Soil Testing and Grass Seed

Asked April 23, 2013, 10:16 AM EDT

I would like to know how to test my soil. I can't seem to grow nice grass. I live in Shiliington. Can it be done by mail? I work and don't have anytime during the weekday to do this. I would also like to know where to get good grass seed in the area. What types is best to grow basic grass. Thank You David Pray

Berks County Pennsylvania soil testing horticulture

1 Response

Testing your soil is a good first step although it will require a couple of weeks until you receive the results. There is a fee of about $9 for each soil test. Each sample is analyzed for water pH, Mehlich buffer lime requirement, and for phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, and calcium by the Mehlich 3 (ICP) test. The final report includes the chemical analysis of the soil along with lime and fertilizer recommendations for the crop specified. Once you submit the sample you can have the results mailed to you or access the results on line. Standard soil test kits may be purchased from county offices of the Penn State Cooperative Extension or from commercial firms or garden centers that stock kits for the convenience of their customers. Alternatively, you can print soil submission forms (pdf format) from this site and submit your soil sample(s), with payment, to the laboratory in your own sample container. The closest Penn State coop extension office to Shillington is located at
1238 County Welfare Road, Suite 110
Berks County Ag Center
Leesport, PA 19533-9709

Fall is the best time to over seed or reseed followed by Spring. If you want to over seed now don’t treat your lawn with crabgrass control since it will prevent the new grass from emerging. There are lots of high quality grass seed available but the type of seed you select will be a function of the amount of sun and shade your lawn receives. The following link proivders a comprehensive source of information on home lawn maintenance directed to the residents of PA. It may be information overload but worth your time if you want to improve and maintain your lawns appearance.

Generally speaking, a mixture of fine fescue, perennial rye, and bluegrass will be the most prevalent mixes in the big box garden centers and local nurseries. Selecting an inexpensive seed may be more costly in the long run. Some of the more expensive seeds may be treated to resist fungus and disease and be drought tolerant saving you money in the long run. To seed dead patches or thicken your lawn, use perennial ryegrass. Perennial ryegrass germinates and establishes quickly, and can accept light traffic within eight to 10 weeks. Perennial ryegrass is a dark green, fine-textured species that's compatible with Kentucky bluegrass. Chances are you already have some in your lawn. Unlike Kentucky bluegrass, which takes two weeks to germinate and a few months to establish, perennial ryegrass should mature before the hot, dry summer months, when new seedlings are susceptible to drought. Avoid annual ryegrass, also known as Italian ryegrass, which is one of the most commonly sold grass seeds. It's also found in some professional landscaping mixes. Annual ryegrass may establish a few days before other ryegrass but most people don't like its coarse texture. It thins out quickly so that after a few years, you're back to ground zero. Fine fescue for heavy shade If you have a large spreading tree under which the lawn has thinned you may need to reseed with specialty grasses. Heavy shade and grass don't go together well. But if the site receives more than three hours of direct sunlight daily, you probably can establish a fine fescue. Red, creeping red or Chewing's fescue do well provided you have well-drained soils. Till and rake the soil as if starting a new lawn. Depending on the size of your lawn you may be better served to rent a seeder/slitter machine from a local equipment rental company. This may cost up to $30-$40/hour but the machine will slit rows and then drop the seed into the slits ensuring contact with the soil. Then you will just need to make sure the lawn has adequate moisture through rainfall or manual watering. Raking the lawn hard and broadcasting the seed will have a much lower germination rate especially with a spring seeding.

The following chart is extracted from You may want to read this article for additional information on seed selection.

Site Conditions and Turf Uses
Seed mixtures for home lawns, parks, cemeteries, institutional grounds, and commercial properties OPEN, SUNNY LOCATIONS AND WELL-DRAINED SOILS. ---Southeastern Pennsylvania (south and east of south mountains).
Kentucky bluegrass
100% at 2-3 lb per 1,000 sq ft
Kentucky bluegrass 80-90% at 3-4 lb per 1,000 sq ft Perennial ryegrass 10-20% or Kentucky bluegrass 40-60% at 3-4 lb per 1,000 sq ft Fine fescues 30-40% Perennial ryegrass 10-20% or Turf-type tall fescue 100% at 6-8 lb per 1,000 sq ft Turf-type perennial ryegrass 100% at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft

---Other areas of Pennsylvania - all seed mixtures and rates listed above or
Fine fescues 100% at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft

MODERATE TO PARTIAL SHADE Fine fescues 40-50% at 4 lb per 1,000 sq ft Kentucky bluegrass 40-50% Perennial ryegrass 10-20% Fine fescues 100% at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft or Turf-type tall fescue 100% at 6-8 lb per 1,000 sq ft

HEAVY SHADE, WELL-DRAINED SOILS Fine fescues 100% at 4-5 lb per 1,000 sq ft

Rough bluegrass ( Poa trivialis ) 100% at 2-3 lb per 1,000 sq ft

Good luck with your efforts.