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  • Writer's pictureTracy Mosley

Soil Testing and Fertilization Guide

Winter is here in North Carolina which means it’s time to prepare our lawns for winter. One of the things that we can do to get our lawn looking great and prepared for next spring is to fertilize. Fertilizing in the winter encourages vigorous root growth in your plants. This is essential for your plants to make it through the winter and green up in the spring. Deep roots help your plants withstand drought conditions and store food which is needed for spring green-up.

Get A Soil Test

First, to get the most out of your fertilizer, you will want to get a soil test. A soil test can tell you exactly what nutrients are in your soil or if it is too acidic or alkaline. Knowing this can help you determine which fertilizer to use and which plants will grow best in your soil. Here in Tennessee, our soils tend to be too acidic for optimum crop production. So getting a soil test should be the first step in developing a sound fertilization program.

What is Soil Acidity?

Soil acidity is the level of acids present in the soil. When acid levels increase, the pH of the soil decreases. The pH scale ranges from 0-14. Soils in Tennessee range from 4.5 to 7.5. Soils with pH values greater than 7.0 are considered alkaline or sweet, and those with values of less than 7.0 are acid or sour.

What Causes Soil Acidity?

When pH falls below 7.0 it is considered acidic. Acidity can increase as magnesium, calcium, and potassium are replaced by hydrogen via erosion, farming, and leaching.

Correcting Soil pH

When soils are too acidic it prevents basic nutrients like phosphorus and potassium from being taken up by the roots. Trying to fertilize acidic soils is useless as the plants are unable to use the nutrients. Soil acidity can be corrected with the addition of lime.

What Does Lime Do?

Applying lime to acidic soils provides the following benefits:

  • Reduces amounts of aluminum and manganese to non-toxic levels.

  • Supplies calcium and magnesium.

  • Increases the efficiency of nitrogen (N), phosphorus(P), and potassium (K) use by plants.

  • Increases microorganism activity.

  • Improves the effectiveness of fertilizers and herbicides.

  • Increases yields and profits of crop fields.

When and How to Apply Lime

You can apply lime to your soil any time of the year but fall and winter are ideal as lime supplies are in stock. This is because most farmers apply lime in the spring and finding some could be difficult. Spread lime evenly and uniformly across your yard with a spreader. Applying lime unevenly can result in growing problems for several seasons.

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