How to repair my lawn??

elexirMarch 30, 2014

I live in Portland, OR. I have a lawn in backyard which doesnt get much sun (shade from home and trees). snow this winter has made it worse.

It looks like Grub infested with most of the lawn being pretty patchy. (see pic) - Can you provide expert opinion on how to get my lawn back in shape. My Plan/Questionsare follows - appreciate your input..

1. In april 1stweek , I am thinking to apply Bayer Advanced 24 hr Grub Killer Plus - Granular or Scotts Grub-Ex - Granular and wait 1 week to kill the existing grubs.
2. In second week..for the patches, apply topsoil+compost -> Buy some shade lawn seeds and overseed .,
3. Fertilize and water.

Will this plan work? Can you guys recommend specific fertilizers or methods that will help for my situation in April.. (I am not sure if the lawn has good drainage -how can I check?)

Attaching the pic

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I live in PDX too. I don't see any bug damage. You have a patchy Fine Fescue lawn is all. Contrary to what you may be able to do in other parts of the country, you can successfully seed here in both Spring and Fall with no problems, including the summer heat.

1. No need for grub killer, there are no signs in the picture of an infestation. If you really want to check, dig out a square foot of soil. If you have roughly 10 or more (unlikely here), then you may want to use it.

2. If the entire lawn looks like that, just do a complete overseed vs. a spot seed. You'll have even color throughout. Do get a load of compost, rake it over at 1/4" level prior to seeding. Skip the topsoil unless you want some free weeds. No need for it unless you have huge craters, even then, debatably, you don't.

3. Fertilize with a start fertilizer at planting time, but only if really needed. I'd suggest that if you are going to use compost as your base, then there is really no need for this either. I'm sure someone will disagree.

As for water... well, you live here, you know. Won't need that anytime soon! Even when I drop seed in spring, I don't usually water it for the first time until June - that includes the "keep it moist" part of the seeding. One benefit of the NW coastal marine weather.

Good luck! ;)

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 9:11PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Dude, I love it when I can agree with everything someone says.

I would have elaborated a little follows. The grubs you have, if any, would have stopped feeding sometime last summer. Now that they have stopped feeding, killing them would only be a waste of money and time. The lawn damaging grubs come from either Japanese beetles or June bugs. If you see either of those bugs swarming your porch lights in May or June, then you can prepare to be concerned about grubs later. But if you don't see them, likely you won't have grubs.

For several years I've been advocating not adding topsoil at any time, UNLESS you purposely need to change the drainage of your lawn. If you have a low spot, bring in the topsoil or sand But if you don't have a low spot, then adding topsoil will change your drainage in unexpected ways. Worst case is your house will flood. No, worst case is your neighbor's house will flood. Best case is no change and you got really lucky. What usually happens is you raise the soil level above the level of surrounding paved areas and the soil washes out onto the pavement. I have a picture somewhere of washout so deep that the grass grows all the way across the sidewalk. What I usually hear about is people who topdress with 1/4-inch every year...for 40 years. And yes, they have 10 inches of extra soil and a very happy gardener who supplies and applies the topsoil. I know you just want to add the topsoil this one time because of the seed, but you really don't need it.

If the northwest coastal weather lets you down, you should know that the normal thing to do with new seed is to keep it moist for several weeks. That means light watering at breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. If the weather does that for you, great! As the grass matures you can back way off on the frequency if at all possible. Ultimately mature grass should get 1 inch of water, once per week when temps are above 90 degrees. If you only get into the 80s, then you should be able to go 2 weeks and then water. But as was mentioned, you might not need to irrigate at all.

If you want a recommendation for an organic fertilizer, I like alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow). It is available in generic bags, 50 pounds each, at your local feed store. You may not realize you have a feed store nearby, or how many you have nearby, but they are there. Call first to see what they have. Here is a picture of the effects of alfalfa on a lawn.

You can easily see the improved density, color, and growth. The alfalfa was applied in mid May of 2011 and the photo was taken in mid June a month later. The application rate for alfalfa is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. You can apply any time of year without fear of hurting anything.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 4:09PM
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Thanks gsweater, dchall_san_antonio - You guys were spot on.. I checked the soil and doesnt appear to be Grub damage.. Because of harsh winter - the soil is too compacted (plus its clay!) - As absolute newbie with lawn I am still learning how to maintain my lawn..

For my lawn situation, my plan is to Uncompact the soil and overseed it.. But my question is: is this the right time to do that?

Internet suggests that areation is be best done in Fall - Can i apply Gypsum now?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 8:33PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Don't add any gypsum unless you have a current soil test which specifies a gypsum type product and how much to apply. Most people who believe they have clay have almost no real clay. They might have very hard soil, or they might have soil which mimics clay, but true clay is rare. If you don't have a brick factory nearby, then clay is even less likely.

There is a test called the jar test to determine what the components of your soil are. It's easy to do. You'll need a clear glass jar with straight sides. Usually mayonnaise jars work or olive jars.

1. Fill the jar half way full with soil and take a picture of a ruler next to the jar. That will tell you how much soil you started with.

2. Fill the jar with water and a drop or two of liquid soap (shampoo, dish soap, or liquid laundry soap). Shake the jar making sure all the soil is wet. Set the jar down.

3. After 2 minutes take another picture with the ruler. (sand and rubble measurement)

4. After 2 hours take another picture with the ruler. (silt)

5. After 2 days take another picture with the ruler. (clay)

The measurement at 2 minutes will tell you the proportion of sand in your soil. If you started with 6 inches of soil and have a measurement of 4 inches of material after 2 minutes, then you have 4 inches divided by 6 inches to get 67% sand.

The measurement at 2 hours will give you a silt proportion. If it measures 5 inches after 2 hours then you have 5 inches of silt minus 4 inches of sand all divided by 6 inches total to get 17% silt. The rest will be clay, organic material, or very fine material.

The measurement after 2 days will allow the fine material to settle but the clay will remain in suspension. The organic matter like dead roots. twigs and leaves will float. If you can see anything through the jar after 2 days, then you don't have any appreciable clay. If the water is too cloudy to see through, then you have clay.

There are chemical soil softeners you can use any time of year. They are all surfactants containing either raw organic surfactants like yucca juice or aloe vera or they contain processed surfactants like sodium laureth sulfate found in most shampoos. These materials are processed much like your great grandmother did with animal fat and wood ashes to make bars of soap. Only these modern surfactants use coconut oil and sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide, or other similar strong bases to make the liquid form.

If you want to soften your soil try this. It has worked for me and everyone who tries it. Spray your lawn with 3 ounces of baby shampoo per 1,000 square feet. Follow that up with 1 full inch of irrigation or rain water. You can measure your application of water using empty cat food or tuna cans. When the cans are full, you have applied an inch of water. Then in a week, follow up with another inch of water. A week after that follow up with another dose of shampoo and an inch of water. That should do it. After that you should notice that your soil becomes amazingly soft after you irrigate or it rains. Then after a few days the soil will dry out and firm up again. It will be just like a sponge - soft when wet and hard when dry. The one treatment (well, two) should last for years. If you want to apply more, or if you accidentally double, triple, or quadruple the application rate, that should not hurt anything. If you do this you should never even think about core aerating again.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 1:09PM
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Couldn't agree more with dchall.

A lot of folks here think they have clay. In fact, our soil base is largely "silty clay based loam" as it was once covered by the ocean and rivers (at least in the Willamette Valley), but it's likely not (pure) clay.

You will see some characteristics of clay, but it drains far better and drains excellent with with a little organic matter.

I also do the shampoo and it works great. It's amazing how little water I use since I started.

Keep building your soil up with organics and you'll see an amazing transformation in just a couple years. Seriously - night and day in both the output (what you enjoy seeing) and input (how much you have to put into it).

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 9:56PM
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