When you plant a new lawn, a very important part of ensuring that it is
healthy and grows well is making sure the soil’s pH level is right. pH is a assessment
of how acidic or alkaline (basic) something is, and it is measured on a scale from 0
to 14, with 0 being the most acidic and 14 being the most alkaline. Water has a
neutral pH of 7. The best pH for all grass varieties is ever so slightly on the acidic
side of the scale, from 6.5 – 7.You can find out the pH of the soil in your yard rather easily. Home pH testing kits are now widely available at garden centers and online, and they can give you
accurate readings in a matter of minutes. They can be very simple testing kits that
use paper strips that indicate pH by turning blue or red, depending on acidity or
alkalinity; or they can be electronic meters, which are more expensive but also give
a more accurate pH reading.
Or, for a more thorough testing of soil pH, nutrient content, and levels of lead
and other heavy metals, you can send soil samples to a local agricultural advisory
services lab. They will provide a full workup of the soil content and pH and provide
recommendations for amending it. While this kind of thorough testing is not really
necessary for making sure your new lawn grows properly, the information can be
very informative and interesting.
With a home testing kit, it is best to take a few samples from around the area
where you intend to plant your new lawn. If you are using an electronic meter, dig a
small hole, and fill it with distilled water, mixing it until it is nicely turbid (muddy).
It’s important to use distilled water, because it is truly neutral, whereas tap water
can be somewhat alkaline, and rainwater can be acidic. Insert the probe, wait one
minute, and record the reading. Repeat this in a few other locations. If you are using
paper test strips, take a few samples from around the yard, bring them indoors, and
mix them independently with distilled water. Place a few drops of each on a test
strip. The strip will instantly change color, indicating the pH of the soil.
If your soil is too acidic, the best way to correct it is by adding lime to the soil.
Mix dolimitic or calcitic lime to the soil to a depth of about four to six inches at a
rate of a pound per 100 square feet. This should be done at least a week before you
intend to plant the new lawn. If your soil is too alkaline, the best product for large
areas is granular sulfur, although it is slow acting and will take over a month to have
an effect. Mix granular sulfur into the soil to a depth of four inches at a rate of one
pound per 100 square feet. After a few weeks, test soil pH again to see if it is having
the desired effect.