British Columbia: where do I go to have the soil in my yard tested?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by tfrederick, Apr 19, 2010.

  1. tfrederick

    tfrederick Member

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    Hi. Where do I go to have the soil in my yard tested? Not sure why my yard is so mossy, but I suspect it's a drainage issue.... I live in East Vancouver near the PNE. Any help would be most appreciated.
     
  2. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Contributor Forums Moderator 10 Years

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  3. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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  4. growing4it

    growing4it Active Member 10 Years

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    Is your yard shady? Have you tried to improve the drainage? Rake up the moss and re-establish grass? I know that grass yard is appealing but moss is lovely too.
     
  5. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    I have to share the sentiment to try a mossy swath instead of a grassy one, especially if one has to fight so hard to keep the grass -- surely it would be worth it to try for a moss carpet. Probably only practical where there is a good overhead canopy of trees, or it would brown off in mid-summer, unless well-irrigated... However, I have had no success in getting any enthusiasm up for that in our strata, but if I had a house with a suitable yard to try it I would, perhaps in one area first.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Moss has been replacing much of our back lawn for some years. Much better than grass, as it does not have to be mowed - and remains green through the summer. At this point it is the grass that is beginning to look like the nuisance weed.
     
  7. Freyja

    Freyja Active Member

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    A quick note on the costs of the lab tests: in the US, many of the University extensions (is that what they are called? sorry if that's the wrong name) will do a test for around $15 I think. When I took my test to Exova in Surrey, it cost me ~$65 before tax for the same service (I had the full test done). They are not cheap here in Canada. I think Pacific Soil Analysis quoted me $50 for the basic lawn/garden analysis.
     
  8. tfrederick

    tfrederick Member

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    Thanks for all the responses! This is a great resource, and I'm seriously considering the moss route, as I don't think my drainage is great. Still, I just bought my first lawnmower, so going to see if I even like mowing the lawn!

    By the way, if I do decide to go with grass, after mowing, should I apply lime, wait 2 weeks, apply seed, then wait 2 weeks, and then apply fertilizer? Just finding a bit of conflicting information.

    Also, anyone know where I can buy a baby rhubarb plant?

    Thanks!

    One more thing; I saw a soil analysis "kit" at the garden store today. Do these things work, or am I just wasting my money?

    TL
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2010
  9. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Someone else can reply to the lawn establishment question, since there is a lot of technology out there on lawn development and some of the information is too brief, or not up to date, etc., etc..;. just going to enough web pages where one can cull the most intelligent-sounding information that is current, is probably the best course, along with finding brochures on the subject at good garden centres or a good book on the subject which is recent.

    After a lifetime of looking after my properties and now fortunately living in a strata with the lawn work in the hands of a good landscaper, I cannot help advising: If it is your own property, if you are up to lots of physical work, and you are starting off with plans to make it as nice as it can be, get one of those real if pricey soil analyses done at a lab, perhaps definitely from the most mossy and difficult area you speak of, and then from another area which looks more likely for good grass... perhaps if you have several samples they will give you a reduction in cost per sample... ask them first -- and ask if they can diagnose your soil type -- i.e. clay, or not. Then you'll know if you have a lot of clay and need more serious work on your potential lawn. You will know for sure what you have to work with. No doubt it is at least slightly acid and will show as such on a home pH test kit. I have tried them and I find they are a bit vague, showing as just slightly acid when I wondered about some areas which could be more acid. Then you will have spent some money and not be much further ahead, without knowing your soil type. Believe me, one can spend years fooling around and not getting anywhere, when one could also get a good yard base established, with a little more money and some hard work. Whatever you decide to do, fighting moss here on the West Coast is a constant effort every spring, I think -- it will never let up, it's a yearly job, and even then you can find moss in your grass [as well as on the roof!]. Our residents wouldn't tolerate trying for mossy areas and making a moss garden, but it could be a really interesting original project but also work in itself.

    If you decide to go for grass, you probably will have to do some loosening up of the soil and soil improvement, even just adding a layer of topsoil into which you will seed. There is grass seed suitable for shade. As you say, there is a lot of information out there, some of it confusing as different regions probably need slightly different treatments. Our landscaper added 2-3 inches of composty good absorbent soil to the top of a troublesome mossy wet area and let it mesh in with the old soil, and reseeded, and now it is much better. But it still needs his moss treatments...
     
  10. tfrederick

    tfrederick Member

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    Thanks for your thoughtful response, Janet.

    Yes, it is my yard -- just bought the house, actually, and would love to have a lush green lawn. I don't know why it's so mossy, as it gets enough sun. As I said, i suspect a drainage problem. My father suggested the same: add a layer of topsoil. My brother recommended sand! Is that crazy?

    I'm not interested in wasting time or money on this lawn -- will pay for a NICE yard, but if it's a matter or trial and error, I suspect I will get frustrated and poor!

    Right now, as we just moved in, there are a LOT of dandelions all over the back lawn. Plus my neighbor has some vine-type weed that keeps crossing under under the fence from their side and into a garden bed I have on my side of the fence. I spent the weekend pulling out MASSIVE roots for these things, and I suspect it was work done in vain, as I bet those vines are creeping upwards as I type this!

    In doing a search online, I came across "WEED MAN". Does anyone have any experience with this company? Is it worth having them come in to do an initial "treatment"?

    Thanks!
     
  11. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    Me again. Depending on how big your yard is, and considering the issues involved -- why not just get a good landscaper to have your lawn area dug up, rake/hoe out the weeds in your portion [the roots are loosened with the hoe and then they pull or lift out easily] and put a layer of topsoil down. My strata landscaper says don't add just sand, in case you have a clay soil and then it turns to concrete! Sand mixed with topsoil would be ok. Then reseed, keeping the new seedbed moist at all times until it's well-grown. Lots of land is a bit mushy right now owing to the wet spring -- unless there's standing water on it for any length of time, you probably don't have a serious drainage problem. Or pay him a fee for his advice and contract out the work yourself [?cheaper?] . Or do it yourself [tiring and irritating job unless you love yard work.] Most municipalities now have weed control bylaws restricting many chemicals, a situation which is going to to be interesting to see evolve. Weed-Man no doubt uses benign substances approved by the municipality or less-benign substances ok for licensed experts -- I think it will be a short-term solution and you should go for the hoeing-out, and save the Weed-Man to call in after the new lawn is established, for top-up care. My childhood memories include making dandelion-chains as well as daisy-chains, and brilliantly yellow-dotted lawns in May/June which were still nice green lawns. Dandelions sort of recede by late June, if you are mowing and fertilizing the lawn properly, and except for a few you can easily trowel out, you won't notice them again until the following year. Again, as a longtime lawn-lover myself, lawns are always a lot of work, although when established not as much work as gardens -- this is nothing worse than anyone else's was at some point, and will always be a job to keep nice. Neighbour's weeds? That is always a problem, irritating to every new householder and gardener -- no solution -- just keep yours as well as you can and have an alternate hobby to keep you cheerful while you see their weeds encroaching!
     
  12. Freyja

    Freyja Active Member

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    I know that some lawn/weed companies will not do just a weed control service, but rather want to do the entire lawn (fertilizing, liming, etc), so that is a question to ask them. Not sure about Weed Man.

    I, like Janet, would also suggest a good soil test from a lab -- I live in Surrey, and just assumed I had acidic soil like the rest of the Lower Mainland. Each year, the lawn service company would come and put lime on without testing. Well, I got a soil test done this year and it turns out that my pH is 7.0 and if I had continued to lime, it would have gotten worse (more alkaline). I have lots of moss too, so the moss is not here because of acidic soil, but rather due to shade, moist conditions, and low fertility.
     
  13. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

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    This book also, from Timber Press, Essential Garden Maintenance Workbook, by Rosemary Alexander, http://www.timberpress.com/books/ess.../9780881927832
    has a section you can read at the Timber Press website, when you look at the details of this book. Browsing through it leads to a section on lawn care, and this author says that renovating an old lawn is easier than re-establishing a new one, if you have the patience to follow the instructions [careful mowing and fertilizing, and more mowing down the weeds at first than outright removal of them]. I suppose the removal could come later when the grass is healthier. At any rate, worth considering what this author has to say -- the book may be in libraries and one can always use the Interlibrary Loan feature at a library whereby the librarian will order the book for you from another library, usually for a longer borrowing period.
     
  14. Konachick

    Konachick Active Member

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    Oops... I just posted this question in another thread which I think may have been the wrong place, but I'm just wondering if there may be somewhere on UBC campus that could do a soil test for me? Any leads would be great! Thanks!
     

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