Diagnosing Soil Problems and Eliminating Thatch

Sometimes basic lawn care tips aren’t enough to solve your soil problems—you need to dig deeper. Reclaim your yard as the green living space it is with these helpful hints for diagnosing soil problems.

Remove Thatch From Your Lawn

The layer of loose organic matter between your turf grass and the soil’s surface is called thatch. It’s made up of your lawn’s active crowns and roots—but it also contains dead crowns, roots, stems and leaves that haven’t decomposed or been removed during basic lawn care. In short, thatch isn’t beneficial to your lawn the way pure organic matter is.

Thatch can harm your lawn when it reaches a depth of more than 1 inch. Scalping, pest problems and localized dry spots are all results of having too much thatch. Use core aeration as part of your basic lawn care regimen to mix thatch and soil together, thus encouraging thatch to decay. The decomposed thatch will add organic matter to your soil, improving its profile and nutrient availability.

Order a Soil Test

If thatch isn’t your issue, a TruGreen® expert can conduct a soil test to get to the root of the problem. A basic soil test helps you discover your lawn’s:

  • Soil pH
  • Plant-available phosphorus
  • Plant-available potassium
  • Lime requirements

In many cases, lawns that perform poorly or don’t respond to fertilization—whether it’s your entire yard or just certain spots—often suffer from nutrient deficiencies or chemical imbalances. In some situations, an advanced soil test may be needed to further find your lawn’s:

  • Plant-available calcium and magnesium
  • Micronutrient deficiencies
  • Plant-available iron, manganese, zinc, copper and boron

Make a Decision—Big or Small

Depending on your lawn’s situation, you may face a small decision—or a big one. For smaller problem areas in your lawn, excavating the bad soil and replacing it with good soil is a simple fix. Issues are often caused by objects left behind during construction such as buried wood scraps, cement, bricks and gravel.

If you have a larger problem area, the decision gets a little tougher. You can work to manage the lawn and bring it back to a healthy, enjoyable state, or you can excavate and replace it with good soil, starting from scratch.

For soil problems affecting the entire yard where the clay or sand content has gotten too high, or the soil itself is too rocky, you may be faced with only one choice: working with what you have. A customized lawn maintenance plan from TruGreen will help and focuses on proper mowing and watering techniques but can also include:

  • Supplemental lawn applications
  • Use of slow-release nitrogen
  • Aeration, sometimes twice per season
  • Overseeding with improved varieties
  • More frequent watering
  • High height of cut

Need Help? Call 1-800-464-0171

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