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Do a soil test before adding fertilizer to your yard

Garden soiltest

Doing a soil test will help you learn how much fertilizer or other components your lawn or garden needs.

Question: I purchased a new home at the end of last year, and I do know a lot about the history of my lawn. I do not think that anything was added to it last fall. Is this a good time to put fertilizer down?

Answer: We often get questions this time of year about whether to fertilize lawns in the spring. My advice is always to get a soil test done to accurately determine if your lawn needs fertilizer and what the ratio of nutrients you should be looking for to bring your lawn to its optimum health. A soil test will determine the current fertility status as well as the information you need to maintain the optimum fertility year after year.

A soil test can be purchased at the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office. It includes a detailed form to fill out that assists the lab in providing results to optimize the growth and yield of your lawn and garden. The report includes the status of phosphorus, potassium, boron, calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese, and zinc. It will also tell you the pH of your soil. Some plants grow well over a wide range of pH and others grown best within a very narrow range. Most soil nutrients are available to the plants when the soil pH is at a 6.5. When the pH is above this value, nutrients such as phosphorus, iron, manganese, copper and zinc become less available. You can be doing everything else correctly and still have poor growth because of your soil.

The soil test takes the guess work out of fertilization. The appropriate application of nutrients and lime to your lawn will not only save you time, they can save you money. By using the correct amounts and avoiding adding amendments your soil does not need, you can put that investment into other areas of your landscape.

After you have had your soil test done, you can give your local Extension Office a call or stop in and we would be happy to go through your results with you to answer any questions you may have.

Atlantic County Master Gardeners will be available to answer gardening questions and take samples for plant identification or diagnoses throughout the county this spring and summer:

Linwood Farmers Market: April 20 and May 11

Ventnor City Farmers Market: June 7, July 19, August 8

Brigantine Farmers Market: June 15, July 13

Brigantine Green Fest: August 24

ACUA Earth Day Festival: April 28. We will have Rutgers Tomato and Rutgers Pumpkin Habanero Plants to give away. Come early to be sure you get yours!

Annual Atlantic County Master Gardener Plant Sale and Community Education event: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. May 18 at the David C Wood 4-H Center, 3210 N.J. 50, Mays Landing. We will have a wide range of annuals, perennials, vegetable plants and native pollinator plants. We also have speakers throughout the day on various gardening topics. ACUA Master Composters, Rutgers Environmental Stewards, and 4-H groups will join us with demonstrations and information about their programs.

Do you have a gardening-related question you would like answered here? Please forward your questions to Belinda Chester, Master Gardener Program coordinator, Rutgers Cooperative Extension Office, 6260 Old Harding Highway, Mays Landing, NJ 08330. You can also submit questions at rutgers-atlantic.org/garden or email them to currents@catamaran.com; please include "garden question" in the subject line.

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