I need lawn help, broken down Barney-style

cbiscuitFebruary 20, 2014

When I moved into my house a few years back, the lawn was just fine. I may or may not have neglected it by not knowing what to do. I did the mowing and that stuff, but that's it. Then I hired a company to bring it back.

Well, now it's back and I want to take over the task myself. BUT, I need someone to break it down for me Barney-style.

The service I hired said I have zoysia.

A few initial questions:

Do I need to scalp it? When?
Is there a series of products to use in some sort of sequence throughout the year?
What do I need to do now to set it up for success?

Thanks in advance! I let it go and need to get it going again (not the lawn, just my care for it). Oh, and my wife is making a bet with me that I can't do it, so that's extra motivation.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Don't let your wife talk you out of doing this right. It is easy to do it wrong and easy to do it right. When I tell you how to do it right, you're going to laugh and so will your wife. This approach is fool proof if you follow it. You cannot burn or do any harm, and success is guaranteed or I will refund the cost of my advice!

1. Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means 1 inch all at one time. Check your sprinkler or watering system using cat food or tuna cans around the yard. Turn on the sprinkler and time how long it takes to water a full inch. That is your target time for watering. Infrequently means monthly this time of year gradually moving to once per week in the hottest heat of July. If you lived in Las Vegas on sand with 5% humidity and 105 degree days, then you could go to watering every 5 days, but NEVER water every day for 10-20 minutes.

2. Scalp it about one month prior to your last frost date. Find out when that is from your local county agriculture agent. Then reset your mower to 2 1/2 inches and mow when it gets tall enough. Mulch mow every week at that same height. If you have problems with scalping at that height, then your soil surface is not level and you have other issues to deal with.

3. Fertilize with rabbit food (STOP LAUGHING!). Seriously. STOPIT. Rabbit food is made of alfalfa pellets. Alfalfa is one of the common ingredients in organic fertilizers. By buying alfalfa pellets in a plain brown bag, you save about 5/6 the cost of commercially bagged organic fertilizer. This approach will end up costing about the same as the best chemical fertilizers. Another bonus with organic is you never have to worry about using too much. You can't burn the grass with grain type organics. The application rate is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet of lawn. I fling it by hand on my small yard but it will flow through a broadcast type spreader. Here is a picture of what you can expect to see in a zoysia lawn with alfalfa pellets.

The picture was taken by mrmumbles and posted here a few summers ago. He applied the rabbit food in mid May and took the picture in mid June. Did that stop you from laughing?

Here is another picture of an organic lawn, Kentucky bluegrass.

This guy uses soybean meal and Milorganite to fertilize. His picture was taken in July 2010. He follows the watering, mowing, and fertilizing plan above except he's a nut about soil testing and perfecting his soil chemistry.

When you apply the pellets, moisten them - do not drench or try to wash them in, just moisten them. Then the next day your yard will be covered with green worms as the pellets swell up. To get the actual alfalfa into the soil, drag something over the lawn. I use my hose and sweep it over the entire lawn at one time, but a push broom works fine. The reason for this is the birds will fly in to remove your fertilizer if you don't take this step. Of course birds leave behind their own fertilizer, but you want more control than that.

You can apply organic fertilizers any time of day or night all year long until you run out of money. Frequent applications, or over applications, will not hurt the grass. Organic fertilizers work completely different from chemical fertilizers.

If you follow this approach your lawn will be too dense and the soil surface too dry to support weeds. That will eliminate the need for herbicides. If you do get a few weeds, spot spray with something like Weed-B-Gone Clover Chickweed, and Oxalis spray. Spot spraying is much better than broadcast herbicides. Then all you have to do is watch for insect damage.

You can have the best lawn on the block, town, or country using the plan above.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2014 at 5:14PM
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Wow. Thanks!! I'm not laughing either. You could have told me to use Pepsi on the lawn and I wouldn't have known any better...

But, some follow-ups:

1) So, when do I start doing this?

2) How often do I do this?

3) Does the 1" of water include rain fall? I don't want to do 1" only to have 90" of rain that day, you know?

4) Any rabbit food, or mainly alfalfa pellets? I found a 50# bag on Amazon for $26!! Way cheaper than fertilizer.

5) I have one of those Scott's spreaders. What setting would I use for the answer to #3?

6) So I put down the pellets, moisten them with a quick hosing of the lawn, wait until the next day, and then "sweep" them into the lawn with a push broom or run the hose across the grass?

I think that's all for now. Thanks!!

This post was edited by cbiscuit on Mon, Feb 24, 14 at 21:38

    Bookmark   February 23, 2014 at 2:47PM
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    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 9:25PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

You can start any time. Though right now we are forecast for about foot of snow this weekend, so I won't be doing anything in the yard for awhile yet.

Yes, the 1" of water can include felled rain... if you get a half inch rainfall, you can just supplement that water with half inch from the sprinkler that week....

Where I live we generally get enough rain in April and May that we don't have to supplement at all those months. Lawn care can vary greatly depending upon where you live...

I have bought alfalfa pellets from the grain store, where farmers buy seeds and grains. But more often I buy alfalfa meal, because I think its spreads better than the pellets in broadcast spreader. I open the spreader to the largest opening - I have to shake mine - it does clog sometimes and doesn't spread as easily as the products that are specifically made to go through a broadcast spreader.

And if you use the meal, you don't have to do anything but water it to work it into the soil.

I alternate my feedings between alfalfa meal, corn meal and cottonseed meal.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2014 at 12:12PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

You can use these grain types of organic fertilizers any day of the year, rain or shine. If you really want a schedule, do it on the federal holidays. I live pretty far south and start on Washington's Birthday. Then again on Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. These dates were picked by watching when the grass began to turn yellow. But back then I was using only 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet and using corn meal. Alfalfa is a much better fertilizer and 10 pounds was a starvation diet. Those dates should be good at 20 pounds per 1,000 with no yellowing.

Now is a good time to get going on deep infrequent watering. You should be very infrequent anyway this time of year, so you may as well get going on deep. One inch, all at one time.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2014 at 9:07PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Alfalfa has some particular enzymes in it that plants like.... so one will probably see the best green up from it.

I switch 'em up for diversity - changing the food makes the microbes diversify.

I usually feed a blood meal first in early spring, then follow up with an alfalfa meal spread a few weeks later.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 10:55AM
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Thanks everyone. I'm going to get going this week, assuming it stays above freezing...

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 8:32PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Take some before pictures so you remember what you started with. And about May, take some after pictures so we can see how you did.

    Bookmark   March 6, 2014 at 8:42PM
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Great idea! I will surely do that. Thanks for the advice!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:18PM
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