Topsoil over st Augustine grass

TAB3230July 26, 2012

I have read something about topsoil applied over lawn sometimes as thin layer and watered over, is it usual. Or it is something what specifically done in certain cases. Sound like a good idea to me adding organic fresh layer and digesting thatch? How I do that? Use fertilizer spreader?

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You would be better served applying compost to your yard, not topsoil. Topsoil is well, soil, so unless you need to even out low spots, topsoil won't really provide much in the way of organic matter or nutrients. Applying compost is usually done by hand, either by applying piles of it and spreading it with a large pushbroom, or manually dropping it with large scoop type tools (I make my own by cutting the bottoms off gallon OJ containers). If the compost is very dry, then you could probably use a spreader, but if it's too moist it will probably clog up the opening.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 5:39PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

You probably heard that from someone who is in the business of taking $5 worth of dirt and charging hundreds to spread it out. In my opinion there is absolutely no value in that. There are hazards to the existing lawn, though. These can be time consuming and very expensive to fix.

What is the problem you want to solve with the topsoil?

In addition to compost, which I will never use again, you can start applying organic fertilizer now. I believe that is the best, most cost effective thing you can do for your soil. There is a house around the corner from me where they apply compost every other year. Every other year they smother the St Augustine and it takes until the following season to fully recover. I should take a picture but I'm waiting for the clouds to come to show it off just right. It has been since March when the compost was applied and the grass has not filled in yet. For St Augustine I believe compost is highly overrated.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 1:35AM
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My idea to use layer of topsoil is to add organic matter to my "sandy nothing" under lawn, previous owner have not mulched or fertilized for at least las 3-4 years, I can tell, lawn looks bad and soil is very high in pH and carbonates, I need to start somewhere to fix that.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 10:33PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Okay so the lawn looks bad. Before going any further, I would need to know where you live. Topsoil almost never contains any organic matter. The compost mentioned by tiemco is 100% organic matter. However, if you have sand soil, don't get your hope up too high for compost solving all your problems. Really need to know where you are.

How do you know the soil has a high pH? Again, depending on where you are, you can address that or forget about it. St Augustine grows extremely well at a pH of 8.5. Assuming you are there or below, then you might not need to do anything. I live on a limestone formation that extends 50 miles in all directions and is 700 feet deep. I'm never going to dissolve all the lime to get down to a pH below 8.

If you would like to have your soil/sand tested for chemistry, the best lab is Logan Labs in Ohio. Whatever your local county extension service is offering for $20 or less cannot match the depth and breadth of the $20 test you get from Logan Labs.

While you are waiting for results, you can get started with organic fertilizer to improve your soil. My favorite is alfalfa pellets for the amount of protein you get for the price. You can usually find it at any feed store. It goes by that name or rabbit/chinchilla chow. Apply at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The more often you apply the faster your soil will improve. Monthly apps are fine. It will take a full 3 weeks before you notice the improvement, but it will really make a big difference in color, density, and growth. A 50-pound bag of alfalfa should cost around $12. After you apply moisten the pellets. They will soak up the water and burst which prevents other critters (mainly birds) from flying off with them. Feeding alfalfa to the soil is the fastest way to improve your sand/soil. If you absolutely cannot find alfalfa, try Milorganite, soy bean meal, cottonseed meal, or corn gluten meal. The last resort would be ordinary corn meal and used coffee grounds (free from Starbucks).

Obviously alfalfa is organic and will help develop the soil so that it destroys any thatch you might have. You should be watering once a week for an hour at a time. And you should be mulch mowing at the mower's highest setting once a week. If you are not doing either of those, correcting that is going to help, too.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 11:18PM
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I am in ft lauderdale area, 10 a/b zone, nothing will survive in 8.5 ph conditions, palms, hedges they all around in south florida gardens and lawns, what are you talking about? if you do care only about your st Augustine grass and nothing else around, take a break, there are more than that to be conserned about!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:07AM
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Hey I payed 30 $ per alfalfa bag , I do not care about numbers I just wanted to have healthy organic backyard, did I got that? Not sure, have I spend extra money? Surely, for what? No one knows besides organic lawn care ideologists, it is what is sound stupid!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 12:20AM
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What were the results? We are in south central San Antonio. Our land is like beach sand. Trying to grow bermuda. Was just thinking about applying topsoil. Brought in bermuda sod a few years back. Did great for about 2 years and slowly died back. Sand does not seem to hold the nutrients. Grows great between the rocks in our sidewalk and growing well through our roadbase driveway. Oh, and before I read this post I started the Alfalfa pellets last year. But it was kinda late when I did.

Any advice appreciated.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2014 at 10:04PM
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I think it's OK for topsoil or compost (the organic matter being a key difference), but don't put such a thick layer that your grass couldn't recover from it in a timely fashion. You are not "burying" or "planting" something, you are just adding nutrient or leveling up the area. If you have a lot of leveling up to do, work it in small portions over time.

At the same time, one of the primary methods of getting nutrient into the soil for the turf grass is to use the other products, not just compost. You can buy a ready-made mix or you can make your own concoction, but you'll have to research on the components you want and how much to add (such as some mixture of molasses, fertilizers, azomite, alfalfa, etc -- whatever you wanted to add in from your own research)

    Bookmark   May 5, 2014 at 10:46AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

First to Tamie. Please post a new topic if you want people to see and reply to your bermuda issue. This topic is about St Augustine. Quick answer is don't add topsoil or compost. Add organic fertilizer at least once per year to keep the soil biology happy. The more alfalfa and more often the faster your soil will become healthy. I have used Von Ormy sand as fill in my garden for decades. It's good but you have to keep the organic matter fed.

Back to the OP.
I would strongly discourage you from adding topsoil for two reasons. The topsoil is going to change your drainage whether you like it or not. Compost will not change drainage. The second reason is that every single blade of St Aug that ends up buried underneath either topsoil or compost will die leaving a hundred bare spots in your yard. I see this in my neighborhood every single year. This one house applied compost/sand so heavily it will likely have the bare spots for two full seasons. They never learn. I've been there 20 years.

Soil provides no organic matter. If you want to replenish the organic matter in your soil, simply apply alfalfa pellets or any of the additives suggested by gardenper. Organic fertilizers replenish the soil biology by feeding them. Then they repopulate. Whatever you mix together, a safe amount to apply is 20 pounds of the final mix per 1,000 square feet. It's really usually safe to apply that rate for each and every one of those materials, but that ends up being a waste of time, money, and effort.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 5:00PM
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