My Lawn Soil pH is too High

by Troy
(Alberta Canada)

I have been trying everything I can to revive my lawn. It was neglected for years. I have been trying my best to revive it for the last 3 years. My problems are - I have numerous weeds (dandelions, thistle, clover, sometimes mushrooms and I think wild onion) that will not stay away. The grass is not fully even (patches). And now this year I have been tackling ants.

My yard is approx 800sf. South facing. Lots of sun and heat. Located in okotoks Alberta Canada. Clay bottom with maybe 4-6" of soil under grass. I have been googling about this. I found many posts that you can't do anything without knowing about a soil test. I finally found a kit at spruce it up garden center and did the test. Ph and phosphorus is too high. I also tested my water from my house to water the lawn with. It is also to high ph. Hard water I'm guessing. I have done a drain test too. I dug hole in soil down to the clay bottom. Filled with water. The hole was empty less than 2 hours. Too much drainage? Makes sense to my concern?

Here is a breakdown of what I have done in past 3 years - fertilize with Scott's brand from Costco 4 times a year. I have kept mowing at highest setting but open mower (not a bag mower or mulch mower) so large grass clippings stay on lawn until the fall. that's when I rent a power thatcher from home depo. After I thatch and power rake my lawn. My lawn now seems dead. Thin lawn. Almost no grass left and looks yellow near the bottom. I then apply grass seed and redo everything the next year. In spring my grass is great. Grows faster and greener than the neighbours. But have so much weeds. And still small random patches everywhere. You don't see them so much if grass is tall. I have used the weed b gone and round up selective. They turn brown and die but come back worse in 2 weeks.

My research to lower my lawn soil ph is to buy granulated Sulfur. I can't find anything around here. Any help? Any suggestions? I tried uploading some pictures but I am writing this from my I phone and it says pics are too large. Need to use a program to resize it. I don't know how to do that on my phone. Sorry.

Wow...and Whoa...

So Troy we are practically neighbours. I live just south
of you in High River.

And sadly I am not a big lawn fan and my own lawn suffers as a result but I can see some of the flaws you are dealing with.

It's Not Necessarily the pH

Yes you have a high pH but so does everyone else around you. And the water you will be using to irrigate also has a high pH so will set you back pretty quickly.

One of the things that really can help this situation is organic matter, ideally compost. It works to make the pH behave as if it is lower even though it isn't. So your 8 behaves as if it was a 7 with compost.

Your Current Methods

You are fertilizing a lot, using herbicides a lot, and have got yourself cornered into a vicious cycle.

It is unlikely that your soil has a decent what we call food web. As a result you have to do everything. Kind of like being on high doses of antibiotics for the weeds and an IV drip with the nutrients. Not easy. Not fun. And not too effective given your description.

And now you are thinking sulfur will solve the problem. I doubt it.

What You Might Try

For Weeds...
One of the weeds you have, clover, is a nitrogen fixing plant. It used to be that clover was added to grass mixes to help feed the lawn. So maybe look at keeping that one.

Your lawn is quite small. Do you think you could manage to cut the thistle and dandelion out by hand.

For the inevitable weed seeds an organic method that is useful for weed seeds is corn gluten. You would use it in late summer and perhaps again the early spring to eliminate weed seeds that might be germinating... but it would also do in grass seed so think about it.

For the Soil...
Aerate the lawn and get a topdressing on it to boost the organic matter.

Then consider getting some mycorrhizal fungi inoculant and spread that and water in after you aerate. Here is a link to a product that should be useful. They also carry an azo inoculant with nitrogen fixers which could be worth a try.

American people might follow this link.

About the Ants...

Ants have been desribed as the ultimate predator. They do battle with many garden pests. If they are a serious issue maybe use diatomaceous earth. Otherwise live and let live.

Let me know how things go. I could maybe visit and check it out someday.


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