Can some help with a Soil test interpetation?

gregt8485April 19, 2012


Got my first soil test results back and I am trying to make sense of it. There is a lot of info there, with recommendations. What do you think.

it says

phosphorus 9

potassium 44

calcium 206

magnesium 43

soil ph 4.9

buffer ph 5.9

It says to put two applications of 50lbs/1000 sq of calcitic lime

and a 20-3-12 at 5lbs/1000 sq in late april

what is the best way to determine the lbs/sq rate?

Determine the square footage of the area and then apply that many lbs of material evenly?

any help would be great!!

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Also, the lawn has been there for a while so not sure what kind of turf, but I have over seeded with KBG and scotts mixtures over the last few years. Located south of Boston.


    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 2:28PM
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OK, well your pH is very low, but the rest of that test is meaningless without units (ppm, lbs. per acre), base saturations, and a CEC or TEC. Yes you need calcitic lime, but not 50 lbs. per 1000 square feet, that is way too much. The max rate for calcitic is 9 or 10 lbs per 1000. DO NOT USE DOLOMITIC LIME. That is the cheap stuff you find at most big box stores and garden centers. I recommend you use a product called Cal Turf Pro. It's a bit more expensive, like 4 dollars more, but it works faster than regular calcitic lime.
Yes you need to know your lawn's square footage to determine how much fertilizer, lime, etc. to use.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 10:10PM
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ok, thanks. The soil test I recieved said I need 136lbs/1000 sq of lime and to separate it into two applications of 50lbs/1000sq. It also says an application of 20-3-12.

Does this help?

cation exch cap is 13.1 meg/100g

percent base saturation - k= .9 mg= 2.8 ca=7.9

micronutrient levels - all normal

boron ppm 0.0 soil range .1-2.0
mangananese ppm 2.3 soil range 3-20
zin ppm 2.4 .1-70
copper ppm .2 soil range .3-8.o
iron ppm 5.8 soil range 1.o-40
sulfur ppm 6.4 soil range 1.0-40

Is this what you would do?

Lastly, am I correct in saying that is the lawn is 1000 sq feet that is how many lbs of material you put down??
thanks again

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Those base saturations are extremely low, it's no surprise your grass isn't doing so well. Normal numbers for good soil would be Ca 60-70%, Mg 10-20%, K 2-5%. Your P is low as well. Your soil is highly depleted. I would suggest you use starter fertilizer whenever your fertilize, and if you can find pure potassium sulfate you should apply 1-2 lbs/1000 monthly. You should also apply espsom salts to correct that low Mg level. Yes, if you had 1000 square feet, then you would need to apply the amount stated, but again, those lime numbers are incorrect. You never want to put down that much calcitic lime in one shot. Send me an email if you want me to go more in depth on this soil report.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 2:52PM
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Thanks for the explanation and recommendations. Not quite sure how to send an email so i'll just post. I need to try and figure out a plan/schedule. So what would you do in my situation? through spring, summer and fall

I am going to apply 9 or 10 lbs of lime now and when would you apply more lime going forward? How often?

Should I do the same thing with the starter fertilizer? Apply now and how often should I reapply? monthly?

The epson salt, is that just regular stuff from the pharmacy? Do I apply that in the spreader? Is it a one time application or should I reapply as well? Can I do it at the same time as the other stuff?

Lastly, what is the best method for determining the 9, 10 or what ever the number is? Just to simply if the area is 1000sq, how do I go about knowing how much to spread and what 1o lbs is?

thanks so much for all your help. Hopefully I can get the soil in matter condition.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2012 at 10:42PM
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This is going to be a marathon as opposed to a sprint. Raising pH takes years, so you are not going to see changes overnight, but over time things will get better. Usually you can get two to three calcitic lime applications down per year. On the bag it will tell you the maximum amount you can use per application. If it says max rate is 10lbs/1000 square feet, then that means if your lawn is 2000 square feet, you should apply 20 lbs to the whole lawn. For the starter fertilizer I would wait two weeks after the lime application. Epsom salts require a carrier to be applied. I like to use Milorganite as the carrier. I will send you and email instructions on how to do this. First thing is first though, get the calcitic lime down (or Cal Turf Pro which I like better) as soon as possible.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 8:05AM
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Greg 9 to 10 pounds of calcitic lime is not going to do a darn thing for your soil PH.

Your soil test report will indicate the lime requirement in pounds of PURE calcium carbonate per 1000 square feet. Since the liming product that you use is not pure calcium carbonate, you will have to calculate how much product to apply. To do this, first find the number on the bag label which is called the CALCIUM CARBONATE EQUIVALENT - it will be stated as a percentage. Next find the liming requirement stated in the soil test report. Using these two numbers, perform the following calculation:


If the amount exceeds 50 lbs/Kft2 divide into two applications at two different times in the year.

So 9 or 10 pounds of Calcitic lime would only be about 6% of what is actually needed. Calcitic lime is not pure CALCIUM CARBONATE. Your test told you need 136 lbs/Kft2 of pure Calcium Carbonate.

To determine which lime to use the answer lies in the calcium to magnesium ratio. If your Calcium is LESS THAN 7 times your Magnesium you need to use Calcitic lime. Otherwise use Dolomitic

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 10:39AM
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andy10917(NY 6a)

You have to be very careful when reading and using the soil test results - many (most) labs are aimed at agricultural applications.

The application of large amounts of Lime all at once is for situations where the Lime is being incorporated into the soil by tilling - like on a farm. Applying more Lime than 50 lbs of "typical" Lime as a SURFACE application is bad, as it causes a spike in the pH in the top inch of soil right away, and you can wind up with a soil that is pH 8+ at the surface, and at a deeper depth (where it hasn't reached yet) it can still be a very low pH. This can harm or kill the soil biology and cause yellowing as other nutrients get "tied up" by the large amounts of Calcium and Magnesium.

The newest Calcitic limes (like Encap, Pennington and Mag-I-Cal) have recommended bag rates of from 6 lbs to 10 lbs per 1000 sq ft. They are much quicker acting. Don't exceed the rates on the bag as I have seen moderate yellowing at 18 lbs/1000 and severe yellowing at 35 lbs per 1000 sq ft. This is not like the stuff that farmers buy by the truckfull.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2012 at 12:38PM
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Your pH is definitely too low. Ideal soil pH target is 6.2-6.5. Use 10 lbs of the calcitic lime per 1000 sq ft. A low-dust calcitic lime like Solu-Cal works faster than regular pelleted lime. It says you can apply 3-4 times a year to maintain the pH once it's regulated. I think there is a new retail line of the product available as Plants Choice in certain regions. Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 2:45PM
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