Addressing fungus and low nitrogen in SA lawn

berntAugust 6, 2014

Newbie here. We have a St. Augustine lawn in need of some major recovery. Suffering from a fungal infection, I believe. I have decided to go the organic route and see if we can achieve better results and have some fun in the process.

I have replaced our sprinkler system with one which applies water slowly, so we are now watering once a week deeply. I have also begun applying some shampoo. Lawn mower is set to max height.

I recently did a basic soil test and found that our soil is low in nitrogen, so I want to begin applying some organic fertilizer -- alfalfa pellets? I also want to apply some cornmeal to begin combating the spreading fungus.

Question(s) #1 - can I apply the cornmeal and alfalfa at the same time? If so, is the suggested rate 20lbs of CORNMEAL AND ALFALFA COMBINED per 1,000 sf? And do I simply water it in enough to help it stick, and then let our weekly watering do the rest?

Question #2 -- Earlier in the summer we raked out the dead grass caused by the fungus and applied a compost/topsoil layer to the bare spots to help the existing SA fill it in. But we did not do anything to address the fungus. Now, before we apply the cornmeal, should we remove any new "dead" grass leaves (since the fungus has continued to spread), or should we leave those blades in place? My sense is the blades should be removed since they have the bad fungus -- just to make the battle a little easier.

In short, I'd welcome any thoughts the knowledgeable folks in this forum might be willing to share. I've enjoyed reading about the challenges others have faced and the valuable insight and counsel y'all provide. We are ready to try to save our lawn and do it without relying on a bunch of chemicals.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I don't think it will make a difference but where do you live?

Don't hassle with raking. As you found out, it doesn't do a bit of good. Just apply the corn meal. Corn meal is also an organic fertilizer. It is a little less potent than alfalfa, but as long as you're applying corn meal, just wait a couple weeks to do the alfalfa. Actually wait 3 weeks to be sure the new grass is coming in where the disease was. You might want to redo the corn meal.

Just wash the corn down to the soil and that's enough. Or you could apply the corn on the day you water.

Take pictures NOW so you have a reference point for the disease. After 3 weeks the improvement might be subtle or it might be dramatic. But you won't know if you don't have something to refer to.

Soil tests always come back low on N. Where did you get the test done? Or did you buy a kit?

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 9:58PM
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Thanks dchall! Pictures are a good idea.

We live on the west side of Austin.

Having trouble finding a reasonable source for cornmeal. TSC sells cracked corn but my wife doesn't want the squirrels and rodents it will attract, and the products from grocery and organic gardening stores are all too expensive. Are there alternatives to cornmeal for fighting fungus?

The soil test was a DIY kit from Lowes. Probably not real accurate but I figure it may be close enough. Indicated the soil was low in N and had a pH averaging around 7.5.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 10:56AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Call all the feed stores on this map and ask if they carry corn meal.

Find a market that caters to Hispanics. Any HEB in the barrio will work. They sell corn flour in 25-pound bags for making tortillas. Don't get tortilla mix with other ingredients. You want the pure corn flour.

You don't need any soil test to know that the N is low and that your pH is 7.5 - 8.0 in central Texas.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 1:14AM
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beacivil1(8a/8b NW Austin, Tx)

I live in NW Austin. I get my corn meal at Callaghan's Feed and Pet Supply in Cedar Park on Bell (old 183). There are others around, but they generally have been about $10 a bag cheaper than anyone else around. They are on a side street running parallel to Bell, in a light brown warehouse looking building.

If you at some point switch to Alfalfa Pellets (rabbit size), the cheapest I found is at Tractor Supply. Again, the location I use is in Cedar Park off old 183.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 8:12PM
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Thanks beacivil1. I called Callahan's a couple of weeks ago but whoever I spoke with told me the only cornmeal they carried was corn gluten meal. I'll have to check with them again.

I didn't see any straight alfalfa pellets (for rabbits) on the TSC site. The products which have alfalfa also seem to have a lot of other ingredients - a couple include salt. What is the brand you are using and what sort of results have you seen?

    Bookmark   August 13, 2014 at 1:06PM
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