Why You Need To Test Your Soil & When To Do It
When it comes to soil health, the dirty little details are everything. Whether you're trying to improve your less that perfect lawn or wanting to start a garden, knowing the condition of your soil health will help you determine what you need and why you need it.
Why Is Soil Testing Important?
Many people buy a home with a lawn and automatically start to water or fertilize upon moving in. Though the excitement is completely reasonable, many people don't consider the care, or lack thereof, that may have come before them.
Maybe the previous owners watered their lawn three times a day for two hours at a time. This could have caused thatch build up, which can eventually prevent oxygen from reaching the grass roots creating a habitat for fungal and insect pests.  It is also possible they paid a lawn care service that over fertilized which could have led to root burn or imbalanced pH.  These are all things you cannot identify just by gazing at your lawn's surface. Enter soil test...
By completing a soil test for your lawn, you are essentially breaking down the overall health of your soil to help you better prepare a plan to care for it.
What Information Does A Soil Test Provide?
When you test your soil, you are determining the following things...
- Cation Exchange Capacity (This is essentially your lawn's engine for transporting nutrients throughout the soil system)
- Soil pH (Indicates if it's acidic, alkaline, or neutral. Neutral is ideal, but with the right care plan, slightly alkaline and acidic soils can support lush lawns too!)
- Macro and Micronutrients (Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorus or NPK are the three most important nutrients for grass growth, but there are over a dozen other macro and micro nutrients that are essential to support a healthy lawn.)
- Organic Matter (Critical for promoting biological activity, drought resistance, root growth, and nitrogen release.)
- Estimated Nitrogen Release (How much potential nitrogen may be released from soil organic matter in one year) 
The information that these tests can provide will help you develop a blueprint for a lawn care program that works best for your particular lawn. Essentially, a soil test takes the guesswork out of fertilization and can be extremely cost effective. Not only does it help to eliminate the expense of unnecessary fertilizers, but it also eliminates overuse of fertilizers which in turn helps the environment.  
When Is The Best Time To Test?
Testing at anytime can be helpful, especially if you've never conducted a soil test on your lawn. However, for the most accurate and helpful results, soil samples should be taken in the spring or fall. When conducting a soil test in the spring, you are taking a look at what your base is, before you start applying fertilizers and hopefully before the wet season.
Fall is also a preferred time to take soil tests if you suspect a soil pH problem, that way you can properly equip your lawn for the dormant season so it's ready to go in the spring. Fall soil testing will allow you ample time to apply lime to raise the soil pH or sulfur in early spring if the soil pH needs to be lowered.  
How Can Gnome Help?
Testing your soil has never been easier. With every Gnome Soil Test Kit, you will receive a soil scooper, a resealable paper bag for your soil sample, easy-to-follow instructions, and a return shipping label. Once your test is received, we will analyze your soil sample and email you a high quality PDF report in a clean and easy-to-read format. This PDF will explain exactly what’s going on with your soil, how you can fix it, and the Gnome fertilizers that will work best for your lawn.
One of our goals at Gnome is to reduce excess runoff into water systems, which causes algae blooms and other ecological problems. By testing your soil and determining exactly what your lawn needs, not only will you eliminate unnecessary chemicals and fertilizers, but you can also reduce your water use by switching to Gnome liquid nutrient pouches.
The road to improving your soil health may take a little bit of work, but the result of a more educated and sustainable lawn care plan is so worth it.