Limey and worst lawn I've ever seen.

agrocoders(6)June 17, 2014


I just moved into a house on 0.5 acres. About 0.1 is in forest in the back. Another 0.1 is used by the house and driveway.

That leaves about 0.3 acres of the limey and sorry I've even seen. Of course I haven't seen many.

When you walk on the lawn it seems like you are walking on a course gravel driveway but it's actually the result of 30 years mild drought in Somerset, Kentucky (and much of the US truthfully) that has compacted the soil. This is a reddish clay soil that is very alkaline as this area of Kentucky is famous for caves. In fact the lawn has many, many limestone boulders distributed throughout it.

To understand what I'm trying to describe the state this clay soil is in imagine one of those clay ashtray or vases you made as a child and kiln dry. Adding water isn't going to help uncompact that vase much.

As luck would have it the past 3 - 4 years the 30 year mild drought in the Somerset and Kentucky area has finally let up and things are growing like they should without all that watering, fertilizing, and such if you prepare the soil around your plantings properly. :-)

So anyway I have a clay, compacted, alkaline soil that is 50% Ribwort Plantain, 25% white clover (those white flower bees like so much), 25% grass mixes and other weeds.

Ribwort Plantain:

That's 100% lawn coverage but not really because even though I don't scalp the lawn you can still see patches of bare lawn. The plantain throws out flower heads so quickly you have to mow 2 weekly just to avoid seeding.

Now before you mention Round-Up and all these other expensive herbicides realize I am poor and can't afford those things.

I would like a 'No-Mow Lawn' and I have seen these in some areas of state parks further north and they are a lush luxury.

No Mow Lawn:

As you see that's a very nice reasonable lawn that I'd need mow over 2 - 3 times a year. They say it does 'good' in Zone 6 as compared to excellent in the cooler zones.

Since I'm poor it will take almost all my spare spending money to just buy the seed so no Round-Up. So how should I prepare the lawn to seed with this fescue grass mix?

I have available:

a) A gas powered lawn mower I can scalp the lawn with.
b) A very large tarp (10' x 5') that flew off of someone's construction truck to smother the lawn
c) I can buy a light weight tiller and treat sowing this No Mow Grass as if I was tilling a garden.
d) A very long process: a pitch fork, metal tine rake, and lots and lots and lots of work.

I didn't mention aerating the lawn because I'm not sure what that is and it sounds like something I couldn't afford. Is aerating the lawn the same thing as tilling the lawn.

I eventually hope the No Mow lawn will develop such that the fruit, nut, berries, camellias, and roses I'm planting this summer will profit from the soil acidified by the heavy fescue cover. Right now that are dependent on local applications of slow release fertilizer.

So a, b, c, or d? Anyone have affordable e, f, or g?

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I would suggest getting a mow lawn. Did you look at all the pictures for the no-mow lawn? The only reason they call it that is because it happens to flop over and becomes unmowable when it is too tall.

Furthermore, I would suggest getting a mix of Kentucky bluegrass (for full sun) and fescue (for shady areas). Of if you don't really have shady areas, then just go with KBG. KBG has the advantage of never needing to be reseeded (like fescue does), but it comes with the disadvantage of turning brown in the winter.

Having said that, Marathon III is a very compact (dwarf) variety of fescue. That might work for you.

Never till to prepare for a lawn. There, I saved you a couple hundred.

If you want to soften your soil, try spraying it with shampoo. First test the hardness using a screwdriver. From what you say it won't even penetrate 1/8 inch. You'll need a hose end sprayer (Ortho red and yellow model is about $10). For 13,000 square feet you'll need about 40 ounces of shampoo. The hose end sprayer holds 32 ounces, so fill it up, take the screen off the end of the down tube, and start spraying. The setting doesn't really matter. You will need to spray as evenly as you can until you have used 40 (or more) ounces of shampoo. I suggest generic baby shampoo from Walmart. It has to be clear like baby shampoo. Spray that and then come back and apply a full inch of water with your sprinkler. Measure 1 inch using small cat food or tuna cans. Time how long it takes to fill the cans so you'll remember. Then wait a week to water again. Water again the following week. The second week after, repeat the shampoo and water. That should do it. If you get runoff before you can apply a full inch of water, then stop watering for 15 to 30 minutes and resume after the water has soaked in. If you get runoff again, stop and wait again. Repeat until you get a full inch into the soil. Since your soil is acting like clay (there are may reasons why a soil might act like clay), it might take more than 2 applications of shampoo to soften it and get it to accept moisture. A week after the second application of shampoo, water an inch again and test the penetration with a screwdriver. What the shampoo does is allow the water to penetrate much deeper into the soil. When that happens the beneficial microbes in the soil will come back and soften the soil for you. You can help them along by adding organic fertilizer periodically. My favorite is alfalfa pellets. At a rate of 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet you would need 6 bags of rabbit chow type alfalfa pellets. That size will go through a broadcast type fertilizer spreader. Then stop using whatever other fertilizers you were using because that's all you'll need. I use alfalfa on the federal holiday schedule. They are easy to remember and I am home those days. More specifically, for you in KY, first app would be on Memorial Day, then 4th of July, Labor Day, and Thanksgiving. Living in the south I also apply on Washington's Birthday.

You were correct in saying why your soil is "compacted", but you were incorrect about it being compacted. It is simply hard for the reason you said. Compacted soil requires mechanical means such as cattle plunging through soggy soil near the edge of a pond or playing football on saturated soil. The soil has to be saturated first or you cannot compact it.

Oh and do all this seeding in early September when the summer heat is beginning to back off.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 4:19PM
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Thanks I never heard of using shampoo on lawns.

It is possible this was cattle land, even more likely, before this area was turned into a subdivision as they are very common here.

I am set on fescue, I know of the 'fine flop over' effect and actually like it. That said, this Marathon III is worth investigating as a shorter type fescue that might do better in the hotter 6B climate than the 'No Mow Mix' I've inquired about from Wisconsin.

The 'No Mow Mix' says I can kill me lawn over the summer with Round-Up and sow No Mow Mix on dead sod over the period of 20 August to 20 October.

However, that's a lot, a lot, of herbicide and I can't afford it all either. My mom's been using white vinegar to kill weeds on her fieldstone sidewalk. Would that work well on the lawn if I scalped the lawn before hand? Have you heard of using white vinegar in place of Round-Up? Or would I need so much white vinegar to be effective it would cost more?


    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 5:05PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Yes vinegar works. If you used the real strong stuff (20% acidity) then you'd be approaching the cost of RoundUp. You can improve the killing effect of the vinegar by adding 2 ounces of agricultural orange oil per gallon. Here is a picture of a popular brand. Don't know if you can find it in KY, but you might ask at the Medina website.

With any herbicide, you are not trying to drench the soil. All you're doing is misting the leaves.

I think the plastic might be much less expensive. Wet the grass first, put the plastic down, seal the edges so the wind can't get in and cool off the area, and wait. Give it at least a full day (sunny day) to steam the grass to death.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 6:21PM
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Oh, the orange oil (actually d-limonene) we used to be given as children to use to clean with. Amazing stuff and the smell.

At any rate, if 20% white vinegar is effective as herbicide then I will use it as the soil is very alkaline already but I'll probably be restricted to whatever the strongest vinegar that Wal*Mart sells.

I guess I'd better get started if I'm going to clobber the lawn by September. My neighbors will wonder what am I doing once the grass starts turning brown.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:27PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

20% is available at nurseries for about $20 per gallon. Pretty steep for vinegar. It's also a little dangerous. It can cause temporary blindness lasting 3 months. Fortunately the smell is so strong you won't want to spray it in your face.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:52PM
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Um, I think I'll stick with Wal-Mart vinegar by the gallon. :-)

d-limonene is a substance to be careful with too. Wear goggles. It's an insecticide to but skin contact is generally harmless but of course you should wash it off. It isn't Palmolive.

A pretty lawn isn't worth hurting yourself.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 7:58PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

When I was in the Air Force they used it to clean jet engine parts. I sat next to the project manager for developing d-limonene as a useful product for the Air Force to use. One problem was they tested in the soil and found that it never stops working. Soil microbes would not decompose it in a reasonable time, so they were prevented from disposing of it. They soon figured out a way to clean the gunk out of it and repurify it. Amazing stuff.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 8:01PM
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I'm buying d-limonene because roaches can't stand it.

We using to get free jet fuel too and use in our car when I was a child. My step father drove a tanker and it being central Florida many Air Force base deliveries.

And the smell from the orange factory when they would bake the citrus peels would fill the air.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2014 at 11:27PM
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