My lawn's become an obsession... and now it's fall!

ls3c6August 17, 2011

Well it's been 1.5 yr of my 2yr home ownership on this .75 acre plot I bought and never thought i'd do much more than chop the lawn when it needed a haircut and tend to more pressing issues.

Cut quality and asthetics slowly caused me to want to make improvements... maybe pretentious or my engineer mindset at work, but I thought if others can have a great looking lawn, I aught to be able to show some diligence and scientific prowess to make this happen.

So it begun, having no arms other than than Scott's annual 4 step program, a $50 1980s Toro 21" 4 stoke Suzuki powered mower that later proved to be a superior piece of machinery and a trimmer/edger/blower I rebuilt, tweaked and drank many a beer to my confusion of their problems... the obsession for perfection carried on.

No longer a north/south and east/west alternating cutting pattern, it became an alternating pattern of diagonal maintenance. The Scott's program, while hated by green thumbs and tree huggers alike... has served me well because nobody's given me a reasonable alternative thusfar for the price or the work needed (sorry i'm not going to take a loan for 3/4 acre worth of milogranite every week).

Doing the above as my base and my feet tired from a never ending every 3 day cut @ 3" which is well above 5" by the 3rd day and sprinkler dragging irrigation, my only real maintenance is the occasional crabgrass sprout or yellow nutsege... fall's here again, a season I never cared about but starting last year I aerate the plot... I don't know how much good it really does, but the internet would have you believe it's the secret to my success.

So my questions are, since my lawn is primarily KBG and aeration will be again performed around september 1... is a starter fertilizer mandatory and beneficial just after considering I'll be putting down the 4th step come end of September... should I be cutting the grass below 3" before putting it to bed here in Michigan and do I need to lose any sleep over the 3 8" diameter "dollar spots" i've aquired over this hot summer? Do I live with the fact that I can't grow grass UP TO the neighbor's pine trees even though I've limed them and rake the needles every month? Will I ever be able to say I don't have to cut it every 3 days but can still enjoy this quality? Does any homeowner really have a PERFECT lawn from all aspects at the end of the day or do they focus on the parts they like... cause i'm getting close!

Most disappointing section of lawn attached, yours truly... guy with a new hobby.

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Ibanez540r

I feel your pain. It's a love hate relationship. ...I think the PIC looks nice.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 2:43AM
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Jesse

Don't worry about the dollar spots. You can treat for them, but fungicide is preventative. It doesn't fix dead tissue. It should come back just fine next year. Next year, if things get really hot and humid (especially if it doesn't cool down at night) then you can treat preventatively with a good fungicide if you don't want them to happen again. Fungicide is very expensive, though.

If it were me, since it is KBG, I would cut it at 2" before winter.

I'm guessing you already have, but a soil test would show what you need to apply near your neighbors evergreen. Now, if it's heavy shade next to the evergreen then it likely will be thin no matter what you do.

The yard looks really good.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 7:48AM
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tiemco

"So my questions are, since my lawn is primarily KBG and aeration will be again performed around september 1... is a starter fertilizer mandatory and beneficial just after considering I'll be putting down the 4th step come end of September..."

Starter fertilizer is high in phophorus and potassium, it's generally used when "starting" a new lawn either from seed or sod. It isn't necessary to use it every year unless you have soil deficiencies. I suggest you get a comprehensive soil test (Logan Labs) to see what your soil needs.

"should I be cutting the grass below 3" before putting it to bed here in Michigan and do I need to lose any sleep over the 3 8" diameter "dollar spots" i've aquired over this hot summer?"

For a lawns final mowing for the season, it is generally suggested you cut it lower than normal. Fungal disease is pretty common. If all you had this summer was 3 8" areas then consider yourself fortunate. KBG should fill in those areas this fall if it's well feed and your soil is in good shape.

"Do I live with the fact that I can't grow grass UP TO the neighbor's pine trees even though I've limed them and rake the needles every month?"

This is probably more a function of shade than anything else. If you think it's a soil issue due to the pine trees, then test that area separately.

" Will I ever be able to say I don't have to cut it every 3 days but can still enjoy this quality? Does any homeowner really have a PERFECT lawn from all aspects at the end of the day or do they focus on the parts they like... cause i'm getting close!"

Seems like every three days is a little too often for KBG. Either you are over-fertilizing, or you are just cutting too soon. If you cut to 3", then you can wait till the grass is 4.33 inches high before you have to mow again. No lawn is perfect, but some people come pretty close. A perfect lawn should be one that you are happy with, and takes the amount of time you are willing to put into it. A golf course might be someone's idea of a perfect lawn, but those have teams of people that provide daily maintenance, a lot of water, fertilizer, and other chemicals. If you focus on improving you soil, then you lawn will follow suit.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 7:52AM
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ls3c6

I'm cutting it 3rd day where some spots are up to 5" (I measured), on the 4th day we're nearing 6" and I get unsightly clumps on the turf if I wait that long... seems to grow too quickly!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 9:35AM
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tiemco

"I'm cutting it 3rd day where some spots are up to 5" (I measured), on the 4th day we're nearing 6" and I get unsightly clumps on the turf if I wait that long... seems to grow too quickly!"

Sounds like you have some perennial rye in your lawn as well as KBG. An inch growth in one day is a lot for any cool season grass, especially KBG.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 12:40PM
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ls3c6

Is there any good reason to drop to 2.5" now and then 2.0" last cut or continue to keep it @ 3"?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 4:14PM
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Jesse

I would cut it at 3", then 2nd to last cutting 2.5", and last 2".

At the rate your grass grows, though, those last two cuttings would be only a day or two apart. I hope you have a good mowing setup. It it were me, I would probably consider spraying the yard to slow the top growth down, and definitely investigate the type of grass. What grass seed did you overseed with in the past?

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 4:32PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

If you are not willing to take out a loan for Milorganite, then you aren't really serious about improving the pathetic appearance of your lawn. Come back when you man up.

;-)

More seriously, your photo of the worst part of your lawn would still win the yard of the month in most neighborhoods, so you are doing the right things. I am concerned about the growth rate. All that mowing will tire you out. I've never heard of anything but weeds and bermuda (ahem!) growing that fast without additional help. For one thing, how often do you water and how long/deep? For another, are you sure you're using the Scott's at the right rate? I've seen one guy get similarly startling results, but he accidentally forgot to subtract the house, garage, patio, driveway, sidewalk, and garden beds from the area coverage calculation. He used a full bag per app when he should have used 1/2 bag.

I am an organic lawn guy, but I have never used Milorganite. I agree it is too expensive. I have used corn meal, alfalfa pellets, soybean meal and corn gluten meal. One or more of these will be very expensive in any given year and one or more will be really cheap. You have to keep an eye on the prices. This year the expensive one is corn gluten meal ($36 per bag) and the cheap one is soybean meal ($15 per bag). Coverage per bag is about 2,500 square feet. Your Scott's might be a little cheaper but not enough that you would need to consider a second mortgage for an organic approach.

    Bookmark   August 17, 2011 at 5:19PM
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ls3c6

yeah I use the 15000sq/ft bags, i've got a .75 acre plot but subtracting everything and the small wooded section it's about 14,500 sq/ft... not sure why it grows so crazy.

I'm relazed on the watering, I try to ensure it gets 1" a week either by god or dragging sprinklers around once every few weeks.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 9:21AM
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