Testing for the Landscape Industry
The benefits of testing
Even an experienced soil scientist cannot determine the chemical makeup or fertility status of a soil just by looking at it or digging in it. This is why testing is essential to understand the soil conditions before time and money is spent to put in a landscape.
One of the most significant benefits of having a landscape soil and water analyzed is that it will add professionalism and science to your work. Testing allows you to avoid future problems by identifying potential limiting factors in the irrigation water and soil before you plant. It may also help develop information to create a more suitable plant palate for the particular site. A soil and water report can be valuable tool to document the history of the owner’s landscape. It shows that you regard the client’s situation as unique.
While important information about an areas soil can be obtained from a USDA soil survey, each piece of land can be unique. The soil where you will design and or install a landscape can vary significantly from the typical pedon described in the survey. Topography, aspect, the influence from vegetation, past earth disturbances (grading or erosion) and past management practices can cause soils to vary significantly, even within a neighborhood. Soil testing allows the professional to make informed decisions when formulating amendment rates. A generic cookie-cutter fertilizer schedule for each project (site) does not consider the inherent natural and man-made variation in site soil. For example, adding a simple fertilizer like 16-16-16 does not address the soil’s pH or micronutrient status.
Our Horticultural Appraisal Package gives a full physical and chemical analysis of the soil where your landscape will be grown. For new landscapes, the report gives pre-plant recommendations of common fertilizer amendments in lbs, ounces, or cubic yards per 1000 square feet. Reports are straight-forward and easy-to-understand.
For maintenance and monitoring or established landscapes, fertility analyses will provide information on the success of the existing fertilizer program and identify areas that need improvement.
Laboratory testing is an invaluable tool for diagnosing problems in the landscape. Problems may be caused by low or high fertility, unavailable nutrients, poor quality irrigation water, plant disease, nematodes, cultural or environmental problems. Plant tissue and soil analyses can reveal nutrient deficiencies that can be corrected.
Imported “top soil” evaluation
Some imported so-called topsoil may actually be subsoil or engineered soils containing high levels of salts from recycled waste products. Subsoil is characterized by micronutrient deficiencies. Some organic materials such as mushroom compost are often high in soluble salt and can pose a threat to salt-sensitive plants. It is also not very stable and will decompose much faster than other organic soil amendments, and not provide the physical soil improvements for as long as possible.
Laboratory testing also reduces the liability associated with making uninformed decisions about fertilizer and organic amendment applications.
For Landscape Architects
Concise easy-to-read amendment recommendations can be provided in both hardcopy and electronic formats, making it easy to transfer information directly onto drawings and specs.