Let’s face it: not everyone wakes up thinking about soil and how amazing it is. But, the reality is that soil is very much alive, so there is a lot to love! Soil contains vast amounts of living matter, including a wide variety of organisms that are beneficial to your grass. Ultimately, maintaining a great lawn begins with maintaining a healthy soil base. Don’t worry, though, we’ll take care of all of the science behind it. For now, we’d love to share some of the amazing things we love about soil!
10. There are 70,000 different types of soil in the U.S.!
9. 1 Tablespoon of soil has more organisms in it than there are people on earth!
8. 1.4M earthworms can be found in an acre of cropland …
7. … And each of these worms pass 15 TONS of dry soil through them each year!
6. 10% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions are stored in the soil.
5. The top 6 inches of an acre of top soil contains 20,000 pounds of living matter.
4. Soil acts as a filter for underground water, filtering out pollutants.
3. 0.01% of Earth’s water is held in soil
2. Soil plays a huge part in supporting planet’s biodiversity
1 . At least 500 years(!) is needed to form one inch of top soil!
Nitrogen (N): nitrogen is the food that aids a lawn to grow quickly, taller, and develop a darker green color.
Phosphorus (P): phosphorus is responsible for root growth and helps aid new lawn development
Potassium (K): potassium is a nutrient responsible guards the plant against diseases and aids in drought protection and cold tolerance.
You look outside and notice your grass is brown, patchy, and generally dry looking. So, you decide to head to the store to get some fertilizer. But, what do all those fertilizer numbers mean?? And, what do you need for your lawn?? Well, the short answer is that it heavily depends on a professional soil test (free with the Lawn Serv program). But, more on that later. For now, let’s take a quick look at those fertilizer numbers, what they are, and what they mean for your lawn.
What The “Fertilizer Numbers” Are:
Nitrogen (N), the first number: nitrogen is the food that helps a lawn to grow quickly, taller, and to develop a darker green color.
Phosphorus (P), the second number: phosphorus is responsible for root growth and helps aid new lawn development; phosphorus is often “0”, or very low, as there are restrictions around when and where phosphorus can be applied.
Potassium (K), the third number: potassium is a nutrient responsible for guarding the plant against diseases and aids in drought protection and cold tolerance.
These are three of the core nutrients used to amend soil to grow a lush green lawn. It’s what you see on the front of a fertilizer bag when you see for example 20-10-10 (or 20N-10P-10K). That is the percentage (by weight) of the three major nutrients required for healthy grass growth, always in the same order nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (N-P-K). Why don’t the the percentages equal 100 percent? That is because there are other nutrients and filler product in fertilizer mixtures. This filler helps to apply the nutrients evenly over an area.
N-P-K Organic Fertilizers (plant-based):
If you are looking for an organic option, your best bet is to find a plant-based, manure-based, or blended version of the NPK fertilizer. This allows for a balanced fertilizer that stimulates through beneficial soil microorganisms and improves the structure of the soil providing long term benefits. Some plant-based NPK fertilizer are developed with alfalfa meal, soy meal, seaweed based, and cottonseed meal. These organic plant based fertilizers break down easier and have faster absorption than most.
So, What Do These “Fertilizer Numbers” Mean For Your Lawn?
These numbers are very important as your grass needs different percentages depending on what time of year, climate, and soil composition. For example, your lawn may need a boost of Phosphorus if you’re applying new seed, or may need a boost of Potassium late in the season to promote deep root growth for the winter. The best way to determine exactly what your lawn needs is through a professional soil test, which we offer free as part of our Lawn Serv subscription box! And, as always, feel free to reach out with any questions; we’re here to help!
Soil can be tested at any time of the year, but for optimal results get your soil tested in fall or early spring this gives you ample time to make adjustments before you start planting.
Use a soil composition (soil from around your yard combined) as most amendments are going to be deployed broadly around the yard and there are not likely huge swings in nutrient levels to warrant super specific small tailoring of amendments.
Test every couple years to see how the amendments you have made are affecting the soil.
Testing your soil is incredibly beneficial to the everyday home-owner with a lawn. Testing your soil allows you to understand the fertility of the lawn and its specific nutrient levels and what it needs in order to prosper. You can then tailor your applications to target the specific needs of your lawn. This should save you time and money while being more effective and better for the environment.
How to test your soil:
Hands down the best way to test your soil is through either an extension school/university or through a private lab. The prices can range from $15 if you drop it off to $100 if you ship it in. The biggest problem is knowing what to do with the results. They will provide you with a lot of language such as 3 lbs of nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft. If that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you it might make sense to use Lawn Serv.
Things you will test for:
There are many different types of nutrients or lack thereof in a yard, and they can differ city to city or state to state based on a lot of different factors. Some of the main lawn related items you should see in a soil test result are:
You will see recommendations regarding nitrogen levels based on these factors and where you are located in the country also.
How to with Lawn Serv:
With Lawn Serv it is as simple as clicking a button.