Can you help me bring my lawn back?

EAM44April 27, 2013

I'm new to this forum and I need product recommendations for fertilizer and methods that might restore my lawn. I don't know how to find a fertilizer that is 20-3-12. If I use the organic lawn food from Espoma 18-0-3, is that close enough? Has anyone tried their 9-0-0 weed preventer? Can I use that along with the fertilizer or does that give me 27-0-3? How do I get that "3" up to a "12"?

Or am I fretting about numbers that don't much matter? I recently moved back to the house I grew up in, and the lawn is the worse for five years of neglect. I would like to see it green and plush with clover as the only weed.

Answers to the checklist questions are below as well as soil test results. Thanks so much for your help.

1. Location: Cleveland, OH
2. Type: KBG I believe
3. Products Applied: Nothing. I pull dandelions by hand. Lawn was cared for with organic products for years, then, nothing.
4. Irrigation Frequency: Hasn't been irrigated in 5 years.
5. Lawn established? Lawn was established 30 years ago and was well cared for for 25. No re-seeding or new sod.
6. Mowing Height/Frequency: Mowed to 4" every other week. Haven't mowed yet this year.
7. Soil Test: Recommended 20-3-12 fertilizer @ 5 lbs/1000 sf April, June, and August and application of superphosphate 0-20-0 @ 5 lbs/1000 sf in August.

Soil pH 6.8 Buffer pH 7
Organic Matter 10.9% HIGH (desirable 4 - 10%)

B 0.6 ppm normal... Mn 9.1 ppm normal... Zn 1.6 ppm normal... Cu 0.3 ppm normal... Fe 4.3 ppm normal... S 59.9 ppm HIGH (1 - 40 is normal)

P 6 ppm (LOW)... K 81 ppm (Medium)... Ca 4171 ppm (VERY HIGH)... Mg 386 ppm (VERY HIGH)

Micronutrient Levels All Normal
Percent Base Saturation K= 0.9 Mg=13.1 Ca=86.1
Cation Exchange Cap 24.3 Meq/100g

Extractable Aluminum 10 ppm (10 - 250 ppm range)
Soluble Salts: 0.04 dS/M (0.08 - 0.50 dS/M range)
The lead level in this soil is low

8. Entire lawn or a specific area(s)?
The whole lawn, with one particular area that used to be shaded by an ash tree (that died) very sparse.

  1. Weed Types: I have dandelions, moss, and some that look like round leafed dandelions.
  2. Problem Duration: Areas of moss have been spreading over the last year. This has been a five year decline.
  3. Synthetic or Organic Solution: Organic if possible.
  4. Past Remedies: New endeavor.
  5. Any solutions not feasible? Nope.

This post was edited by EAM44 on Sun, Apr 28, 13 at 8:06

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Not an expert but I'll take a stab at it.

When looking at fertilizer look for the ratios -- not the numbers.

20-3-12 would break down to a (6 or 7)-1-4. So something in that ball park should work.

Your neighbor across the street seems to have a good looking yard have you asked them what they do?

If they have a company it doesn't hurt to have that same company come by and give you a quote. If anything they can get you started on the right track. Or you can ask them for a detail explanation of what their plan of attack is and then go your own way from there.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 9:43PM
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Use a "starter" fertilizer. It will give you the P and K you are short on. Just use the recommended bag rate now and again the beginning of June. Skip fertilizer in July and August or put down Milorganite. Use starter again when you Overseed in September. Late October/early November drop a winterizer. The moss is likely due to the moisture that the hing OM is holding. Once you get grass growing the moss should dissipate. Spot spray weeds with Weed B Gone Max and CCO but stop 4 weeks before you overseed. (you can use glyphosate -Round-Up on the moss but anything you get RU on will be killed so use care--I'd do that only where I was going to re-seed in the Fall) Good luck.

This post was edited by grass1950 on Mon, Apr 29, 13 at 22:44

    Bookmark   April 29, 2013 at 10:40PM
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Oh, thank you both for your suggestions.

Chaotic, ratios - who knew? Got it. I will definitely ask my neighbor what service she uses just in case...

Grass, that makes sense: high OM means more moisture means moss. I figure it's green so I'll leave it be for now. I'm looking at Scotts Step 1 (26-0-3) that was recommended as a good "starter" fertilizer. Should I use steps 2 (28-0-6), 3 (32-0-4), and 4 (32-0-12) or go for Milorganite? The restrictions on the Scotts Steps use (don't use near any body of water,etc...) concern me a little. I will definitely get some WBG - sounds great, certainly better than digging dandelions up by hand.

Can you tell me about Overseeding - what seed do you recommend and how much?

Again, thanks for your help.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 12:29AM
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Those fertilizer ratios are not starter fertilizers. Starter fertilizers have a ratio like 14-18-9. The bag will usually say "Starter Fertilizer." Normally it is recommended when planting seed, hence "starter." With your soil test, you should use it. Use Milorganite in July and August if you want to fertilize in thos months. Once you get your soil back in balance, you can use Milo anytime. instead of synthetics. If you have KBG, you should stay with KBG. Anywhere that is not getting at least 6 hrs of sunlight, you might want to try a fine fescue mixed in. Come back in Late August and ask about overseeding and re-seeding--now is not the time to be doing either.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 1:04AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Coming from an organic background, I would suggest you forget about your NPK and the ratios. I realize that is hard to do and you don't see anyone saying that (anywhere and rarely on this forum). Work on getting a grain type of protein onto the soil. If you want to fertilize with organics, get a plain brown bag of alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow) and apply at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Cost will be about $12 for 50 pounds. Apply now and again in a month (since the soil has had nothing in 5 years). If you prefer you can use Milorganite, but I prefer alfalfa.

When you do water, water deeply and don't plan to water for at least a week or when the grass shows signs of heat stress (blades folding together or a change in color).

KBG would have been brown/tan all winter. Is that what you saw? If not then you likely have fescue.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2013 at 11:38PM
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Thanks to both of you. grass, I clearly don't know a starter from a step, but I'll look using the criteria you've outlined.

dchall, I love the idea of alfalfa pellets. I don't have to worry about getting them on me. The grass was pretty brown all winter when it wasn't covered in snow, but not all of it. It has gotten somewhat greener in the last two months. Dare I ask, is there an organic option for getting rid of dandelions? I've been pulling them by hand. There are just too many now.

Thanks again for all input. It is much appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:37AM
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