Tuesday, October 31, 2023

                                             Low pH - Lime? How Much? What Kind?

                                            High pH
                Fall - Cassia, Hibiscus, Young Rye, Yellow Rope, and fragrance of Tea Olives


Horticulture Hotline 10/31/23


What is a great thing to do in the yard at this time of year? Take a soil test! A soil test can tell you so much that is impossible to tell by just looking at the ground. I have worked for and hung around some well know Doctors of Agronomy (soil doctors) and not one of them can look at a soil and tell you what a soil test can tell you.


 Any of ya’ll that know me would think that big, fat, bald dude would have to have high cholesterol and high blood pressure; however, I do not (blessed with good genes). I have a friend that is very athletic and thin, and he has high cholesterol. My older brother once asked me, “Bill do you have high cholesterol?” I said, “no.” He asked, “ever had it tested?” I said, “no.” He asked, “so if you never have it tested, it means your cholesterol levels are good?” I then went and got it tested.  


What I am trying to illustrate is there is no substitute for good soil testing. I have done some consulting for a school district in the Upstate where they have red clay. The new grounds superintendent that contacted me said, “the person before me put out 1000 pounds of lime an acre like everyone does up here.” We tested the soil and found that they have been over applying lime. From the small investment of a soil test, we were able to save about $100 per acre and the labor and wear and tear on the tractor. We were also able to identify what the soil needed and devote the time and resources to correct those deficiencies.


You can save money by putting out the products that your yard needs and you will also see better results.


The soil test is going to provide you with a lot of technical information.  The basic test that we run provides you with soil pH, buffer pH, available phosphorus, exchangeable potassium, calcium, magnesium, Cation Exchange Capacity, and percent base saturation with recommendations for nitrogen, phosphate, potash, magnesium, and lime based on plant type and use.  Depending on the site location, level of maintenance, and client needs, we also test for other elements in the soil.


If the above paragraph made your eyes glaze over, for a fee we can provide you with a program that will help correct any deficiencies or amend the soil as suggested by the soil sample.  When I go to the doctor and they take a blood test, I do not know what they are testing for or what all the numbers mean.  I trust them to interpret the results and put me on a program to address any excesses or deficiencies. Then I must follow their recommendations. Just this morning, looking at soil test from the Charleston area, I saw a pH as low as 4 and one as high as 7.6 


One of the many pleasures of my job is seeing a customer that has done a soil test and have amended their soil appropriately, come into the store with a picture of them by a “Yard of the Month” sign or just comment on how much better their yard looks after taking a soil test and taking the needed action.


Greg Lienert, a soil test customer wrote, “I started using Possum’s recipe for my lawn 3 years ago and I have never had a better lawn in the 35 years that I have been trying to grow the perfect lawn. Possum’s is awesome! I have the best lawn in the neighborhood.”


 My compost (cotton burr) supplier’s motto is ‘There’s good compost.  There’s cheap compost. But there ain’t no good, cheap, compost’.  You could apply this saying to soil tests as well.