Soil testing is cost-effective way to seed and fertilize

BLACKSBURG—Before seeding and fertilizing your lawn this fall, it’s important to test your soil.

"If you haven’t tested your soil in the last three to four years, by all means it is the best money spent," said Michael Goatley Jr., turfgrass specialist for Virginia Cooperative Extension. "It’s cost-effective, preventative medicine."

In Virginia, late summer to mid-fall is the best time to establish cool-season turfgrass. Warm days and cool nights provide ideal conditions for seed germination and establishment of grasses such as tall fescue Kentucky bluegrass, fine-leaf fescues and perennial ryegrass. Sod establishment also is most favorable this time of year.

Soils in Virginia tend to be very acidic and often need lime to grow green, plush grass. The first step in correcting an existing lawn problem or establishing new grass is to test your soil, Goatley said, because the tests diagnose the soil’s fertility and pH status.

Local Cooperative Extension offices, private lawn companies and some lawn and garden centers offer home soil tests.

"No matter how you obtain a soil test, make sure you get it done," Goatley said. "You don’t want to apply more fertilizer than you need due to turf and water quality issues and you want to know why your lawn failed in the past. It’s a no-brainer."

When fertilizing your lawn, keep all fertilizer and chemicals off paved areas like streets and sidewalks. When fertilizer is properly applied to grass the chances of off-site movement is minimal to none. If any product lands on a hardscape, it very often ends up moving into stormwater drains and pollutes our water resources, Goatley said.

Download a soil sample information sheet from Cooperative Extension at

For more information on lawn and gardens and to find a local Extension office near you, visit A step-by-step audio publication about soil testing is available at

Contact Goatley at 540-231-2951 or Sara Owens, VFBF special projects coordinator, at 804-290-1133.

Support Virginia Agriculture

Join Now

Related Articles

Get Recognized

If your publication or radio or television station is delivering stellar coverage of agriculture on an ongoing basis, this is the award competition to enter. Learn More