Trashed Lawn - Where do I start? 2nd try

sammyq2(6b)August 3, 2012

Hi all. This is a long post, with several issues. I hope it's not too long of a post, I just don't want to get started before I hear the experts opinions. I started a thread earlier and was asked to get a better soil analysis, so here it is, along with a couple of jar tests. Since I can apparently only load one photo at a time, I'll have to make a couple of posts to get everything in.

We just purchased a 30 y.o. home last December. We are in deep southern Illinois, and apparently in Zone 6A acording to the USDA Hardiness Zone Finder. There is approximately 6,000 sq. ft. of yard, and probably 25% of it is bare due to rescent grading. Naturally we have been affected by this year's drought. I am planning on kicking off the lawn remediation about Labor Day but want to get my ducks in a row now.

In the shady rear of the house there is a slope, and the one rain we had all summer made several gullies. I bought some woven hay, like they use along highways, but haven't laid it out you. The rest of the lawn is spotty.

I am really concerned about further erosion on the slope. I wasn't going to attempt to grow grass this summer, but I'm worried that further rain will trench it badly.

We have a lot of shady areas in the south facing yard, and lots of sun in the north facing yard (front yard). A friend said I had Bermuda grass in the front yard, but not quite sure. I had a landscaping outfit come out and they said there is 6,000 sq.ft. (I think that's exaggerated)to deal with and it would cost me $1,700 to fertilize and seed. Another $800 if I wanted the woven grass mat everywhere.

Late this spring there was some grading done and Shorty the excavator brought in a load of "dirt" and spread it in various places about the yard. It is very light in color and even the weeds don't seem to have much interest in it.

We also have a nice of what appears to be crabgrass growing where the grading was one on the existing dirt.

The new fill depth varies, probably ranging up to 6" deep in places, less in others. I did a jar test on Shorty's dirt and it is apparently:

25% Clay

37& Silt

37% Sand

I did a jar test on some of the existing dirt (I'll call it "Back & Sides") and that jar test came out:

16% Clay

58% Silt

25% Sand

I have printed out the most excellent "Basics of Lawn Care", found in this forum.

What type of grass seed would be good for the sunny area? For the shady area?

Should I first kill all the weeds with Roundup before seeding?

What kind of fertilizer should I use for Shorty's dirt? How and when should I apply it? Same question for the Back & Sides Dirt.

I have access to alphalpha rabbit food for $12.00/50 lbs. Would that be of any use? Use it on Shorty's dirt? At what stage of the seeding process? Also, we have lots of brown pine needles available in the lot across the street.

Would they be useful for protecting the seed or for nutrients for the new grass?

FYI - For seed, herbicides and some fertilizers, we have a local chain of farm stores called Rural King. The prices seem to be really good, compared to Lowes.

So that is my is my dilemma. What is my best approach?

Thanks for the help.

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Second soil sample report.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 4:33PM
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Some of Shorty's fill and our brown front yard.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 4:34PM
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Back yard with the slope. The crabgrass has really filled in since this photo was taken last month.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 4:35PM
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Hopefully someone who does soil analysis will drop by. In the meantime I would direct you to the post below entitled "Soil Test Results!" and see if that is any help to you.

    Bookmark   August 3, 2012 at 6:19PM
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Existing front yard grass. What is is?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:43AM
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Current state of the front lawn.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 9:48AM
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One other question. We have lots of easy to gather pine needles on the ground. Could I use them to cover the new grass seeds in place of straw and/or to raise the organic content of the soil?

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 10:13AM
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Both of your lawns need calcitic lime, high bag rate. I like Cal Turf Pro because it dissolves faster than regular calcitic lime. Do not buy dolomitic lime, you have an excess of magnesium. Both of your soils need sulfur (in the form of sulfates) and potassium. Shorty's soil is lowish in phosphorus. Both are low in boron, but I wouldn't worry about that for now. Shorty's soil is pretty sterile, not much organic matter to speak of, and your soil is better but still low. If your jar tests are accurate, then both soils have a pretty good consistency. The CEC's bear this out to an extent, with the higher CEC represented by more clay in Shorty's. So what to do? High bag rate calcitic lime now. Try to find potassium sulfate at your store. It will be labeled 0-0-50. You don't want potassium chloride, or muriate of potash 0-0-60. Apply 2 lbs per thousand square feet when you find it. When it's time to fertilize, I would use starter fertilizer, enough to supply one pound of nitrogen per 1000 square feet. Raise you organic matter as your wallet allows. Mulch mowing, including your leaves will help, but don't let it get too deep in the fall. The alfalfa you can apply whenever you want. I would probably drop a good amount after the lime and potassium sulfate is down. The pine needles I wouldn't bother with, they take a long time to break down and don't supply all that much organic matter.

Erosion doesn't get better until there is something preventing it, so you will have to grow something there, or lay down burlap and then covered with mulch.

For sunny areas you can use any of the cool season grasses, KBG, turf type tall fescue or perennial rye, they have their pluses and minuses, so it's your call. I posted in another thread a while ago regarding the adv. and disadv. of each grass, so do a search for that. Shady areas (3-4 hours of sun) would be best served by turf type tall fescue, but a blend of TTTF and KBG can also be successful, but the areas of heavier shade will probably not support KBG. If the shady areas get very little direct sun, you might have to go with fine fescues. How much shade are we talking about?

That picture of the existing front yard grass isn't close enough for me to tell what kind it is, so another pic is necessary.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 3:25PM
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You are generous with your time. I promise I will not volunteer your time in the future.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 4:06PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

tiemco, I'm going to nominate your reply for a webby! Beautifully done.

SammyQ2, if the mystery grass ever produces flowers or seeds, try to get a picture when it is in that condition. And pictures taken in full sunlight are harder to read than pictures taken in the shade or under a cloud.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:07PM
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Thank you friends for that in-depth advice! This is a big help. Now It's time to go shopping (and to convince my wife I need all that stuff).

I am attaching what I hope is a better photo of the front yard grass.

A couple of follow-up questions, if I may.

1. When should I apply the lime? Right now and let it settle in for a couple of weeks, or just before I seed? Should I work it into the soil, or perhaps water it to soak it in a little? This will be pretty much all manual labor here. I have a 17 y.o. JD mower, and that's about it. I was going to get one of those over-the-shoulder- broadcast bags for the seed and fertilizer.

2. The growing crabgrass that seems to be taking over several bare areas. Kill it with roundup now? Convince my wife to pull it all out? Leave it?

BTW - we are drought stricken here, but last night we had a real frog strangler of a rain. 4-1/2" I believe! Our pathetic little lake got topped off higher that I have seen it in our 6 months here. Maybe I'll even be able to grow grass!

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:28PM
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Here is the stuff I'm generically calling crabgrass.

No extra charge for the big toe.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 6:31PM
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The first pic looks like nimbleweed. The second pic with the Hobbit foot looks like mostly crabgrass. Lime should go down now, don't apply with seeding. Use a broadcast or drop spreader to apply, no need to work it in, the rain or your sprinkler will do that.

If you are going to seed, then that crabgrass will have to go. Roundup is the most effective way, and you can seed very shortly after application. Whenever you use Round Up or other herbicides it helps to have the weeds actively growing, so watering before application, and a day or two after will speed things along, and increase its lethality.

Grass needs water, so if there is no rain, you will have to irrigate. Don't expect a nice lawn without supplemental irrigation, unless you live in Seattle.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 7:48PM
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Tiemco, you obviously have a lot of experience here. Thank you for all the help. I'll take a few days to digest all that and start gathering materials.

I hope you have a great week.


    Bookmark   August 5, 2012 at 8:53PM
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Thought I'd take a photo of another prevalent weed in my lawn. anyone know what it is? The leaves are pretty small. Smaller than what I know as clover.

What should I do with it?

I think I am digging a bigger hole than I planned on with all this lawn stuff.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 11:06AM
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I am starting to Kill weeds with RU, in preparation for seeding toward the end of the month.

Is is permissible to apply lime& potassium sulfate now - even though I an still doing the RU bit?

Also, I have a local source for mushroom bed compost. $35/cu yd. Could I spread that around on Shorty's dirt now? I have the hopes of making the soil better when it comes to seeding time.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 1:00PM
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Killing weeds with round-up is well and good, but round up kills everything, so don't spray it on anything you want to live. Round up won't affect lime and potassium sulfate, apply it ASAP.

Not sure what that weed is you took a picture of, and I believe mushroom bed compost has a lot of pieces of wood in it, which isn't ideal, but I'm sure it varies from place to place.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2012 at 1:37PM
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Okay I just spread 500 lbs of lime on the lawn. I wasn't able to find the potassium sulfate locally, so I ordered it off of Amazon and should be here in a day or so. Spreading lime on the slope in the back is a real pain, as is mowing it.

I have a good friend with a micro-brewery and he has offered waste malt grain for me to use as organic matter. I am planning on spreading that around in the areas with the bare Shorty's dirt. Again, this is in advance of seeding the majority of the lawn in the next couple of weeks.

The gullies that formed in the slope are pretty bad. In order to head off any more erosion, I am considering seeding that area right now and covering with a commercial straw blanket, like they use along the highways. I figure I could start growing grass there since it's often in shade and may hold some water.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Wow! You applied 500 lbs. of lime over 6,000 sq.ft.? That is equal to almost 85 lbs. per 1000 sq.ft. That's alot!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 4:04PM
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nearandwest, you are the prince of understatement. 35/k is a LOT. Where did you see his yard is 6k?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 4:31PM
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In the first post of the thread. And thank you for calling me a prince.....nicest thing I've heard all day. Although a lady golf member did tell me today that I looked very young for my age. :)

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 4:45PM
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Uhhhhhhhh, I hope you meant to write you spread 50 lbs of lime over 6000 square feet, not 500.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 5:07PM
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You told him high bag rate, tiemco, so, I'm pretty sure he didn't spread 500

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 5:21PM
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SammyQ2: How many bags of lime did you use....1 bag or 10 bags?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 5:28PM
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The bag listed a high rate (new lawns) at 100 lbs/1000 sq. ft. I wound up using ten 50 pound bags of CalPro AgLime. Kind of gritty.

What it is, it is.


    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:37PM
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Here's the stuff. Don't have a photo of the back of the bag.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 8:51PM
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High bag rate is 12#/k. Uh, well...Ok, You need to remove what you can, On the bare areas you can use the back of a rake or pushbroom. In the areas with folage use a yard vac if you have one, if not, you can use a leaf rake and a blower on low and try to blow the granuals out to the bare areas and colect them. Gortunately, lime is a fairly forgiving ammendment, and you have some time before your seeding.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:24PM
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I have a hard time believing that is the rate listed, and if it is, then someone at Calpro messed up.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2012 at 10:31PM
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I ran down to Rural King this morning and got a shot of the rear of the bag.

There is no way I am attempting to rake this stuff up. It would take a vacuum cleaner.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 8:15AM
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It does say 100# per k. Never used a bag of lime labeled that way. The products I've used state a standard rate of 6# or a rate of 12# for ph below 6. I can't believe it is mislabeled and I'm no chemist, so, you must be GTG.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Well actually, what the bag shows is 100 lbs. per 1000 sq.ft for a new lawn rate. What that means is for lime that is being incorporated into the soil prior to planting a new lawn. They did not include that detail. Just below that is the lawn maintenance rate for an established lawn. It shows 100 lbs. per 5000 sq.ft.

Quite frankly, with this being a pelletized lime, I think you might be okay. Can you water this material in, or are you predicted to get rain within the next 48 hours? Some form of watering for this material within the next 48 hours would be very helpful for your cause.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2012 at 11:20AM
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Follow up -

I went through all the steps. Lime, potassium sulfate, de-thatch with a verti-seeder and straw blankets where necessary to control erosion (if we ever get and rain again).

To help build up the organics, I used spent beer mash from my friend's micro-brewery. Since it's wet it isn't really easy to spread around. I mostly flung it with a shovel, so the coverage isn't real even. It smelled kind of funny for a couple of days, but doesn't seem to have hurt anything. I may do another application in the early spring.

I used a blend in the front yard and mostly tall fescue in the back shady yard.

Water, water, water and more watering. Watering 6,000 sq feet in a royal pain in the arse! I just couldn't do the recommended thrice per day, but I usually got two waterings in, until things started sprouting. By far, the best water came on too few occasions from Mother Nature. She really knows how to soak the yard evenly.

Low and behold, the dirt is now covered with green grass (and a few weeds) it looks great and we are pretty pleased with the results. I have mowed it once (at the tallest setting) and may mow toward the end of November to mulch the leaves.

Click o the link below to see where I am now.

Here is a link that might be useful: My most recent post about winter prep & weeds

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 8:57AM
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