DIY soil testing: Is it everything your clients hope for?

Updated Aug 21, 2021
Master Lawn technician kneeling on grass
Master Lawn technicians know that a lawn's performance comes down to the health of its soil.
Master Lawn

These days, more than ever, clients understand that soil health plays an important role in the overall look and performance of their lawn. If their turf is struggling either with color or thickness, they know that they could be dealing with a soil problem. Because of this, DIY soil testing has been gaining traction. Homeowners can pick these test kits up at their local garden center or hardware store. But are they really as good as a professional lab analysis? 

If your clients are inquiring about DIY soil testing, you want to be able to answer their questions (particularly if you offer this service yourself). 

Joey Steele, lawn and plant health care manager at Master Lawn in Olive Branch, Mississippi says that he has been getting an increasing number of questions about these kits and focuses on providing clients with the facts. Master Lawn offers professional lawn soil testing any time that a client is struggling with a lawn problem that is difficult to diagnose. Since soil testing can provide the lawn's nutrient makeup and deficiencies, those results can be instrumental in getting the turf back on track, he says.

But Steele says this service must compete with homeowners who want to perform it with a store-bought kit. Setting them up with the facts is important.

Are DIY soil tests accurate?

If your clients are thinking about testing their soil, they'll likely wonder how accurate these store-bought kits can be. 

According to Steele, a store-bought kit is likely not going to be as accurate as a professional analysis performed by a scientific laboratory (like the one that they use when they send in client samples). 

"Some of the research that we've looked at shows that these different test kits often fall short when it comes to accuracy," Steele says. "As with anything, there are some kits that are better than others, and sometimes when you pay more for a better kit, you get more accurate results. But if your clients are paying that much to test the soil themselves, why wouldn't they just hire a pro?"

One of the biggest benefits of hiring a professional for lawn soil testing is that they'll know what to do with the results. After all, if homeowners don't take the appropriate action after receiving soil test results, they ultimately become meaningless. 

Steele says that this is an opportunity for lawn care professionals to position themselves as the expert. Not only are they able to perform the lawn soil test and get a professional analysis, but they know exactly what to do with the results. 

Competing against other companies

Of course, this is a service that numerous lawn and landscaping companies might offer. So, Steele says that as a pro, you might not only be competing against store-bought kits but also other professional services.

"We make sure that clients know that not all professional lawn soil testing is the same," he says. "Some pros take that information and really do transform the lawn. But others just do it to make it look like they're taking extra steps. If you're going to offer lawn soil testing, it's really important you're following through and making changes based on those results."

Steele equates it to bloodwork when explaining this to customers. Most people can understand that if they get bloodwork results that say their cholesterol is high, but they make no changes to their diet, the next test will have the same (or worse) results. He says that clients understand soil testing must lead to actionable change to make a difference.

"When we perform a soil test, we're looking closely at the results and making changes where we need to," he says. "This has helped us to get our clients really great results and to position us as experts in the field." 

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