#36- Getting pH levels right for your lawn

Today Ete talks about getting your pH right for your lawn. Acidity levels are surprisingly important to good lawn care in a couple of ways. Dialing in the correct acidity for the soil in your area and for your grass type should be considerations in your plan to grow a healthy, lush lawn. It's also important to understand that the pH levels in the products you use (like fertilizers), and even the pH levels of your irrigation water, can play a part in how effective your products and watering will be. 

Moss is a pretty cool looking, very interesting, non-vascular plant. But chances are, you don't want it in your lawn. Today Ete discusses moss: why it's growing in your lawn and what you can do about it. 


Hey, Hey, what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. I hope everyone's doing okay today. It's March–St Patrick's Day? Nope, it's 2 days after St. Patrick's Day and it's snowing here and there was an earthquake this morning in Salt Lake City about an hour away. I think it was a 5.7, which is bizarre. And there's a Coronavirus out there putting the world in the panic. So we're just going to keep rolling. But it's crazy.

We're going to talk about moss today. You know, moss, that green fuzzy stuff that seems to grow everywhere and where it's dark and damp and shady. Let's talk a little bit about it. One of the common things is a lot of your common weed killers will not kill it because it doesn't have a root system or a vascular system, like your weeds or grasses or those types of things do. So it doesn't move the product. If you were to apply it, it doesn't like translocate or move it through the root system. It needs a whole different method.

We're gonna talk about common moss. There's different types of moss throughout the world. We're gonna talk about what they just call common moss. So just your, you know, that green fluffy stuff that you see. It doesn't need a lot of light, but it does need a lot of moisture, a lot of water. So you'll notice, this is where you're going to find it: in shady areas that are, like, consistently damp, poorly drained areas, so bad soil drainage, and extremely acidic areas. So those on the pH scale or where there's too much acid in the soil, it's more acidic. Those are the areas. Where a healthy turfgrass and most plants need the opposite, right? They need good sun. They need not too damp, you know, nice, good soil. And so that's why moss kind of grows where everything else fails. Which, I think it's pretty cool.

I think it's a really cool plant. I actually love it as a ground cover. I know, you know, people don't want it in their lawns, but I love it when you're out hiking. We were recently in Hawaii hiking on this trail and that, and we hit this part, it's just a ton of moss and it was soft and it was just really cool. So, you know, it's got its place for sure.

So what can we do about it and what do we do? So the biggest thing is, you know, is timing. Let's talk first a little bit about the conditions. So we want to correct the conditions, you know: those dark, damp, wet, poor soil conditions. So one of the best things is obviously you can aerate that soil, whether you use a core or liquid aeration, get in there and loosen it up, that compact soil that, that awfully tight soil. And help to correct those drainage problems. And that will help.

Check over your irrigation, make sure you're not over-watering. Sometimes you might have a busted pipe somewhere and you have a leak and it's just spewing out and that's gonna create more ideal opportunities for moss to move in. So check on your irrigation. Make sure, you know, one thing people don't always do is if you have a landscape, and let's say you have 78%–that was a funny number–78% of your area is in sun. But let's, I guess we're gonna have to go with 22% of your area was under the shade. You know, you're probably not going to have to water that shady area as much. It's not going to need as much. So it's really a matter of understanding your landscape and what it needs.

But as we said, the pH, when you have a lot of moss, generally is pretty low. It's acidic. And so what you do is you take your soil test and there are different types of lime–and I did an episode on lime, and I've done one on soil samples, NPA samples–but it'll do that and it'll let you know and if that pH is off, you want to correct it. So that's, that's the first thing.

So you're gonna look at your irrigation, make sure you are watering properly for every part of your property. So if it's shadier, you may cut back. Make sure your pH is dialed in. You know, just try to get more sunlight and just aerate it and keep that soil as loose as possible. So just those things right there will help to kind of fight it off.

Now there are some treatments out there that exist. Now they're a little bit different, but what they do is they usually dry out the moss by exhausting their life giving moisture. So they use a lot of iron based products. There are some soaps, soap of fatty acids that you could actually use, more natural products like that. I know there are some remedies for dish soaps and a little vinegar. I have not tried those. So I actually love home remedies for myself, but I don't share them or discuss them publicly just because it's easy to make a mistake when you're mixing at home. So I'd hate to be responsible for that. So for that reason, I usually go with recommendations that are commercial. But yeah, there's all kinds of different products you can get. But yeah, you just to stay clear of anything that says like a weed killer cause that's really not gonna work. And then of course, just feed your lawn, aerate your lawn. You know, if you have to detach it.

One quick story, I remember–it was actually my mom's house that I already brought up–way back in the day. It used to be she had a front yard surrounded by trees, oak trees and just plants and everything was great, but the lawn was awful–but the landscape was amazing–and it was probably 80% moss. Now at this time, this was when I was younger, we never fed the lawn. We didn't water the lawn. It just was its own thing. And so I remember what we did exactly. We raked the entire lawn out. We used kind of a power raker to get the majority. And then we just hand raked the rest and we got it all out and just really turned the soil up a little bit, you know, let it breathe at least. And then we reseeded–well, we lined it. We got the pH balanced in, we fertilized it. We re-seeded. And then after about it took about a full year of spraying and then the fall we seeded again. And after about a year, that lawn was amazing. I mean it really, it really was incredible. Since then it has gone back just because they don't have an irrigation system and so, and so it kind of has unfortunately gone backwards. But that being said, yeah, it's just a simple process.

But I love the idea. If you are having a, if you have a high concentration, just rip it out. Just get it out of there and adjust the soil, fertilize and you'll be on your way. And then once you get it figured out, it might just be a little bit of some moss treatments occasionally to keep everything good. But if you keep it fertilized and get that irrigation proper and some sunlight, you're golden.

So anyway, that's all I got out on the moss. Hope you guys have a great day.

Should you be putting lime on your lawn? Ete discusses what lime is, what it does for your lawn, how to know if your lawn needs it, and how to apply it if it does.


Hey, hey what is up everyone? This is Ete with another episode of Eco Lawn Science. Before we start, I just want to give my best wishes out there for anyone who is being impacted by this coronavirus. Obviously it's a crazy time out there. Yeah, it's found its way into our small town here in this little mountain valley. So we're kind of on lockdown, but I'm just praying and wishing the best for those who have been affected by it, those family members and friends of those who have actually been affected by the disease, and also all those just on a business standpoint who may be struggling, having to shut their doors, wondering how the heck are we gonna pay our bills. It is a bit scary and so I wish the best for you and I am hopeful, you know, as we're just about to hit spring, we're starting to get warmer temperatures. The lawns are starting to wake up a bit and the plants are starting to come alive and you know, it just feels like a renewal or rebirth of this time of year. And I hope that that can, that feeling that nature is bringing, can carry into the economy and to all of those that are struggling with this thing.

But either way, we continue on with the show. Well, we're, we don't have much more to do. We're pretty much locked inside these days. And so I want to do another episode. So let's, let's just keep things going. Episode 31: we're going to talk about lime. I had a client ask me, "do I need to lime my lawn?" And the answer to that is, it depends on where you are and it depends on what your soil needs. So quickly, a little backstory, no, back history on what lime is.

So lime is a soil amendment and it comes from limestone rock. They ground it up and it usually has high calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate. And so when you add this to your soil under your lawn, basically it will increase the soil's pH making it less acidic and more alkaline. So if you have an acidic soil, significantly acidic, then–if it's slightly acidic, it might not be a problem–but if you have significant acidic soil in where you're trying to grow, whether it's a crop, whether it's a plant, a lawn, that's where lime can come into play. And then you get the benefits from the carbon and the magnesium.

Now it's not a fertilizer, it doesn't replace fertilizer. You still need to have a good fertilization program. But it is a soil amendment. And the key there is, you have to start with the soil and get it right.

Because what happens is if your pH is way insanely off, either high or low, that's going to react on how your lawn can utilize what you're doing. So if your pH is extremely acidic, a lot of the fertilizers, even the natural rain, things like that, they're not being properly utilized. So by getting that pH balance correct and dialed in, the health of your lawn and its ability to really utilize that fertilizer and everything else, will take off.

So of course, you know, the question is "do I need to apply lime?" Well, I can't answer that yet. I have to have a soil sample. On average, you know, it depends on where you are in the country and what type of grass, what type of soil you have. But on average lawns need to be somewhere around 6 to 7 on a pH scale.

I mean if you're at 5.8 and your area requires 5.8, that's okay. Sometimes 5.8 to 7.2 . But for the sake of simpleness, we're going to say somewhere around 6 to 7 is where you want to have your lawn and cool season grasses are going to be slightly higher.

And so how do you find out? Basically you could take a soil sample. There are pH testers, there's all kinds. I used to use these ones, they're about 400 bucks and you'd go out and you test different clients' lawns. But they were tricky. You had to wipe it off with these film in between every time it touched dirt, otherwise the results would be inaccurate. I have found that trying to use that over and over, it wasn't what I wanted. It was a lot of work and I think I didn't love what I was getting, the experience.

So I ended up using a lab. You can use your state's lab, your extension lab for the university, or there are individual soil testing labs. And so what's going to happen is you're gonna take the samples. If you send it to the lab, they're going to send it back and there's going to be a level, it's going to say pH and, and then it's going to say, if it's significantly off, it's usually going to have some type of correction path guidelines. So let's say you're trying to get your soil at 6 and a half and you get it back and it says the pH is at 4 and a half and you go, holy cow, we're way off. We got to get up significantly. That's where lime comes in. And usually your results will say, okay to correct this, start by putting 10 pounds of lime per thousand square foot, or whatever it may say.

And so you'll just start by, you'll follow those instructions. Now the lime itself is very heavy. It's like, Oh man, it's basically ground up little rock, stone, dirt things. And is that a term, "rock, stone, dirt things?" I think that's a, I think that's an official term. But they're heavy and they're sometimes back-breaking. I remember back in the day in Jersey we did a little lawn, it was like 5,000 square foot, got the soil analysis, and it was like, it needed 10,000–no, it was like 20,000 pounds of lime per thousand. So I mean we used like 5 or 6 bags, you know. So it was a lot of work physically. But the results were great.

I would say this, if you get the result, you need the lime. So fall is going to be one of my favorite times to lime. You could do it in the spring, but fall is great cause you have a lot of natural moisture. It can help break it down.

And so what I would say is, let's say you're trying to get the pH up. Do what the recommendation...So let's say it says 10,000. Let's say you need 10 pounds per thousand square feet. I would start there, and then apply the lime by the recommended rates and then wait about a month, let it all settle in and then see where you're at maybe in late October. And then if, let's say you're closer, but you're still not there, I would wait until spring, then do the next treatment. I don't know if I'd jump right on it and just keep working on it. I would wait. Let it all settle in, let it break down, wait until spring, do another pH test and then make your adjustment and then do another pH test. And eventually what will happen is you'll get that pH to a point where it's close and then you'll just test once a year and you'll find that if you're doing the proper program and proper liming, you'll find that it just needs slight adjustments. So maybe it's only 3 pounds per thousand and then maybe it's an annual thing of a slight adjustment.

You know, your pH will change everything. Think about it. Everything that impacts your lawn has its own pH, whether you have pine needles that break down and fall into the soil, whether you have, you know, different pHs in the rain or the irrigation, all these things. But usually they don't get too, too out of whack. Once you get it pretty dialed in, you get yourself kind of a regular program. Might be once a year in the fall, you find out your effective rate and you get your lime in and you'll notice a big difference. Cause your lawn will be able to use everything else. You're doing so much better. You do have to, if you over-lime, you can actually injure your grass. I don't, I've never seen a lawn killed, but I have seen it turn yellow-y and really stress from over-liming.

So there, there is a bit of science to it and I recommend starting with the pH test and then, and then moving forward and just kind of taking it slow, realizing you worked with nature, you're working with living organisms, so don't just try to blast it all out in one shot, just break it up. Yeah, so it's a good product. You know, a lot of times in Utah we don't have as much acidic soil, but I know back East, that was really off. And so different parts of the country are going to require different amounts of lime. Some will not require any.

And so anyway, I hope this helps a little bit about lime. If you have any questions, just go ahead and shoot, shoot me an email. I'd love to help out. Hope you have a great day and please stay safe out there.

Get Your Free Lawn Care Estimate

You'll get a green, weed free lawn & peace of mind with our Eco-friendly lawn care programs.

Rated 5.0 - 167 Reviews

Get Free Instant Estimate

As Recommended By

Get a green, weed free lawn & Peace Of Mind.