to share how to take a soil sample. Soil labs do not need much soil for their testing. I know when I send out customers’ soil samples that I need a scoop of soil to fill to the line of the sample bag. You want the first four inches of the soil to do your testing. When collecting your soil, you want to make sure that there are no grass or roots in the sample. Make sure your soil is not wet or frozen either; you need a dry sample to send to the lab. I also advise when you take your sample of soil to wear disposable gloves or use a clean hand trowel. The natural oils on our hands can contaminate the soil sample that you want to get tested and we want our interaction with the soil to be as minimal as possible.
I also hear a lot from my customers that they have a HUGE yard and if I need six different samples from this huge yard. My answer is always no. I always recommend to get a bucket and to put multiple samples in the bucket - best number of samples to pull at ten to fifteen samples. When you have as many samples in your bucket that you feel comfortable with, mix everything together really well and put it in your sample bag. This will give you a median of your soil. Do not use a galvanized container ; the galvanized container can contaminate the sample with zinc.
There are times I would advise to break this rule in the event you have a huge problem area. Problem areas can include an area where there is a shady area with a lot of pines and oaks. Both pine needles and oak leaves can lower pH - we know from my last post here that if the pH is too low, turf grass cannot thrive.
Same concept goes for both ornamental and vegetable gardens - take multiple samples and mix it all together to send out a median of the area. If certain plants are not thriving, take a sample near that plant to find exactly what is lacking. My garden center goes through Spectrum Analytic Inc in Ohio. When I register and do the paper work before I send out the soil sample, I have the ability to choose a crop and Spectrum Analytic Inc. will send back their recommendation for that crop. Plants have different nutrient needs just like how us humans have different dietary needs.
You can send out a soil sample at any time as long as the ground is not frozen. I prefer to see samples go out in both the spring and the fall because that is when our grass is/our plants are coming out of dormancy or going into dormancy, fall and spring respectively. Also, because we are going through spring and fall clean up and these are times to do our granular application products.
I hope my tips on taking soil samples has been beneficial. The health of our soil is very important for plant growth. I really encourage if you have not taken a soil sample in a few years or if you have not taken one at all - take a sample and send it out to your local garden center or your cooperative extension agency. As for my international readers, I would contact your local garden center or contact the governing agency that presided over agricultural policies and affairs. Thank you so much for reading my article on taking a great soil sample! I have more great articles on my soil sample series coming your way! What subjects on soil would you like me to cover? Let me know in the comments!