The soil in your lawn is a delicate balance of pH levels. To maintain healthy natural grass, it’s important that the soil isn’t too alkaline. In essence, soil alkalinity is when the pH of your soil measures greater than 7.
However, optimal plant growth for most lawns is between 6.5 and 7.5, although some species can tolerate lower or higher levels with little difficulty. This is, however, dependent on their tolerance to growing conditions.
This article will discuss the most common signs your lawn is too alkaline and also explain some remedies to help balance out the pH levels.
- How to Test Lawn pH
- Interpreting the Results of lawn Ph test
- 4 Common alkaline lawn symptoms
- 1. Yellowing of Lawn
- 2. Holes or Dead Patches
- 3. Poor Stem Development
- 4. Poor Soil Compaction
- What to Do if Your Lawn Is too Alkaline?
- 1. Adding Agricultural Sulfur
- 2. Subsoiling
- 4 Signs of Low pH In Lawn
- 1. Loss of Color (Yellowing)
- 2. Slow Growth (even with fertilizer)
- 3. Presence of Weeds in Your Lawn
- 4. The Soil’s Inability to Drain Quickly
- Signs Your Lawn Is Too Alkaline (FAQs)
- What happens if the soil is too alkaline?
- How do I know if my lawn is acidic or alkaline?
- Is acidic or alkaline soil better?
How to Test Lawn pH
The first step is to test your lawn soil pH levels. To do this, there are several home kits available for purchase at most garden centers and online big-box retailers.
The kit will instruct you on digging a small hole and making a solution from the sample. Then, place the paper in the solution for an allotted amount of time and match the color with a chart to determine the pH level of your soil.
If you have a digital pH tester, you can skip this part and go straight to testing your soil. If not, then make sure you follow all instructions as indicated on your home test kit.
Interpreting the Results of lawn Ph test
The pH level shown on your soil test indicates whether the lawn will produce grass’s healthy and balanced environment. If it’s too alkaline (12-14) then this type of balance has been lost, and the lawn will suffer over time.
For that reason, if you measure below 6 pH but in the middle range – 6-7 pH- then you have a good chance at success. Acidic soils measure below 6 pH; they do not offer a sustainable habitat for typical grass species and are usually not suitable for planting new grass or mending old ones.
4 Common alkaline lawn symptoms
1. Yellowing of Lawn
In an overly alkaline environment, important minerals are deficient such as manganese, copper, zinc, boron, and iron. They are a part of the chlorophyll molecule, which is responsible for photosynthesis and leaf color.
While you may not notice a difference in the quality of your grass, it is likely yellowing because these nutrients are missing.
2. Holes or Dead Patches
When the pH is too high, there can also be a deficiency of other vital nutrients such as nitrogen and iron.
When these are missing, it can lead to detrimentally low levels of grass growth or possibly even dead patches in your lawn.
3. Poor Stem Development
Another sign your lawn is too alkaline is poor stem development. The presence of a healthy, green vascular system running through the length of the plant will indicate that it’s in good condition and absorbing nutrients properly.
Stems with brown tips, dry patches along their surface, and those becoming hollow or brittle can be signs of too much alkalinity.
4. Poor Soil Compaction
Soil with high levels of alkalinity exhibits low infiltration capacity and a generally poor structure. The soil becomes hard and compacted, making it difficult for nutrients to enter into the grass.
This causes further stress and injury on the plant, which can lead to other symptoms in addition to the ones listed above.
What to Do if Your Lawn Is too Alkaline?
While there are no magical cures for this type of condition, there are things you can do to help make your lawn healthy again. Understanding how to lower the lawn pH level is the first step in helping your grass become more resilient and look its best.
1. Adding Agricultural Sulfur
Adding sulfur is one of the best ways to help reduce alkalinity in your soil. It’s a cheap, non-toxic source of sulfur that can be found at most garden or home improvement stores and is relatively easy to apply.
Sulfur will help neutralize the soil and lower the pH levels without hurting or interfering with any other nutrients in your soil. It’s essential to add this substance when you notice symptoms such as yellowing, browning, and dead patches on your lawn.
However, it will take some time to see the full effects of sulfur in reducing alkalinity. In most cases, you should apply it every four months during the growing season to reach your desired results.
Subsoiling is another way to add vital nutrients to your soil and help improve its structure. It’s also a great way to break up hard, compacted soil and create room for air and water to enter the root zone.
Once this is done, the roots can absorb these critically important elements to stay healthy and keep your lawn growing. Alkaline soil can become compacted very easily, so it’s essential to check the health of your soil often and avoid walking on it when the ground is wet.
4 Signs of Low pH In Lawn
So how do you know if your soil is acidic? The signs may be a little different from the ones listed above. Let’s take a quick look at what low pH signs might look like in your lawn.
1. Loss of Color (Yellowing)
High levels of acidity cause your blades to lose their rich green color. This is caused by chemical burns from excess nitrogen and sulfur in the soil. Although nitrogen is critical in maintaining a lush green lawn, too much of it lowers the soil pH levels to the point that it can actually burn your grass.
While this is only a temporary condition, it can cause permanent damage to your lawn if you don’t take steps to correct the problem.
2. Slow Growth (even with fertilizer)
Lawns suffering from low pH levels also suffer from stunted growth, much like those experiencing an alkalinity deficiency.
However, grass with a low pH tends to have slightly less vigor and diminished ability to thrive even when you apply fertilizer.
3. Presence of Weeds in Your Lawn
Weed growth can stem directly from a low pH problem. Because your turf isn’t strong enough to compete with the growing weeds, they tend to grow relatively faster.
However, this is only the most superficial sign of low acidity and should not be your primary reason for believing you have a serious problem.
4. The Soil’s Inability to Drain Quickly
The soil pH will also affect the soil’s physical properties, including its ability to drain quickly. If your lawn becomes waterlogged easily or turns into mud after rainy periods, you can be relatively sure that your soil is too alkaline.
Also, it may contain high levels of copper and zinc, which may harm your lawn’s overall health and appearance.
Signs Your Lawn Is Too Alkaline (FAQs)
What happens if the soil is too alkaline?
If the soil is too alkaline, the soil pH will be above 12.0, and this can cause several problems in your lawn. Over time, it may affect the grass’s ability to absorb vital nutrients and slowly damage the blades, leaving them brown or yellow. In more severe cases, alkalinity can cause roots to die.
How do I know if my lawn is acidic or alkaline?
You can test your soil to find out for sure, but there are also other telltale signs. For example, lawns with an alkaline pH tend to struggle with weeds, while acidic ones tend to suffer from drought. However, these issues aren’t always enough to make a conclusive determination.
Is acidic or alkaline soil better?
Neither is good. In fact, it’s best to avoid extremes like this as much as possible and settle on the happy medium (6.5-7.5). You should test your soil regularly to ensure that its pH levels stay somewhere in the middle.
In the end, there are various signs that your lawn is too alkaline. However, none of them are definitive and, without testing, it may be challenging to determine. But if you notice any signs of low acidity or high alkalinity (slow growth, yellowing blades, presence of weeds), it’s always best to take the necessary steps to correct it.
Seek professional advice if you’re unsure about anything, and remember that adding sulfur (for alkaline soil) or using lime (for acidic soil) is an easy and affordable way to help with the problem.