Have you ever seen white deposits on the ground in the middle of summer? It’s very common in Carbon and Emery Counties and it isn’t snow. So, what is it? It’s minerals, often calcium, sodium, and magnesium. Utah soils are very basic, the opposite of acidic, meaning they measure higher than 7 on the pH scale. If you remember from high school the pH scale is a measure of hydrogen ions ranging from 1 to 14 where 1 is very acidic and 14 is very basic with 7 being pH neutral.
The Ideal Soil pH for Lawns
Turf grass such as Kentucky Bluegrass and Fescue grow best in slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.5-7.0. In Price, we often see soils with a pH at or above 8.0. This means that there is a lot of minerals in the soil increasing the pH level and making it harder for plants such as turf grass to uptake needed nutrients. To further complicate the issue, the water used to irrigate lawns in Price, Utah also contains these minerals meaning that it is basically impossible to fix and actually gets worse with watering over time.
How To Fix High Soil pH Problems
While the advice of many experts is to plant plants that do better in alkaline soils, that doesn’t really work for grass. Aside from choosing the initial seed type (should you be as nerdy as us and research genetically modified turf grass seeds on a weekly basis) the grass you have is the grass you have. The other idea is to lower the pH of the soil. While it may sound simple in process, the problem is that the components that make the soil alkaline exist in such a high quantity that there is no economical way to lower the pH as any efforts would simply not even scratch the surface of the problem.
If this revisit of high school chemistry is boring you let’s change gears. What can you do to help your lawn to thrive in the alkaline soil conditions of Price, Utah? Our first advice is to get a soil test so you know exactly where to start. This can be done in under 15 minutes and for less than $50. If you are interested, click here to see our blog about soil tests. This will help you know where you are and how to start as well as stop you from going in the wrong direction.
Our guess is that your soil is high in calcium and magnesium and low in micronutrients such as sulfur, manganese, zinc, copper, and boron. With this info in mind, apply any product containing the needed nutrients, that DOES NOT add more calcium to the soil should be of some benefit. While a one-and-done treatment sounds great, you are most likely going to benefit the most by making multiple (4-5) applications, ideally about 3 weeks apart. This may take around 90 days but should give you feedback on if the treatment is working. If no results are seen or the results are not sufficient, repeat the process with another product. Often, you will only find one of the micronutrients in a product so you may have to do this with multiple products. These applications can run simultaneously and are best done by staggering the applications so you are making one every 7-10 days and alternating between products.
What are other common lawn care problems in Carbon County, Utah?
The two most common problems that we see are poor watering and lack of nitrogen. Price is a desert, meaning it receives less than 10” of rain per year. Most of this moisture falls in the form of snow during the winter. Healthy lawns need 1”-1.5” of water per week during the growing season. Do you see the math problem there? We’re not saying to drown your lawn, there is an art and a science to it, but if you aren’t watering properly your lawn will never look good, regardless of the soil content. As far as nitrogen is concerned, it’s hard to overdo it as a homeowner. Go to IFA a grab a bag or two of the current step and apply it to your lawn. When the bags says “covers up to” cut that number in half for your application purposes as it is watered down quite a bit (most of the bag is actually just sand!).
Another idea is to throw caution to the wind and start over and trucking in soil from across the country to cover your property 18” deep. Just kidding! While that may be a fix, it would be a massive expense and project and not worth it economically.
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