What to do?

tdhawksJune 10, 2013

I started off this spring aerating and overseeding my lawn. I had some rough patches from the extreme heat and sun last year and it needed done. After reading more, I realized I should have waited until this coming fall to overseed for various reasons

The brown on the grass from the picture is from when we finished our retaining wall last weekend, and a little acid pee from the damn dog.

The lawn now looks decent, however, there are a small amount of mushrooms and a little crabgrass growing. I used organic fertilizer when I first overseeded, which was early April, and again on Memorial Day weekend.

My questions are:

Would it be beneficial for me to continue to apply organic fertilizer again on the 4th of July and again in the fall?

Should I go the route of overseeding again this fall to help out the patches that have yet to come back yet and continue with the organic fertilizer?

Or should I lay some synthetic fall fertilizer last thing in the fall to offset the crabgrass from coming back next year?

I live in Nebraska and used a sun and shade mix mostly consisting of fescue and bluegrass.

Sorry for the newbie question. Thanks for the help.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

First of all, your lawn looks pretty darned good. You might see things we can't see, but you are in good shape.

Regular doses of organic fertilizer will continually improve your soil and turf. That coupled with the occasional dose of synthetic, nigh-N, fast release fertilizer as a 'winterizer' has grown in popularity and shows excellent performance, especially with northern grasses.

In August, if your weak areas turn out to be in the shade, then overseeding in August to September will help. If the thin areas are in the sun, then the Kentucky bluegrass will spread to fill. That is assuming you still have any KBG left after the summer heat. We'll have to watch and see. As you have likely read, grass seeded in the spring often will die out as the tender roots cannot handle the heat and drought.

The dog pee spots are caused by the fast release of urea nitrogen from the dog's urine. When the soil does not have sufficient population of the microbes to process the urea, it will burn the roots and the grass turns brown. I have had success reclaiming dog spots using table sugar. Toss a heaping handful onto each spot and moisten it. The theory is the sugar kicks the microbes into the procreation mode. Once they have repopulated, then they can process the urine. Following a regular routine of organic fertilizer will help build your microbe population and should stop the pee spots. If you still see them, the easiest way to apply sugar to the entire yard is with spray molasses. Mix it 50:50 with water, milk, or even shampoo in a hose end sprayer (like the Ortho) and spray about 6 ounces of mixture per 1,000 square feet of lawn. The mixture ratio is not critical nor is the dose. The dose is probably a minimum. More will not hurt anything.

Mushrooms are a good sign when they come from plenty of rain. If you see them from your routine watering, then you are watering too much. This time of year you should just be transitioning into once per week watering. Ideally you would be watering about an inch all at one time, and then let the soil dry out for a week. Watch the grass to be sure you don't let it go dormant from dryness. As soon as you see any part of the lawn drying out, water it immediately. If it has been less than 7 days, then water it deeper than last time. The idea is to grow deep roots which are less stressed by heat and can stand to go more than a couple days without being irrigated again.

I would suggest normal care and ignoring the crabgrass for this season. Take care of it with RoundUp in the fall, if you have to, and then overseed with your mix of seed.

With the success you already have, are you thinking of pursuing this lawn hobby and going to the next level? It does not cost a lot more nor does it take a lot of extra time. It is just beyond what the average person does. It involves getting an excellent soil test, getting it read by experts, and getting the chemicals on eBay or Amazon to fine tune your micro nutrients. But this is something you do after you have mastered proper watering, mowing, and fertilizer.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 1:13AM
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Thanks for the reply San. I appreciate all the feedback.

I think I may roll with 2 more rounds of organic fertilizer this year, once on July 4th and the other when I aerate in the fall and overseed my bare spots. Then in the Spring, I will use a round of synthetic with crabgrass control.

Since I did a full yard overseed in the Spring, should I only do the bare spots this fall or the whole lawn again? Is it normal to overseed in the Spring and Fall of the same year?

Speaking in terms of organic fertlizer, which brand do you prefer? I used Milorganite, but my local also carries Scotts and Lesco and those 2 seem to carry a higher % of nutrients compared to Milorganite.

It's a new hobby of mine. My 2 neighbors have lawn companies do everything for them, and I do it all by myself (with the exception of aerating). My lawn is holding it's own compared to theirs, so it's more of a competitive thing to me. I'm sure many can relate.

Thanks for the suggestions.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 9:30AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Here is a picture of my favorite brand of fertilizer.

I like the no-name brands because they are almost always cheaper. You can get ordinary grains in plain brown, 50-pound bags at your local feed store for about 1/6 the cost of the same materials found inside commercially bagged organic fertilizers. The application rate is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

In organic fertilizer, the only nutrient that counts is protein. But there is a catch to that, too. Grain type proteins decompose and become available to the plants in about 3 weeks. Feather, hair, and leather meals have much higher protein content, but they decompose so slowly that they have no practical value to a lawn this season. Seems there are more and more organic ferts based on feather meal. The very best grain type fert is pure corn gluten meal. Next is soybean meal followed by cottonseed meal (which has other issues), alfalfa pellets or meal, and then corn and used coffee grounds are at the bottom of the protein list. If you can get a good deal on ordinary corn meal (under $8 per bag), then use that. Otherwise the best bang for your buck is alfalfa. These are all commodities and prices change depending on shipping charges and external economic forces. Milorganite is the only bagged fert I would use. It would come in under soybean meal, so it is pretty good. I just prefer grains.

Without seeing your yard any closer, you don't need to aerate. What would be your reason for doing it? Just because your neighbors are??

It is normal for newby's to overseed in the spring, write in here to find out why it didn't work, and then overseed in the fall. It is normal for experienced grass growers to overseed with fescue or rye in the fall only because those grasses will thin out and not thicken up by themselves. Kentucky bluegrass and the other grasses will thicken up without any additional seeding. If you have only fescue or rye, then yes, overseed in all the bare and thin spots. Without thickening up the grass in the fall, weeds will come into thin spots in the spring. You need dense grass to keep weeds out.

I have a little problem with mixing fertilizer with crabgrass control. For crabgrass control you need to hit the lawn early in the spring. For fertilizer you need to hit the lawn late in the spring. By mixing the two products, you get the fertilizer on far too early leading to excessive early growth and possible exhaustion of the plant's sugar reserves by May. If you apply just a preemergent herbicide at the first rain of spring, you should be good to go assuming you have fairly dense turf from the fall. Speaking of which, if you have fairly dense turf, and you are watering infrequently in the winter and spring, you should never see crabgrass again. The problem with crabgrass is mostly with people who overseed in the spring. They are starting with thin turf, putting down seed, and then watering constantly trying to get their grass seed to germinate. The problem is crabgrass seed germinates very easily in the spring conditions. Then you get a fast germination of crabgrass which fills in the thin areas and pushes the target turf grasses out. If you have dense turf coming out of fall, and you are not watering daily in the spring, you might never have crabgrass again.

The other problem I have is with using synthetic fertilizer in the spring. If you apply too late you can burn the grass with a combo punch of heat, drought, and salt from the chemicals. Organic grain type fertilizers can't burn. Late fall is really the time to use synth ferts if you are going to use them.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2013 at 12:17AM
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