Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Soil Test Results

The mail arrived on Saturday and I opened the envelope from the UW Soil and Plant Analysis Lab with some trepidation. Would my soil be found worthy or would I be found out as a slacker home owner who has neglected to apply the required fertilizer and be kicked out of the suburbs? I chuckled a bit with how similar this felt to the time I had my breastmilk analyzed in the hospital lab to ensure it had adequate fat content for my 2 pound preemie ( I, or it, passed). 

I am happy to report that I have a high, off the charts, amount of phosphorus (for root and bud growth) and Potassium (for disease and drought resistance). I think phosphorus is high in WI in general which begs the question of why it is in fertilizers around here. The pH was on the high end of optimum (7.5) which at first I thought was good and the lab even reported that no adjustment is necessary. However, I have since read the dandylions love this pH and I'd be wise to reduce it a bit with some sulfur.

Nitrogen levels were not measured and this bummed me out because I figured I'd score big on this one too. I figured all that all that mulch mowing, my three backyard pooping chickens and nitrogen-fixing clover everywhere should count for something. However, adding nitrogen was the only recommendation they gave me (for green and leaf growth). Turns out that grass is a big fat nitrogen hog and wants me to give it more and more. They tell me I can skip the Sept application if we mulch mow. Time to look into some organic fertilizers with ingredients such as dehydrated manure, fish emulsion, and blood and bone meal (yikes!). Since so much of my lawn is shady, it looks like I can use less of the stuff. Speaking of chicken poop-I did check it out and it is a good nitrogen source and you can by it by the gallon for 16 bucks. I'll sell you a gallon for half of that!

Leaving on the grass clippings did give me a proud 3.9% organic matter in my soil. Seems all the good soil microbes like it between 2-5%. Maybe a bit of compost top dressing and I can score a 5 by next year.  I would have liked to know more about my soil's ecosystem. What critters are working for me out my backdoor. Sounds like a good summer project for my 11 year old and her microscope. 

So I am happy with my report card but still not happy with the ever expanding mass of thistle, creeping charlie and crabgrass across my property. The whole topic is overwhelming but I continue to learn and this past months blog topic has kept my husband from buying the weed and feed for another season while we get it all figured out. Still looking for that natural lawn service. 

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