, Newburyport, MA

January 23, 2013

Tim's Tips: Watch loam levels to help soil thrive

Tim's Tips
Tim Lamprey

---- — “It’s the soil.” During the many years I have been in this industry, that phrase is probably one of the most commonly used answers to problems that have occurred in people’s lawns and or gardens. Let me explain why.

During the spring, I will see many customers who have had a problem lawn for some time. The customer will seed the lawn and keep it watered and fertilized, and the grass will grow; but by summer, the grass is starting to fade out. By the following spring, the customer is starting all over again. When this occurs, I will ask a lot of questions to try to find out what is going wrong with the lawn. I will ask about insects. They have no insect problems. They have kept up with watering, fertilizing and applying lime to the lawn. So the next question I ask is, “How much loam do you have in your lawn?”

Most people have no idea how much loam there is under their grass. I ask them to take a shovel and dig out a 6-inch deep sample of soil and bring that sample into the store. When I take a look, there is usually two inches of loam and the rest of the soil is either sand or clay. In order to grow a lawn that will thrive, you need at least six inches of quality loam.

If you don’t have that much loam, your grass is not going to flourish. As much of a pain as it will be, you will need to dig up the grass and either remove the soil down six inches and then fill back in with six inches of loam, or to dig up the grass and apply six inches of loam on top of the existing soil. This is not an easy chore, but ultimately, it is the only solution to a problem lawn.

Another problem can occur when trying to grow plants in containers. The customer will have window boxes or other containers that contain plants that will not grow. When I ask them what type of soil they use to fill the containers, they often tell me it is soil that they have dug up from their yard. So often this soil consists of either sand or clay and it isn’t appropriate for containers. The type of soil that must be used in this instance is a good quality potting soil. This allows the plants to develop a strong root system, which in turn, allows the plants to grow and to thrive.

When spring finally rolls around, think about any problem areas you have in your yard. Take some time to check out the soil and determine if it is of a poor quality, or look to see if there is enough depth of quality soil. If the soil is the problem, make a spring resolution to fix it before you begin the growing season.

Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.


Tim Lamprey is the owner of Harbor Garden Center on Route 1 in Salisbury. His website is Do you have questions for Tim? Send them to, and he will answer them in upcoming columns.