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Importance of Proper pH

Soil Health
6 min read

If you don’t have the proper soil pH, then you can be wasting between 20% and 70% of your lawn fertilizer nutrients.  “The New American Lawn” Program ADJUSTS YOUR SOIL pH to optimize the lawn’s growth and color!

The pH level of the soil is vital to growing lush, green lawns.  Many people have a basic understanding of a pH scale, knowing that it measures how acidic or alkaline something maybe.  If you own a pool, then you know that correcting and balancing the pH of the swimming water is important. On a scale of 1 to 14, a pH of 1 is very acidic and a pH of 14 is very alkaline (or basic), while a pH reading of 7 is neutral.  Lawns grow best in soil that is slightly acidic to neutral (between 6.2 and 7.0 on the pH scale).

Seemingly small changes in pH readings can mean big changes for turfgrass plants.  That is because the pH scale is logarithmic.  This means that a pH reading of 5 is ten times more acidic than a pH reading of 6, one hundred times more acidic than a pH reading of 7, and so on.

Jonathan Green’s MAG-I-CAL Plus comes in two, custom formulas – one for acidic soil and one for alkaline soil – to correctly balance soil pH.

Mag-I-Cal Plus for Acidic Soils contains fast-acting calcium carbonate in a highly soluble form that immediately adjusts soil pH upwards.  The carbonate in Mag-I-Cal Plus for Acidic Soils increases soil pH by removing hydrogen ions (H+ ions cause acidity) from exchange sites in the soil.  This process creates water and carbon dioxide.  The H2O goes into the soil and the CO2 releases into the atmosphere.  Without the H+ ions, the soil becomes neutralized.  Calcium, on the other hand, is used by grass plants for many key functions, some of which are:

  • Cell division and elongation
  • Cell wall development
  • Nitrate uptake and metabolism
  • Enzyme activity
  • Starch metabolism

(For very acidic soils, you may use Mag-I-Cal for Lawns in Acidic Soil.  It does NOT loosen soil, like Mag-I-Cal Plus.  However, it has about 25% more de-acidifying power than Mag-I-Cal Plus.)

Mag-I-Cal for Alkaline Soils contains fast-acting sulfur which quickly adjusts soil pH downward.  The Sulfur in Mag-I-Cal Plus for Alkaline Soils reacts with sulfur-fixing microbes, water, and oxygen.  This biochemical reaction creates hydrogen ions (H+). H+ ions add acidity to the soil and lower the pH, while sulfate is used by the grass to create necessary proteins and hormones. (For more information on all of these reactions, watch our New American Lawn Training Academy.)

As an added benefit, BOTH Mag-I-Cal Plus products contain a concentrated form of gypsum that loosens hard soil for better air and water flow.  They also contain natural humates to feed and activate the soil microbial life.

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 measure your soil’s pH levels. The kit contains a test tube, a capsule of powder to sprinkle on top of the soil, and a pH Range Chart. Simply follow the directions below and you’ll soon know the pH of your soil.

Go to four locations on your lawn.  We suggest a sunny area, a shady area, a bare spot, and a weedy area.  Using a garden trowel or spoon, dig one inch out of the soil 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 and combine 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. Pour the powder into the tube.  Add distilled water to the fourth line.  (Tap water may improperly skew the data because town water supplies usually have too much alkalinity or acidity in them.)  Replace the cap and shake the tube thoroughly. Allow it to settle for about 5 minutes.  Compare the color of the solution with the pH color chart on the front of the card.

How Much Mag-I-Cal Plus Should I Apply?

For Acidic Soils:

  • pH of 5.9 to 6.7, apply Mag-I-Cal Plus once per year.
  • pH below 5.9, apply Mag-I-Cal Plus twice per year (at least one month apart).

For Alkaline Soils:

  • pH of 7.0 to 7.5, apply Mag-I-Cal Plus once per year.
  • pH over 7.5, apply Mag-I-Cal Plus twice per year (at least one month apart).

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