Brown spots and hard soil

InstynctJuly 4, 2014

Water duration: Everyday for an hour in each spot.
Soil: sandy; Nevada desert
Grass type: Scotts Turf Builder Tall Fescue

So we just put this lawn in a few months ago from seeds. About a month ago we noticed these brown spots showing up and are slowly getting bigger.

We thought it may have been from a lawn mower gas spill. However it seems that the soil in these spots is very hard, almost rock hard in some spots.

Anyone have suggestions on how we can resolve this.

Also are we watering too much? The soil here dries out so fast... so we basically have to water daily for an hour in each spot. With temps in the 100s.

This post was edited by Instynct on Fri, Jul 4, 14 at 16:46

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Is that a Marathon fescue seed that you used? Was there any Kentucky bluegrass in the seed?

Do you know how much water your sprinkler puts out per hour? Get some cat food or tuna cans and put them out. Time how long it takes to fill those cans. One hour sounds like a long time but it takes my sprinkler 8 hours to fill the cans. My neighbor's system takes 20 minutes, so every situation is totally different. Generally daily watering will get you into trouble, and I'm going strongly encourage you to water differently, but I sort of need to know what the time is to fill the cans.

Does water seem to puddle in those brown spots?

You said you had sandy Nevada soil but then you said it was very hard. Well you can't have it both ways. I'm going with hard soil. You can soften the soil with any clear shampoo. I like baby shampoo (generic). Apply about 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet from a hose end sprayer. Spray the entire lawn. Then water a full inch. 2 weeks later, repeat the shampoo.

Really really need to know how long it takes to fill your cans and what kind of grass you have. And whether you get puddling. Also Nevada is a big place. Where are you?

    Bookmark   July 5, 2014 at 7:58PM
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Hi thanks for the reply, I'm not sure how much water our sprinkler puts out, will have to check next time we water. We are just using a crappy Oscillating sprinkler but will probably upgrade to a walking sprinkler soon.

Link to sprinkler we use
Link to grass seed we planted
We have very sandy soil, but it seems the bare spots are VERY HARD. I live in Wadsworth, NV by the river close to pyramid lake.

Also yes on some of the bare spots we do get puddling, but not really on the dying spots. On most of the grass I could water for 2 hours with no puddling.

This post was edited by Instynct on Sun, Jul 6, 14 at 16:10

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 4:03PM
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I've read several threads the suggest setting out tuna fish cans and see how long it takes your sprinklers to fill them up. However I've not read WHERE to place.
I have a lawn of Marathon II half of which is lush, green and healthy and another section that is dry and hard and seems to be creeping into the good stuff!

Any help would be great.

Thanks Mike

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 4:25PM
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@SocalDawg yeah that's kinda what mine did, it started in one spot and kinda spread to the lush and green stuff.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 12:02PM
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SoCalDawg wrote: "I've read several threads the suggest setting out tuna fish cans and see how long it takes your sprinklers to fill them up. However I've not read WHERE to place."

The objective is to get a good, representative idea of how much water your lawn is receiving. You need to place the tuna cans in several places throughout the lawn so that you are confident that you know how much water each area receives. If you only have 1 or 2 cans you can even dump them out and move them around to different places.

I think it's just a little common sense. Maybe put one near the spinkler, one mid-way and one at the far reach of the sprinkler pattern.

    Bookmark   July 7, 2014 at 3:31PM
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I've read on this site many times that LESS watering is better....that most people are overwatering their lawns. And here I thought that if you have dry spots and your lawn is "browning" that you need to give it MORE water.

So much for common sense, huh?

    Bookmark   July 8, 2014 at 9:39PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

No, not less water. It's just a change in the way you water. Instead of watering every day for 10 minutes, like the American Association of Sprinkler Timer Installers would have you do, you should be watering once a week (or 2 weeks, or a month) but you water a full inch every time you water. That's why you need to test with cans. My oscillator (and I have 7 of them...because they are EXCELLENT!) applies an inch in 8 hours when on full spread. My neighbor's high-flow in-ground system applies a flood and gets an inch in 20 minutes. Your oscillator will be more like mine and not his. But it really depends on your water pressure, hose size, and some other factors. You have to test your own. If you watered for 5 or 6 hours, would you get puddling?

You have to take care of low spots. When water puddles and stays wet for days, it will kill off the beneficial fungi and only allow the anerobic bacteria to thrive. This changes the soil so that only swamp grasses will live. One of those is nutgrass and you don't want that.

It is possible to have sand and hard soil. It depends on the salts which are in the soil/sand. It is also possible to power through by applying shampoo to help water penetrate the soil. I hope morpheuspa sees this topic. He will encourage you to get a soil test to make your life a LOT easier. His contention is that by perfecting the soil chemistry you can eliminate some of the pain. His lawn is living proof that it works. He has the nicest lawn on the planet if you ask me. So he would say if you get your chemistry right, complete with all the salt balances and micronutrients, then your hard soil will soften and remain soft for the longer term. And in order to get to that point, the ONLY soil lab to use is Logan Labs in Ohio. They give the best and most reliable test for the least cost anywhere, $25.

Here is a picture of morph's lawn in eastern Pennsylvania.

They all started with the same soil (really really bad), but he's the only one who did anything to improve his. He waters once a week, or at least he did when that picture was taken. Now he waters less often. He also is on a full organic fertilizer program.

The fastest thing you can do is adjust your watering. If you are watering several times a week now, you can't just stop and go to once a week. You have to gradually work into it. First put out the cans. Put some in the dry area and some in the green area. I don't know why an oscillator might put out different amounts, but just do it and see. Time how long it takes to fill the cans. Once you have that time, watch the grass. If you normally water 2x per week, then apply half that time to get about 1/2 inch. As soon as any part of the lawn starts to wilt, water again for half the time. You should find quickly that the grass goes longer and longer before looking wilty. As you extend the time between watering, then add more minutes to the duration. This will allow the roots to grow deeper into the soil and work all kinds of magic.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 10:23PM
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Wow! That was more information about grass than I've ever read in one spot! I wish it was as easy as you make it sound. My sprinklers are just they standard "pop up" ones. I'll put out the cans in all areas, regardless of green or brown and see how long it takes to fill them in each of those areas...?
So I understand completely, are you saying water for the 1 inch and not the duration? Figure out the interval that it takes for the 1 inch, then water once a week for that interval....? And the dead / dry / hard areas.... Any suggestions on how to bring them back and re-seed again (do I till, lay seed and cover with topper? A combination, a different method?)

Thank you again. Looking forward to seeing you suggest, and get started on bringing my lawn back!


    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 11:29PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

socaldog, would you mind starting a new thread? I want to address your issues separate from instynct. And in your first post, please mention where you live in SoCal. You can imagine there are huge differences if you live in Big Bear, La Jolla, or Heber.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2014 at 11:44PM
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