Soil Health

How to Improve Soil Health

This year was certainly a challenging year for turfgrass and ornamental plants. Rhode Island and the surrounding areas of Massachusetts and Connecticut were classified from Moderate to Severe Drought zones. Even our irrigated properties were challenged; some were placed on strict irrigation schedules, and others were still in water bans. During these months, lawn care companies and technicians took the brunt of questions, recommendations, problem-solving, and, in some cases, misdirected faults. I would say the success of technicians was evident if they were notified in time and their recommendations were followed. Preventing future failures in controllable situations with proper moisture management and improving soil health is where we need to focus our efforts.

Soil health? What’s that? In agriculture, proper soil health is the ability of soil to both retain and release moisture and nutrients by removing the bad elements blocking these processes. Examples of bad elements are salts, hydrogen, chlorine, and bicarbonates. Due to our soils containing clay and silt being flat particles, soil can become very tight. All of our soil particles have negative electrical or magnetic charges. The bad players are mostly positively charged. When soil gets very tight, it is because the organic matter is not attaching to the other soil particles due to having the same charges. Tight soils do not flocculate or drain. The easy explanation and solution is to apply calcium, a positively charged element. Calcium will cover the soil particles and knock off the bad players to leach away.

During this process, some nutrients that were locked up become immediately available, and calcium can also be absorbed into the plants for improved plant health. Since we dropped some acidic elements in this process, our pH has also increased. This is not a fix-all but certainly a big improvement. Choosing the correct calcium source, Hi Cal Lime or Gypsum, will depend on your starting pH or the last time you applied an effective lime application in our area. Aerating before this application will increase the depth of these improvements within your soil profiles.

So now we hopefully have enough calcium and a bit healthier flocculating soil that is not locking up our nutrient applications. With nutrients below the soil surface quicker, they have less exposure time to volatize and are more readily absorbed by plant roots.

Choosing your nutrients is pretty straightforward when you have decent soil health. You will probably not need as high a nitrogen source and still have a turgid blade holding nice color with less clipping production. At each Valley Green location, you will be met by an individual who can discover your needs and provide a menu of fertilizers that will fit those needs. Whether the fertilizers are combinations with weed or insect controls, lime additives, slow-release coatings, or starter fertilizers, we certainly have a menu that will serve all your needs. Soon you will see new technology available in our fertilizer line. This technology will help with our unhealthy soils.

Armament is a patented, biodegradable nutrient enhancer that protects nutrient ions from interactions, antagonisms, and tie up in the soil. It unlocks the tied-up nutrients that already exist in the soil and enhances nutrient utilization by protecting the nutrients and keeping them in a plant-usable form. The result is increased nutrient uptake by as much as 30%, deeper, stronger roots, and improved plant resilience.

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