What is a Secrest Arboretum Master Gardener? We are folks like you, with a passion for plants and gardening and a desire to serve our communities. Our initial core horticultural training and volunteer work provide us with a framework of plant knowledge, which we build on each year with additional training and volunteer work. Our mission is to teach and promote research-based horticultural practices and projects in Wayne County.
Find us at the county fair and farmers markets, see our work ushering at music concerts and maintaining the gardens at the Secrest Arboretum, watch for our children’s and adult’s programs and activities, bring us your gardening questions at u.osu.edu/secrestmg. Want to join us? Find information and an application on this same website.
Start with a Lawn Soil Test
A soil test is an inexpensive way to obtain helpful information about your soil. Without a soil test, we can only guess if we need lime or fertilizer. It is environmentally essential to know if we need to add fertilizer—adding more than needed is costly, and the excess could run off into storm drains.
When to take the Soil Sample
It is acceptable to collect a soil sample anytime during the year, except when the soil is too wet or frozen. September 1st is a good time to soil test. If the recommendations are to adjust the pH or add fertilizer, soil test again the same time one year later to monitor if the soil levels are becoming optimal. If they are, and the grass clippings remain on the lawn, then test every two years. A pH level of 6.5 to 7.0 is optimal for mineral availability in grass plants and is best for soil aerobic microbes.
How to Collect Soil Samples
Contact your soil testing laboratory for instructions on how to collect and submit. A list of soil testing labs is in Ohioline fact sheet HYG-1132.
Tips to improve the accuracy of your soil test:
- Take samples with a soil probe, garden hand trowel, or Collect-N-Go Sample Kit Bucket.
- Sample 4 inches deep for lawns.
- Randomly zigzag over the area, collecting 10 subsamples, and place in a clean plastic bucket.
- Each subsample should be taken at the same depth and volume at each site.
- Break up any clumps and thoroughly mix to make a composite sample.
- Remove thatch and live plant material from the sample.
- Refer to soil test lab instructions for packaging and mailing a specified amount of your sample to the lab.
Interpreting Soil Test Results
Lab recommendations will explain how much and what ratio of fertilizer and amendments to apply, and how many actual lbs./1000 square feet are needed. The following resources provide more detailed information about interpreting soil tests:
SOIL TESTING FOR OHIO LAWNS: Ohio State University Extension
--Gary Horrisberger, Secrest Arboretum Master Gardener Intern