If the thought of taking a test makes you break out into a cold sweat, take a deep breath and read on! The only way you can fail this one is if you don’t take it. Maybe you apply some sort of fertilizer to your lawn or garden every spring because the commercials on TV extoll its importance, or because your neighbors are putting fertilizer on their yards. Before you rush to the store, doesn’t it make sense to first find out if your soil needs these nutrients, and if so, what kind and how much? Rather than wasting money guessing, you can purchase a soil test kit from your local lawn and garden store, or pick up a free kit from the nearest Alabama Cooperative Extension System office and have your soil sample analyzed by Auburn University for $7.
If the soil test recommends adjusting soil pH, applying lime may be recommended. If the test suggests adding nutrients, you will need to purchase the right kind of fertilizer for your yard. First look for those three little numbers on the fertilizer bag. These tell you the percentage of each of the three elements – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium – that are included in the product. The results of the soil test will indicate how much of each of these elements should be added to the soil to achieve the proper nutrient levels. The remainder of the product is a filler which allows the fertilizer to be spread at the application rate recommended in the package directions. You can set the application rate of your spreader by adjusting its dial to the number specified.
The fertilizer package also indicates how many square feet the product will cover. Don’t forget to subtract any paved areas from the total when calculating the size of your yard. Remember not to apply fertilizer right before or during a rain and to sweep up any product that falls on paved areas. Like anything else, rain will wash fertilizer into the storm drainage system and carry it to the nearest stream or creek. Using the right amount of the right nutrients at the right time will save you money, maximize your yard’s ability to fight off pests and diseases while looking its best, and help protect water quality in local waterways.
Urban Forestry Fair, February 25 – Come on out to Linn Park (between the downtown Courthouse and Birmingham City Hall) from 9 am to 2 pm to receive FREE tree seedlings ready for planting. Sponsored by the National Resources Conservation Service and the Alabama Forestry Commission.
Birmingham Annual Plant Dig, February 28 – Grab your garden tools, gloves and containers, and head to the New Georgia Landfill (2800 47th Street North, Birmingham) from 10 am to 2 pm to stock up on FREE plants for your yard. Call 787-5222 to learn more.