Best Soil Amendments For Lawns
Gardening and lawn care are two related but distinct activities. Gardening involves growing various plants in specific areas of the front or backyard. The activities include:
Gardeners typically use different tools to plant and grow crops, such as trowels, hoes, weeders, and pruners. The goal of a gardener is to create a productive yet attractive space for plants to grow.
On the other hand, lawn care is all about achieving a healthy, attractive lawn. The activity involves mowing, watering, weeding, and fertilizing the ground to grow grass and repairing areas of the yard that cannot grow grass. Apart from growing grass, lawn care is about maintaining an even, healthy appearance in grassy areas.
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Lawn Care: Common Lawn Issues
Sandy soil: Grass needs well-draining soil to grow healthy. Sandy soils can be used to grow grass because the chances of compaction are slim, and the spaces in between soil particles mean air circulation is not an issue in loose soils.
However, if the soil texture is too loose, water drains too quickly before the grass has the chance to absorb moisture. Sandy soil does not hold nutrients well compared to typical soil textures. This means you'll need to enrich the soil with fertilizers to replace the nutrients being washed away. Sandy soils require frequent doses of compost, aged manure, or leaf mold to grow healthy grass.
Clay soils: Clay soils have particles that are so small they can stick together very closely, resulting in a highly dense texture. Clay soil can hold water very well but is prone to compaction. In addition, air and water cannot pass as efficiently because of the denseness. This is the reason why plants grown in clay soils are more vulnerable to root rot. Because of the soil's ability to hold more moisture, clay soils do not require frequent watering and fertilizing.
Silty soils: Silt has particles similar in size to clay soil particles giving silty soil a softer, almost soapy texture. Silty soil can hold water well and is often used to grow different plants, including grass. However, the silty soil is too slippery. Silty soils are rich in nutrients and make a superb growing medium for grass. But like clay soils, silty soils will hold moisture to a point where plant roots become soggy. Read: What to Do When Your Lawn is Receding?
Amending the Soil for Lawn Care
Soil amendments are often confused with fertilizers - these are two different products. Fertilizers bring nutrients back into the soil, while soil amendments are meant to improve the physical characteristics of the soil for healthy grass growth.
Poor soils cannot support healthy plant growth, including grasses. By amending the soil, it's possible to boost its ability to hold water, achieve a fluffier texture, and improve turf growth. Other benefits of amending the soil are:
- Raise or lower soil pH level
- Loosen compacted or clay soils
- Improve loose soils' ability to hold moisture and nutrients
- Encourage root growth
- Boost microbial activity in the soil
- Add beneficial nutrients to the soil
The soil must be amended regularly to maintain optimal texture for growing grass. The materials for soil amendment will vary.
Common Soil Amendment Materials for the Lawn
There are different types of soil amendment materials to improve the soil texture for better grass growth. These materials are:
- Wood ash
- Aged animal manure
- Leaf mold
- Peat moss
- Worm castings
- Humic Acids
- Elemental Sulfur
- Aluminum Sulfate
Compost: Compost is made from decayed organic matter. The organic matter consists of
kitchen scraps and yard waste that are composted in a bin until it achieves a black, crumbly texture. As a soil amendment material, compost adds nutrients to the soil while improving the soil's ability to hold moisture.
Wood ash: Wood ash is an amendment material made from ash from burned wood collected from fireplaces or wood stoves. It is used to rebalance the soil pH and is often used in alkaline soils to increase soil pH.
Animal manure: Cow, horse, or chicken dung is aged to create a nutrient-dense soil amendment product. Animal dung is a rich source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. However, animal manure has to be composted to kill pathogens before being used as a soil amendment material.
Leaf mold: Leaf mold is essentially composted leaves collected from shade trees. Added to soil, leaf mold enhances soil structure, improves microbial activity, and boosts water retention.
Peat moss: Peat moss is an organic material collected from peat bogs. It is used to amend garden soils and lawns for better structure and moisture retention. While peat moss is naturally derived, it's not the most sustainable soil amendment product. Peat bogs have been destroyed through the rapid collection of peat moss.
Sawdust: Sawdust is wood waste used to improve soil texture. It is rich in carbon and loosens dense soil particles. Additionally, sawdust aerates the plant roots by preventing heat from building within the ground.
Worm castings: Worm castings are the manure of earthworms. Also called vermicast, worm casting is rich in essential nutrients grass needs to grow healthy. Worm castings also improve soil texture and boost microbial activity.
Humic acids: Humic acids are organic molecules from completely decayed organic matter. As a soil amendment material, humic acids improve soil quality, boost soil nutrient uptake, accelerate root development, and support microbial activity.
Lime: This soil amendment material is made from ground limestone. It contains calcium carbonate and traces of magnesium carbonate that raise soil pH. Lime also improves soil structure, particularly clay soils.
Elemental sulfur: Elemental sulfur is a common soil amendment material that neutralizes soil alkalinity. Sulfur is an essential nutrient for plants, preventing legginess and yellowing leaves in certain plants.
Aluminum sulfate: This soil amendment material raises the acidity of soils. It is perfect for growing plants that love slightly acidic soils. Aluminum sulfate almost instantly changes the soil's pH when added to the soil.
How to Improve Your Lawn with Soil Amendments
How to achieve a healthy lawn for better grass growth? Here's a step-by-step guide on how:
Step 1: Conduct a soil test
Always conduct a soil test to determine what soil issues you are dealing with. This is the only way to decide what kinds of soil amendment materials you'll need to address whatever problems you are trying to resolve. Using the wrong soil amendment materials will gravely affect soil and grass health.
You can buy soil test kits at your local gardening supplies store. You can also hire a professional to conduct the testing. Cooperative extensions and universities have professional laboratories for soil testing. Just bring a sample, and these agencies will take care of the rest.
Step 2: Choose the right soil amendment materials
After receiving the soil test results, you can choose what soil materials to use to amend the lawn.
If you're working with bare soil, you have to prepare the ground for the lawn and add the recommended soil amendment materials (about 6 inches deep into the soil) for the best results. For established lawns, spread the appropriate amount over the lawn, then water deeply. We suggest aerating and dethatching the yard before application. This ensures deeper soil penetration.
Avoid amending the soil if the ground is too wet or dry. The soil should be moist, not wet. When you get a handful and press the soil, it should form a ball that breaks apart when poked firmly with a finger.
Step 3: Start growing grass
After amending the soil, you are ready to grow grass and create a beautiful lawn. Remember, soil amendment has to be done regularly to maintain the lawn's ideal texture. We suggest using natural, organic soil amendment products like compost, worm castings, humic acids, and leaf molds to address most lawn issues.
If you're looking for high-quality soil amendment products like humic acids, order from our online store! We have limited promos on natural soil amendment products like humic acid and seaweed extract.