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Begin fertilizing lawns in March

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2008

Just as people's bodies need nutrients to help us grow, so do plants, vegetables and grass. The first step to growing beautiful lawns and plants is to make sure the soil is up to par.

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When the soil pH -- the measure of acidity -- is too high or too low, a number of nutrients necessary for proper growth becomes less available. Putting out lime, a naturally occurring mineral that works to increase the acidity level of the soil, can make a tremendous difference in plants or grass being grown in the soil.

"It's better to take a soil test first," said Ray Tuten, the owner of Southern Landscaping in Evans.

A soil test, which runs about $8, will determine if lime needs to be applied.

According to Tuten, soil test kits can be purchased at his business and a sample sent off to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Office for analysis. In eight to 14 days, the results of the test will show if an application of lime is needed.

"If the soil it too acidic, the lime will help to neutralize that," said Tuten, adding that it's important that a soil test be marked with what the soil will be used to grow -- vegetables, plants or grass.

"Most grasses need a pH level of 5.5 to 6.5, but Centipede should be around 4.5," he said.

Tuten recommends testing your soil each few years to determine if a lime application is needed. Environmental pollutants and other factors can cause a soil's acid level to be either too high or too low. A high pH level can be just as bad as a low pH level.

"Really, the best time to lime is in the fall, but most people in our area do it in January and February," said Tuten. "I'd recommend doing a soil test in the fall and then get lime in the ground sooner to do a good job for you earlier."

However, if this is the time of year you usually apply lime, go ahead and do so. Also, early March is the time to begin fertilizing lawns. Tuten recommends fertilizing several times a year.

"If you don't take soil samples, a good all-around spring fertilizer is a 16-4-8 and a good fall fertilizer is 5-10-15," he said. "You want a slow-release fertilizer in case you get heavy rains that will wash it away."



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