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Fall Soil Test Sampling Considerations

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There is a division in fall soils between the needs of lawns and those of winter gardens. Lawns want to be like a bear and gather specific nutrition before hibernation and dormancy. For gardeners and farmers growing crops in the fall and winter, soils want to feast on fertile growing conditions and GROW.

Most people think of spring as a time to get a soil test. While that is a great time, fall is just as critical. Your lawn needs the right balance of nutrients to sustain winter hardiness and prepare for a quick green up in the spring, and your winter vegetables need food now to produce a healthy winter crop.

Fall soil test results give you a two action plan for your lawn – now and preparation for spring. First, you get to address any critical issues before your lawn goes dormant, and second you get a chance to plan the nutrient levels you want for spring. While you may find certain soil deficiencies can be managed in the short term, many deficiencies are best managed weeks, months, and even sometimes years ahead.

soil test

A great example of this is pH. You can begin remedy actions immediately, and if the levels are really off, you still have time to do another treatment before spring. pH can be an issue that takes years to correct, and getting started in the fall is the perfect time to take a look at the pH to give you a better jumping off point in the spring.

Another level that is critical for fall soil management is potassium (K). Potassium strengthens the cell wall of the plants. Have you ever noticed “Winterizer” lawn fertilizers? They tend to have a lower nitrogen number to not push growth before dormancy, but they also will end with a larger potassium number. Why?

Research has shown that when the plant has higher levels of potassium, it tends to endure winter hardiness conditions better and is prepared for a healthier green spring up. If you are doing a winter garden or crop, making sure the adequate potassium is also critical to withstand colder temperatures, but those fertilizers will use a higher nitrogen level to keep growth throughout the winter growing season.

soil test

Fall is a great time to do your soil sample. Whether you are preparing to watch your lawn hibernate or watch your broccoli grow, a soil sample will help guide you now in the short term and even begin to prepare you to plan for your next growing season – spring.

Also read our blog post: What Does the USDA Recommend For Soil Testing and Why?

Article re-posted from blog.soilkit.com – by Christina McInnis. Soil Kit is an affiliate partner with Beyond Behnke’s.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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