A website from UGA Cooperative Extension

by Norlethia Harris, Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator

Have you ever looked at a plant in your yard and wondered why some branches and leaves seem to be dying? Have you noticed that your bermudagrass lawn isn’t growing as well as you want it to? Has your water started smelling or tasting unusual? These are all questions that the Extension office is here to help answer! We offer different services to determine the causes of these issues. 

Soil Testing 

All plants (like people) have nutrient requirements, and these needs must be met for successful growth. We may notice that plant growth has remained static for an extended period of time, or that a plant that was green and full is now brown and patchy. These plants are trying to tell us that they need something to continue to grow, and it’s up to us to figure out what they need.

Our most popular service that we offer is soil testing. These tests are personalized for what’s being grown (lawns, vegetables, ornamental plants, trees, etc.), look at their required nutrients, and compare that to what’s present in the soil. The tests look at the pH of the soil, as well as the macronutrients that are present. Macronutrients are required in larger amounts such as nitrogen(N), phosphorous (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), zinc (Zn) and manganese (Mn). If any of these nutrients are low or high, the test also gives fertilization and liming recommendations to bring them to the appropriate levels.  

The best time to get your soil tested is about 8-10 weeks before you start a new landscaping project. This gives you time to get your results back and apply the recommendations, so your soil is sufficiently prepared for the new plantings. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t test the soil for your established plants, lawn, and trees – especially if something isn’t growing well. Once you get your soil tested and you follow the recommendations given, you shouldn’t need to get it tested again for 1-2 more years. If you’re growing a vegetable garden, we do recommend more frequent testing. Vegetable plants need a lot of nutrients to produce, and therefore may need more supplementation from season to season.  

Plant Disease Testing 

When you ask us why your plant or lawn is struggling, the first two questions we may ask are 1) When was the last time your soil was tested? and 2) What is the current growing environment for the plant and has anything in that environment changed recently?

Sometimes the nutrients are at the appropriate levels and the plant is in its ideal environment, but it is still showing signs of struggling. Plants and grasses can get diseases from the environment and insects, and it’s important to identify the proper cause before determining a control strategy. We try to identify the disease in the office, but sometimes we send a plant sample to the lab for additional testing. The results that you get back are similar to the soil testing results- they identify the disease or problem and give recommendations to combat the problem. If you have questions on submitting a plant sample, please contact one of our offices.  

Water Testing 

We not only offer services centered around landscaping, but water as well. Municipal water is heavily regulated and must meet standards that have been put in place by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As a result, municipal water is tested regularly to make sure that it meets those standards. The most common cause of problems that residents may see are caused by issues that occur after the water has entered the home. This may be due to corrosion of the plumbing in the house, or even materials used in the plumbing lines. You may notice that your water is suddenly tasting weird, your fixtures have buildup, or there is discoloration in your sink, tub, or toilets. Testing your water lets you know if you need to install filtration systems or softeners in your water system.  

Private well water is neither monitored nor regulated by any governmental agency; therefore, homeowners are responsible for any testing to make sure that it is safe for consumption. It is recommended that you get your well water tested annually to make sure that it is being properly contained and contaminants aren’t being introduced from an outside source. Additional testing is recommended if there are any significant environmental changes around your wellhead such as flooding, significant construction nearby, the installation of a new treatment system, as well as many other reasons. For more information on water testing recommendations, please see UGA Extension Circular 858-2: Testing For Water Quality.  

For questions regarding any of our testing services or to drop off samples, please contact one of our offices

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