If you don’t have the proper soil pH, say, “Good-bye” to a great-looking lawn! In fact, you can be wasting between 20% and 70% of your lawn fertilizer if your pH is not adjusted. Remember, lawn fertilizers acidify soil every time they are applied. “The New American Lawn” Program ADJUSTS YOUR SOIL pH to optimize the lawn’s growth! [pH: potential hydrogen]
The role of soil pH in the health of the lawn,
and how MAG-I-CAL for ACIDIC SOILS and MAG-I-CAL for ALKALINE SOIL works to adjust the pH of the lawn’s soil.
The pH level of the soil is an important consideration in growing lawns. Most of us have a basic understanding of pH as a way of measuring how acidic or alkaline a soil may be. If you own a swimming pool, you know that correcting and balancing the pH of the water you swim in is important. On a scale of 1 to 14, a pH of 1 is very acidic and a pH of 14 is very alkaline, also called basic, while a pH reading of 7 would be neutral. Lawns grow best in a soil that is neutral to slightly acidic between a 6.2 and a 6.8 reading.
Seemingly small changes in pH readings can mean big changes for lawn grass plants. That is because the pH scale is logarithmic not arithmetic. This means that a pH reading of 5 is ten times more acidic than a pH reading of 6, and one hundred times more acidic than a pH reading of 7, and so on.
Jonathan Green MAG-I-CAL contains 35% calcium carbonate in a completely soluble form that is immediately available to adjust soil pH upwards. The carbonate is essential in raising soil pH and calcium is vital to many grass plant functions. Some of which are:
- Proper cell division and elongation
- Proper cell wall development
- Nitrate uptake and metabolism
- Enzyme activity
- Starch metabolism
However, much of the free calcium carbonate, already in the soil, forms nearly insoluble compounds with other elements, such as phosphorus, making both elements less available. Even in higher alkaline soils, the calcium revealed in a soil test may not actually be available to the grass, because the grass plant can’t extract it from the soil. This is why an application of the fast acting, soluble calcium carbonate in MAG-I-CAL has such a positive impact on the lawn to which it has been applied.
The carbonate in Mag-I-Cal increases soil pH by converting and removing hydrogen from exchange sites in the soil as water and carbon dioxide. These sites are where the nutrients are held. Calcium does not have a role in this process. Mag-I-Cal dissolves in lawn soil because organic acid eats away at the surface of its tiny particles. When the acid attacks the surface of particles of Mag-I-Cal, carbonate is released and that neutralizes the acid.
Mag-I-Cal for Alkaline Soils is used to lower the pH of alkaline soils Alkaline soils are primarily caused by a calcium carbonate – rich parent rock material weathering in an arid or dry environment. These types of soil are common in areas of the Western United States. The average pH of these carbonate – containing arid soils is 8.0. Lawns, however, thrive in soil with a pH from 6.2 to 6.8.
The sulfur that is contained in Mag-I-Cal for Alkaline Soils reacts with water and oxygen in the presence of sulfate – oxidizing bacteria to release hydrogen from the soil water solution and nutrient exchange sites in the soil.
Lawn grasses need a slightly acidic pH, reading between 6.2 – 6.8, to grow healthy and strong. Tiny soil microorganisms increase and multiply in soil, when the soil has a proper pH. They die in acidic or alkaline soils. These microorganisms breakdown the vast array of the organic compounds and mineral nutrients found in the soil that no other form of life can degrade. Since grass plants need much more than the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium that comes in the bag of fertilizer you spread, they can only get their other essential nutritional requirements from the soil. These include, humic and fulvic acids, calcium, sulfur, iron, manganese, cobalt etc. etc. The bag of fertilizer you spread on your lawn is mostly wasted when the soil pH is too acidic or too alkaline. Also weeds thrive in acidic soils of low pH, so you fight a never ending battle trying to eliminate the lawn weeds. Turf diseases and even insect populations are kept in check when the soil pH is adjusted. There is nothing more important that you can do for your lawn than to improve the pH of your soil by bringing it into a 6.2 to 6.8 range.
Note: Even in high alkaline soils exhibiting a higher pH there may also be a high sodium content. The sodium competes with the calcium reducing both elements availability. Calcium is not very mobile in the soil, or lawn grass plant tissue, therefore a continuous supply is essential for the development of a healthy attractive lawn. So if you lawn looks poorly apply Mag-I-Cal and you’re likely to see improvements.
More About Why the Soil pH level of your lawn is important.
pH is a measure of the quantity of hydrogen present in the soil. As the amount of hydrogen in the soil increases, the soil pH reading decreases, thus becoming more acidic. Hydrogen carries a weak positive electrical charge which enables it to attach to negatively charges sites on the clay and humus particles in the soil that contain most of the nutrients the grass needs to thrive. Therefore these negatively charged sites become clogged with positively charged hydrogen; thus the positively charged mineral nutrients are not able to attach to these same sites.
How does Mag-I-Cal raise lawn soil pH?
As Mag-I-Cal dissolves in the water in the lawn soil, the hydrogen that is attached to the clay and humus particles reacts with the carbonate contained in Mag-I-Cal to form carbon dioxide and water. The result is that the exchange sites are partially cleared of hydrogen and the soil becomes less acidic or has a higher pH reading.
Soil Chemistry and the Importance of Maintaining a balanced pH
All tiny particles in the soil including minerals, organic matter, (humus) and microbial life carry electrical charges. These charges are called ions. Ions with a positive charge are called cations and particles with a negative charge are called anions. Positively charged particles are electrically attracted to negatively charged particles. This is what happens when opposite ends of magnets attract each other. Even microorganisms in the soil carry electrical charges. If it wasn’t for the operation of this weak electrical charge in holding mineral nutrients on the surface of clay and humus particles, the mineral nutrients would be quickly leached away by water. Why does this matter? The surfaces of plant root hairs carry their own negative electrical charges. Grass plant root hairs use this electrical attraction to increase their ability to attract and absorb positively charged nutrients from the soil. The pH reading indicates the concentration of hydrogen ions in the soil solution. The more hydrogen ions, which are positively charged particles or cations, the lower the pH level of the soil, making the soil more acidic. The organic acids, produced from organic decay in the soil, drive the soil pH lower. Lawn fertilizers are acidic and contribute to lowering the pH level of the soil too. It is the pH level that influences the quantity and type of microorganisms that live in the soil, and these microorganisms have a great influence on the health of grass plants.
An Additional Consideration: subsoil acidity!
Even if the top six inches of the lawn indicates a pH reading of above 6.2, the subsoil may still be very acidic, with a much lower pH reading. When subsoil pH readings drop below 5, aluminun and manganese in the soil become much more soluble in water. This can create a toxic condition for lawn grass plants, which will inhibit their growth and health. Since lime penetrates most lawn soils at the rate of about one inch per year, the necessity of a long term liming program becomes apparent in the development of a vigorous, deeply-rooted lawn that can withstand heat and drought stress. This is also why Jonathan Green’s MAG-I-CAL is a good choice, it quickly penetrates deep into the soil, containing 35% soluble calcium carbonate and humates, to adjust soil pH faster.
How can I determine my Soil’s pH?
While more expensive soil pH testing meters are available. Jonathan Green offers an easy, do-it-yourself kit to determine what your soil will need to achieve the ideal growing conditions for a healthy, beautiful lawn. The kit contains a test tube, and a capsule of powder to sprinkle on top of the soil and a pH Range Chart.
Go to four locations on your lawn. We suggest sunny areas, shady areas, bare spots and places full of weeds. Using a garden trowel or spoon dig down into the soil one inch and take a small sample. Follow the same procedure at the other testing sites. When you have four samples mix the soil together in a dish, combining them to get a representative or average sample. Remove the cap from the tube. Remove the capsule. From the dish take just enough soil to fill the test tube to the first line. Carefully twist and open the capsule and pour the powder into the tube. Add distilled water to the fourth line. Replace cap and shake the tube thoroughly. Allow it to settle for about 5 minutes. Compare the color of the solution to the pH color chart on the front of the card.
How Much Mag-I-Cal Should be Applied?
- pH of 6.0 – 6.4, Apply Mag-I-Cal once a year
- pH of 5.6 – 5.9, Apply Mag-I-Cal in the spring and fall
- pH of 5.1 – 5.5, Apply Mag-I-Cal every other month until pH is above 5.5, then follow above suggestions.
If pH is 5.0 or below, apply Mag-I-Cal at 1.5 times the regular rate for three consecutive months. Two weeks after the third application test your soil pH, then adjust your Mag-I-Cal application schedule accordingly.
How Much Mag-I-Cal for Alkaline Soils Should be Applied?
- pH of 7, Apply Mag-I-Cal for Alkaline Soils once per year
- pH of 8 – 9, Apply Mag-I-Cal for Alkaline Soils in the spring and fall
- pH of 10 or above. Apply Mag-I-Cal for Alkaline Soils three times per year.