A successful landscape or garden maintenance program strives to create a fertile soil. The goal of a sustainable fertility program is to activate a favorable environment for plants and millions of beneficial organisms. These microscopic critters assist plants in obtaining moisture and nutrients. Many of these creatures help resist drought and fight off a variety of pests including weeds, diseases, and insects.
There are several nutrients that are essential for plant growth. A soil test is used to determine the amount of these nutrients in the soil. In addition to indicating the level of nutrients in your soil, the analysis will also tell you the pH value or how acidic or basic your soil is, and it will make a recommendation for the amount and type of fertilizer and/or lime you need to add to the soil for optimum plant growth. Rayal Tree Care Company can customize your soil fertilizer and lime applications to your plants needs. Following our recommendations will help prevent problems with nutrient deficiencies (in the case of under-fertilization) or problems associated with over-fertilization such as excessive vegetative growth, delayed maturity, salt burn and wasted money. In addition, it can protect against any environmental hazards resulting from excessive fertilizer applications.
Collecting soil samples
For a proper soil analysis, a Rayal Tree Care Company arborist will collect samples, which will be pooled together to form one composite sample. These cores will include soil from the surface to a depth of 6 inches. Both visual inspection and pH testing will be completed on site.
Contact our customer service department to schedule a soil analysis on your property today. Our arborist can provide recommendations for correcting any problems detected in the analysis. Allow us to develop the most effective nutrition program for your landscape and most precious plantings. Remember shrubs and trees are the cornerstone of good landscaping. They add value to your home as well as year-round interest, enjoyment and beauty.
Understanding and adjusting pH values
The soil pH value is a measure of soil acidity or alkalinity. Soil pH directly affects nutrient availability. The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14, with 7 as neutral. Numbers less than 7 indicate acidity while numbers greater than 7 indicate alkalinity.
The pH value of soil is one of a number of environmental conditions that affects the quality of plant growth. The soil pH value directly affects nutrient availability. Plants thrive best in different soil pH ranges. Azaleas, rhododendrons, blueberries and conifers thrive best in acid soils (pH 5.0 to 5.5). Vegetables, grasses and most ornamentals do best in slightly acidic soils (pH 5.8 to 6.5). Soil pH values above or below these ranges may result in less vigorous growth and nutrient deficiencies.
Nutrients for healthy plant growth are divided into three categories: primary, secondary and micronutrients. Nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are primary nutrients that are needed in fairly large quantities compared to the other plant nutrients. Calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg) and sulfur (S) are secondary nutrients, which are required by the plant in lesser quantities but are no less essential for good plant growth than the primary nutrients. Zinc (Zn) and manganese (Mn) are micronutrients, which are required by the plant in very small amounts. Most secondary and micronutrient deficiencies are easily corrected by keeping the soil at the optimum pH value.
The major impact that extremes in pH have on plant growth is related to the availability of plant nutrients or the soil concentration of plant-toxic minerals. In highly acid soils, aluminum and manganese can become more available and more toxic to the plant. Also at low pH values, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium are less available to the plant. At pH values of 6.5 and above, phosphorus and most of the micronutrients become less available.
Increasing the pH of the soil
To make soils less acidic, we apply a material that contains some form of lime. Ground agricultural limestone is most frequently used. The finer the limestone particles, the more rapidly it becomes effective. Different soils will require a different amount of lime to adjust the soil pH value. The texture of the soil, organic matter content and the plants to be grown are all factors to consider in adjusting the pH value. For example, soils low in clay require less lime than soils high in clay to make the same pH change.
Decreasing the pH of the soil
Two materials commonly used for lowering the soil pH are aluminum sulfate and sulfur. Aluminum sulfate will change the soil pH instantly because the aluminum produces the acidity as soon as it dissolves in the soil. Sulfur, however, requires some time for the conversion to sulfuric acid with the aid of soil bacteria. The conversion rate of the sulfur is dependent on the fineness of the sulfur, the amount of soil moisture, soil temperature and the presence of the bacteria. Depending on these factors, the conversion rate of sulfur may be very slow and take several months if the conditions are not ideal. For this reason, most experts use the aluminum sulfate.