Much colder weather has arrived and most warm season turf species lawns have received a good frost or more and have gone dormant for the winter. We too, just like the turf, will be ready to lie dormant from our lawn maintenance activities for a couple of months once the leaves have been raked and a final mowing has been done. But wait! One final chore that can lead to a much healthier lawn this coming spring is taking a soil sample analysis to determine soil nutrient levels and more importantly the soil pH level. Soil pH can greatly affect the availability of nutrients to the turf even though they may be frequently applied to the soil as fertilizer. If the analysis results indicate the soil pH is too low for nutrient availability and healthy turf growth then now is the time to start correcting this problem. Liming sources (calcitic lime and dolomitic lime) take months to alter the pH so putting lime out now will give you a head start for next spring. The winter rains during these idle months will help get the lime reacting in the soil. Liming products should be applied at no more than fifty pounds per 1,000 square feet at any single application. Therefore, if the pH is very low it may take a couple of tons of lime per acre (90 lbs./1,000 sq. ft.) to actually get the soil within the range you need for good turf growth which means you may have to apply lime more than once during the course of the year.
For those who have not taken a soil sample from their lawn in the past few years it would be prudent to take one now. Your local extension service office can assist with getting the sample to the soils diagnostic lab and the minimal fee will actually save you money by applying the correct nutrients that will result in a much healthier lawn.
Dr. Wayne Wells is an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist. His mailing address is Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Mail Stop 9555, Mississippi State, MS 39762. firstname.lastname@example.org