Natural Wakulla: A soil test will tell you what your landscape needs

Les Harrison
Article written by Les Harrison and published in The Wakulla News: Wednesday, January 5, 2022 at 11:36 am – The information on a soil test is critically important to achieving maximum performance from turfgrass while assuring responsible application of fertilizer.

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The shorter daylight hours and the cooler thermometer readings have slowed, but not stopped the rate of growth and development for most ornamental horticulture used in Wakulla County. Still, some chores done now will deliver big payoffs when the growing season returns.

The first and most efficient action is to have a soil test done. Any number of actions and environmental factors can increase the likelihood of change to the soil’s nutritional profile.

This test report will determine the available nutrients and identify any deficiencies in the home landscape. Given the amount of time and resources invested in home landscapes, the soil test is an excellent investment to achieve success.

The process is simple, easy and inexpensive. Sampling kits are available at the UF/IFAS Wakulla County Extension Office (located on Cedar Avenue in Crawfordville), and tips on effective sampling techniques are available on request. There are also commercial soil testing labs which can be located on the internet.

There are several characteristics common to panhandle Florida soils, but these are not universal. Testing will assure the homeowner can apply amendments in the correct amounts. PH, the measure of acidity or alkalinity, is a critical component of the soil test report. Many soils in coastal counties are in the alkaline range which affects the nutrient absorbing ability of commonly used turfgrasses, shrubs and vegetable plants.

There are ways to mitigate or overcome soil pH problems with the correct application of micro-nutrients or, in the cases of growing beds, mulches. These are all well within the abilities of homeowners to accomplish with readily available inputs.

Another common trait of local, even statewide, soils is naturally occurring high amounts of phosphorus. This element is mined in central Florida and shipped nationwide in commercial blend fertilizers.

The middle number on a fertilizer analysis tag reflects the percentage of phosphorus available in the bagged product. For example, a 50-pound bag of 5-10-15 would have five pounds of phosphorus.

If, as is commonly the case, the soil test report indicates phosphorus is present, application is not needed. Excesses of this nutrient tend to leach into the aquifer and surface water bodies, potentially causing an assortment of long-term problems for everyone.

This information contributes to economically and environmentally sound decisions which will be carried out in spring. It will also help if selecting a grass species which can be planted or over-seeded in patchy spots in late winter.

As with bagged fertilizers, there are many choices to consider. Read the seed tag carefully if considering a blended product.

Some generic mixed products will include grass seed which will not flourish in north Florida. Examples of grasses which do not grow well locally include fescue, bluegrass, and orchard grass.

So, when taking a break from football playoffs and paying bills, escape to the yard and pull a soil sample for testing. It will be the best thing next to a Super Bowl party with great friends.

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The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions, or affiliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating

Posted: January 10, 2022

Category: Agriculture, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, Fruits & Vegetables, HOME LANDSCAPES, Lawn, Natural Resources, Pests & Disease
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