Stay ahead of lawn troubles by periodically having a closer look at your soil profile. Cut into the turf and check for the presence of insects,soil moisture, thatch build-up, root development and compaction. It's easy and takes very little time, you just need to know what to look for.
Time Required: 10-20 minutes
- Using a shovel, trowel, or knife, cut out a wedge of your turf to a depth of 4-5 inches.
- Remove it and look at the grass. Discoloration or weak growth may indicate a nutrient deficiency. Spots or marks on the leaf blade may indicate disease presence. Healthy turf should be actively growing with an abundant mixture of older leaf blades and newer, young shoots.
- Examine the piece for soil moisture. If the soil is completely dry, it probably needs water. It should be moderately moist and cool below the thatch layer.
- Examine the root system. The roots should be plentiful and go down the full 4-5 inches. There should be plenty of new root growth, represented by lighter, almost white, roots.
- Examine the thatch layer. Excessive thatch can limit air, water and nutrient uptake. It should be about 1/2 inch in depth and a little spongy. If it's more than 1/2 inch in depth, aerating or de-thatching may be needed.
- Pull the thatch and soil apart and look for insects. Most turf damaging insects are larvae feeding on the roots. If there's more than a few insects present in your sample, control measures need to be taken.
- Put the wedge of turf together as best as possible and place it back in the hole. Step it down on it with your foot to smooth it out. A full recovery won't take too long.
- Repeat the process as often as needed to assess the turf on your property. Conditions can differ greatly from one side of the yard to the next, so it may be necessary to take look in several areas.
- Don't take the sample from the edge of the lawn or a focal point. Pick an area that is not too prominent, but still representative of the lawn.
- Pull the piece apart over the hole to keep things clean and retain original soil.
- If the conditions are hot and dry, you could pour a half gallon of water on the plug to prevent it from drying out.
- If in doubt about what you're looking at, having your soil tested is a good place to start.
What You Need
- Shovel, trowel or knife
- Jug of water (optional)
- Magnifying lens for a close-up look (optional)