The Dirt on Dirt: It’s Not All Created Equal

  • good Dirt supports roots and provides nutrients to plants

The Dirt on Dirt: It’s Not All Created Equal

Dirt is arguably the most crucial factor when it comes to growing plants and grass. While fertilizers, water, and sunlight are important, dirt serves as the foundation for all growth. Not all dirt can sustain life; if you choose the wrong dirt or don’t know what’s in your own yard, you’ll be wasting your time and money trying to grow something where it simply cannot grow. By knowing what kind of soil you have, you can ensure that your spring planting turns into a full year of vibrant, healthy plants.  Sunrise Landscape and Design understands dirt and has over 30 years of experience in creating thriving Northern Virginia landscapes – contact us to get the info on your dirt!

What is Dirt?

Dirt is soil. It consists of organic material that has decomposed, organic material that is still decomposing, broken down rocks, metals, minerals, and even fossils. The composition of dirt varies from area to area, and particle sizes vary based on the primary component in the soil.


Why is Dirt so important to your lawn and garden?

The basic function of dirt is to anchor plants by holding roots and storing nutrients and water that are essential for plant growth. The ability of these plants to thrive in a landscape depends on certain characteristics of the soil. A soil test can provide the necessary information for proper fertilization.  When the proper amount of fertilization is applied at the appropriate time, nutrient runoff is minimized, money saved and plant health is optimized.


What is a soil test?

A soil test is an analysis of the nutrient content, composition, and other characteristics of soil, such as the acidity or pH level. Tests are performed to determine the most beneficial application rates of fertilizer and lime for maximum plant growth.  See picture below for an example of a soil test results report.

soil test sample results for landscaping

Virginia Tech Soil Testing Laboratory, affiliated with both Virginia Cooperative Extension and the department of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences will analyze soil samples submitted by the public.  They will analyze soil for pH, P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Mn, Cu, Fe, and B, and provide fertilizer and lime recommendations.  For more information see

When sampling soil, there are many considerations to take into account:

  • How to sample – use stainless steel or chrome-plated shovels, spades or trowels.
  • When to sample – sample a few months prior to starting new landscaping (including lawn seeding and garden plantings).  Fall sampling allows time for corrective action prior to new spring growth.
  • Where to sample – identify the unique areas of your landscape, for example the lawn and flower gardens and take a sample from each.
  • Where not to sample – avoid sampling from low, poor drainage areas.


What’s in Your Dirt?

Checking and understanding your soil composition with a soil test, can make a big difference in helping your landscape flourish. It can be very frustrating to regularly apply fertilizer to lawn and plants, only to see no improvement in their condition.  Contact the professionals at Sunrise Landscape and Design – we know the dirt on dirt!  We will submit soil samples for analysis, interpret results and create the environment for your landscape to thrive!


Sunrise Landscape and Design is Northern Virginia’s premier landscaping company offering a full range of landscaping services. Our landscape and design services include hardscapes, water features, irrigation and landscape lighting. Our property maintenance services will keep your landscape vibrant and healthy year round with mulching, edging, garden cleanups, lawn mowing, tree pruning and mosquito/deer control. Contact us today for all your landscape and lawn care needs!