Learning Center


Getting to know your soil for the perfect growing environment

It’s important to spend a little time getting to know your soil.  This will help you create the perfect growing environment for your lawn and landscape plants.  This post covers pH, which is the measure of a soil solution’s alkalinity or acidity.  Other soil health-related items to consider are organic matter, soil moisture level, and proper nutrients.

Step 1

Don’t make assumptions.  For example, native soil in central Arkansas is typically on the acidic side of the pH scale.  However, we are seeing that soils brought in for new landscape construction are more alkaline. Soil pH is key; it influences the availability of nutrients essential to plant health, as well as organic matter decomposition. Decomposition of organic matter adds natural nutrients into the soil, improves drainage, and benefits the soil’s ecosystem.

Step 2

Collect soil and take to your local county Cooperative Extension office.  Make sure you remove bark, stones and other large particles of organic matter.  For more detailed information about collecting and submitting your soil sample, click here.

Step 3

Bring your soil sample results in with you.  In general, you apply sulfur for alkaline soils, and lime for acidic soils.  The soil test will give a recommendation of what is needed but it can be difficult to interpret.  We can help guide you to the best solution.

Step 4

Invest in adjusting your soil pH as needed. Some nutrients get ‘tied up’ at certain pH levels.  This means that sometimes you can be applying the best fertilizers and they aren’t accessible to your plants because of the soil pH level.  Investing in pH adjustment can help decrease the number of fertilizer applications, and help overall plant health.  Soil tests will also list what nutrients are needed; you might need to add nutrients or micro nutrients to the soil as well as adjusting the pH.Plants are an investment; taking care of your soil health can increase their longevity.

Step 5

Retest.  Soil pH isn’t static; it can change over time.  Test every year for a few years and apply recommended adjustments.  Then back off a bit and test every few years, unless issues arise.