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Sod - how green is green?

Posted by danielj_2009 6 (My Page) on
Sat, Jun 28, 14 at 13:49

or something like that...

I had Kentucky Bluegrass put down last fall, and it is doing great so far (underground sprinklers). When the sod was laid down it was a very dark green, even through the winter. I fertilized in the late fall, and then again in late spring. I would say the lawn is a nice healthy looking green, but is isn't nearly as green as when it arrived from the sod farm. I'm curious whether they maintain an "artificially green" sod to help it with the stress of transplanting or something like that. How does the sod farm get it so dark green? I would like to see it that way again, but not at the expense of ridiculous amounts of fertilizer. Anybody have knowledge in this area?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Check this out. It is morpheuspa's KBG lawn in eastern PA.

Is that sort of what you had in mind?

He happened to be running a test amounting to ridiculous amounts of organic fertilizer that year. But all he was trying to so was stress the grass with too much fertilizer. Turns out he could not do it. It would have been that green with normal amounts of fertilizer.

But wait. That's not all he does. First of all his grass seed was of the Elite varieties while the neighbors were common varieties (builder's grade). So right there his lawn is going to look a little different. After that he has his soil tested annually by Logan Labs in Ohio. Then he applies the micronutrients recommended by the test.

If you want to green up your yard, I would first try organics like Milorganite and alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow). Apply at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. You can do that as often as you want, even during the summer, without fear of hurting your lawn. If that does not satisfy you after 3 weeks, then I would go to Logan Labs for a test. We can help you find a website where they will read the LL test for free and recommend what to use, how much, when to apply, and where to find the products you need to adjust your soil chemistry.

Also be sure you are watering properly. That means deep watering (1 full inch) all at one time, once per week when the temps start running in the 90s. Lower than that and you should only be watering once every other week. Back in that picture it looks like the neighbors were not watering at all but I suspect they were watering daily. Morph was watering once per week. That picture was taken in July, 2010.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

The reason for that new sod color is primarily due to the fertilizer regiment used by sod farms. The cultural practices used to grow sod are not ones that should be continued in the maintenance of the turf. That would be a prescription for thatch and disease.
Applying the recommended amounts of N via spoon feeding synthetics and/or using organics, correcting any soil deficiencies, and applying iron can all improve color.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Hi, David! Glad to see I haven't been completely forgotten.

Yes, that is my ridiculously green lawn. Check my blog for photos from yesterday--it's a dry year, so the front is not ridiculously green right now, the side is.

I watered last night for the second time this season. I'm trying to encourage the lawn to grow deeper, denser root systems and so far it's working. Mine is green and still growing, if slowly. The neighbors' lawns are blasting out already.

Even builder's grade sod or seed can produce a green, gorgeous lawn. My mother, who follows my regimen, is in that condition and her standard, cheap tri-mix looks great.

Water once weekly, an inch at a time for best results once sod is established. If wilt is showing, a second watering a week (divide the inch up) wouldn't be taken amiss.

Feed at least four times per year, late May, September, October, and when the grass stops growing (for me, Thanksgiving). I'm organic, so feed mid-May, August, September, October, and growth stoppage (that last one is with urea).

Test your soil! This one's probably the most important. I went from a collapsed soil with little in the way of calcium, magnesium, and potassium to one that's in perfect balance (my soil test is on my blog as well from late April or early May, I think). I also balanced micronutrients, but you don't necessarily have to do much of that unless there's a deficiency.

Here is a link that might be useful: My ridiculously green lawn


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

We miss you Morph :)


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Thanks yardtractor. That's what I was wondering.

dchall - I definitely want to test my soil. Last October the landscaper put down top soil, but I really want to doublecheck on what's actually in the soil now some 9 months later.
What do you suggest I do to get started with a soil examination? I know there are several ways to go about it. What do you (or others) think is best?

I can't seem to upload any photos right now, but I'll try again later.

Thanks!
Dan


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

TNJDM: I'm around here sometimes, and you can always PM me Over There if you wish!

DanielJ: Most of us seem to like Logan Labs--the cost is comparable, the test is comprehensive, and they're quite fast even during their busy periods (July is not a busy period).


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Thanks Morph. I have been visiting your blog so I still get a dose also:)


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

OK, so the first photo is from last October when the sod was just a few weeks old. The dark blue/green of the KBG doesn't really come through in the photo.

New sod a few weeks old photo SodJustLaidDown_zps30aa2429.jpg

This is from today. The color looks fine, but it was so rich and green coming from the sod farm I wondered if I could/should get it like that again. Also, the lighting conditions are very different in the two photos. I'd say the actual color change is greater than what shows in these pics.

 photo LawnColor_zps0c7c4757.jpg


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Well, it's definitely not much to complain about, is it? :-)

Grasses do tend to get lighter in summer due to the higher heat and greater amount of sunlight. Darkest hues are seen in spring, fall, and (if yours doesn't go dormant) winter.

Whether it's an iron shortage, pH too high (which leads to an iron issue even though there's no shortage), pH too low (uptake reduced on Ca, Mg, N), there's no way to tell without a soil test.

Off the cuff, you don't seem to have any severe problems. It's probably not a collapsed soil or you wouldn't be able to maintain a lawn that pretty, but that doesn't mean there aren't problems.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

OK, now I'm getting somewhere! I've identified at least 2 lawn nuts (David and Morpheus) who look like they can really give me the scoop on growing a really healthy lawn. I tried to be a lawn nut in years past. I bought into Jerry Baker's stuff when I was young and impressionable. Let's say I was the guy walking around on his lawn with spikes strapped to his shoes! I liked the Baker concepts, but they just didn't prove to be practical on a large lawn.

I'd like to throw out a couple of misc. questions if I may:

1. The KBG sod was put in the front yard last October (back yard reseeded). We underground watered the sod twice a day until the weather turned cold. Each zone got 1/2 hour twice an evening, but my tuna cans tell me that isn't quite enough water. I haven't watered until this week due to all the rain we've had in NJ this spring. Am I likely to have too much runoff on a sloped lawn if I try to apply 1 inch in one watering? Also, in the back yard (seeded, no underground watering) there are some spots that will pool up with that much water all at once.

2. I was told that watering in the evening would not cause fungus or mold. I think David differed on this point. How about watering in the early morning before dawn say 1/2 inch, let it soak in for an hour or two, then water another 1/2 inch around 9 am? Evening would be better, but not if it really causes problems of course.

3. I am mowing at the 3" setting on my new Honda. Should I go to 4" for the rest of the season, and then work my way down to low at the end of the fall?

4. With all the rain, I am finding lots of mushrooms in the lawn. I've been ignoring them thinking they will disappear with dryer weather. Is this OK?

5. I have a problem with the sod dying off next to the driveway. I think the Belgium block stones get too hot. Can deep watering fix this, or is something more drastic called for?

6. Is there a resource/book that covers all these concepts "A to Z"?

Thanks a lot for any help!


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I'm a wellspring of useless information.

Baker's ideas are...sometimes sound, more often the biochemistry doesn't make any sense. They're more anecdotally created and don't require or have scientific data behind them. In short, take him with a grain of salt.

1) If you fear runoff, don't be afraid to divide your watering over the course of several hours to a day. It does no harm, and I do the same on my southern face--I tend to cycle an hour and a half, take 3 hours off, and go back for the last cycle.

2) Occasional evening watering is not an issue, so if you're following the 1" a week all at once rule, you should be fine. Discontinue the instant you notice a problem, of course, but I've evening and night watered for nine years now. Problems, zero.

2a) Don't make a habit of night and evening watering if you're an every day/light watering sort of person. That's a recipe for disaster (for more than one reason).

3) Mow as tall as you can stand it. I mow my (dwarf, elite) bluegrass at 3" or slightly more. If you can tolerate 4", go for it. It'll encourage longer roots. Then step down over the course of several mowings in fall if you wish (or leave it tall until quite late in the season). It's wise to mow shorter for winter to avoid snow mold.

3a) All that having been said, I leave mine long winter and summer. The only short mow is the first mow in March to get the dead tips off and let the sun hit the soil. Mow #2 will be in April and at full height.

4) Ducky. I have mushrooms everywhere, it's a sign of good fungal populations (mushrooms are just the fruiting bodies of fungal mats). If they bother you, you can certainly kick them over, but you haven't killed, damaged, frightened, annoyed, or otherwise had any impact on the fungus itself.

5) Deep watering more often will certainly help. I have the same issue on the north side of my driveway. I lifted the sod and put Terra Sorb into the soil underneath. That helped, but not all that much. Driveways are just an issue we have to deal with--I'm always tempted to turn that entire area into a garden and grow heat-tolerant plants, like dahlia, in it. Someday.

6) Unfortunately, no. Teeming with Microbes is a nice place to start, and Beard's Turfgrass Science and Culture are good to have, but neither are particularly comprehensive in terms of organic care or specific circumstances.

I hate to say it, but David and I (and a number of others) are the manual.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

1. Am I likely to have too much runoff on a sloped lawn if I try to apply 1 inch in one watering? Also, in the back yard (seeded, no underground watering) there are some spots that will pool up with that much water all at once.

If you are seeing run off before you have completed watering, then you need to break the watering up. Importantly, consider the 1" "rule" as just a guide.

2. I was told that watering in the evening would not cause fungus or mold. I think David differed on this point. How about watering in the early morning before dawn say 1/2 inch, let it soak in for an hour or two, then water another 1/2 inch around 9 am? Evening would be better, but not if it really causes problems of course.

Every time that question is asked, there is a different answer. I can tell you that I have watered in the evening for years with no ill consequences.

3. I am mowing at the 3" setting on my new Honda. Should I go to 4" for the rest of the season, and then work my way down to low at the end of the fall?

A higher setting during the hot months will help preserve soil moisture. Taller grass grows deeper roots, so mowing higher when soil temps drop below 64-70F whill help promote deeper rooting. Cutting shorter before winter can help prevent snow mold.

4. With all the rain, I am finding lots of mushrooms in the lawn. I've been ignoring them thinking they will disappear with dryer weather. Is this OK?

Although mushrooms and puff balls are sometimes associated with disease (fairy ring), mushrooms are more commonly benign and just a sign of OM.

5. I have a problem with the sod dying off next to the driveway. I think the Belgium block stones get too hot. Can deep watering fix this, or is something more drastic called for?

Deep watering will not fix it. best defense is to mist the grass to keep it cooler during the hotest part of the day if possible.

Take the advice and get that soil test.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

It appears I am a very slow writer. Sorry for the redundant answer. You seem to be in good hands, good luck.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Thanks morpheus and yardtractor!

I watered each zone for an hour last night, waited 2 hours, then did another 1/2 hour. I got a bit under 1" measuring with just two large tuna cans on each side of the yard. Here's a question for you: In the back yard I'm watering with a hose and regular oscillating sprinkler. I calculated that it will take over 5 hours (at 4 gpm) to get 1" of water in just about half the backyard! Having said that I did have quite a bit of water in the tuna can after just about 2 hours. I guess I'll have to measure the dispersion from the oscillator more closely.

So I'll get some samples over to Logan Labs. Did I read something here that I need to ask them to test for microbes, or do they just to a complete test regardless? When I have those results I'll report back.

Morpheus -- thanks for the useless information -- I think it actually has value even if some don't care! Yes, my lawn is beautiful but it is only less than a year old. I want to be sure I keep it at maximum health. The whole back yard is not sodded, so I needed to understand how best to bring that area up to speed as well.

Thanks again everybody!


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

OK, it's been like 5 minutes since my last post and I have another question. Not to appear co-dependent, but I don't want to reinvent the wheel, either!

I thought I'd get a sampling tube. I don't want to spend $100 on something like that, but I found a 7" for $20+ and a 12" for $30+. I like the idea of the 12" sampling tube because the 7" seemed a little short and could get down to a max of 6".

What do you guys use? I hate the idea of cutting chunks out of the lawn with a spade.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

duplicate post deleted.

This post was edited by danielj_2009 on Mon, Jun 30, 14 at 17:49


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Dude, that's not codependent, that's just being a lawn freak. Chill. It's all good. :-P

I use a garden trowel to lift the turf in a small area, take a sample, tamp the turf back down, and move on. I generally try for a dozen samples at the minimum, all dried and very well-mixed.

I try for a good sampling of the profile down to 4", but don't get too worked up if it tends to be a little on the deep end of that. The turf roots are large and in charge, so sampling above 3" is almost impossible.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Sorry, I reversed these.

5 hours for an inch from an oscillator is around correct; they tend to drop about 0.2" per hour at the widest range settings.

One inch of water on one square foot is 0.6 gallons. Most hoses can deliver around 6 gallons a minute., so you could theoretically water 10 square feet per minute to 1 inch.

Logan will test for organic matter automatically, but I've never asked for a microbe test. Mostly because my status has always been known; low when I started, phenomenally high now.

I'd just ask for the standard test--$25 I think--which will give you more than enough to think about and work on for a year or three.

Other than that, using organic feeding will increase your microbe population (and worm, and OM-consuming insect populations) automatically. If you don't happen to have the species of microbe that eats a given item, wait until the next rainfall. You will at that point. :-)

"Sterile" soils, as they come out of the kiln, stay sterile for about two seconds after they cool to below 160°. The air is full of bacteria. For the same reason, I never add bacteria to my compost bin, but still manage to accumulate tons of new ones in a matter of hours.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Yo, Morph! Nice to see you, period! Don't be such a stranger.

You have not only not been forgotten, you continue to be an inspiration, vicariously, through me and my liberal use of the photos I have lifted. Now you know why I bugged you for info on what you were doing. I didn't want to get it wrong or be misleading. Hope you find my memories to be accurate with the image first posted above.

Since most of the topic has been covered, I'll add this...stick the trowel straight down into the soil and lean it forward to open up a gap behind the trowel. Then pull the trowel out and stick it in about 1/2 inch behind the first incision. Scoop up the soil in the trowel and stick it in a baggie. Do that in several places around the yard.

Getting the watering right is the most important part of lawn care. Next is mowing height. Then fertilizing and soil chemistry wind it up. Note that using herbicides and insecticides is not on the list of important parts of lawn care. If you're watering, mowing, and fertilizing right, you won't need the -icides. Morph might rearrange that list, but that's how it works for me. I think a big reason the neighboring lawns look so anemic next to Morph's is watering and mowing too low in the summer heat. They could have had Morph's seed, soil, and fertilizer, but if they were watering every day for 10 minutes and mowing too low, they would get what you see.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Hey, feel free to use the photos if you want (I notice you're always careful to give full credit, which is great).

You'll see me around here more now that my schedule loosened up a little. Over there...nyet, for obvious reasons.

I tend to agree on the order of things. Watering first. If you water incorrectly, it's going to set off so many issues that you'll fail on everything else.

Mow properly. In my case, it looks so much better in that photo because I actually water properly...and mow high so I don't have to water that often.

Secret: Shhh, please don't tell anybody! I only water my lawn every 9 to 12 days during dry periods when it's fully wilted and beginning to edge towards dormancy. Philosophically speaking, the lawn has to stand on its own roots as much as possible, which means growing deep roots.

Soil chemistry is the literal base of everything, but an improperly watered and mowed lawn is never going to look good. On the other hand, a soil with poor chemistry will never grow enough grass to bother watering or mowing properly, so there's that as well. Fortunately, most soils are not that poor--although mine started out that way!

Fertilization is important, but wow, you can mess that one up easily. If you prefer synthetic fertilizers, NEVER fertilize during the summer (on a northern lawn; something like Bermuda differs). It's a really fast way to kill the grass. Organics, have at if you wish...but I do prefer to lighten up during summer as it's still a minor stress.

--cides, almost never. However, I do use Tenacity in April on the inevitable outbreaks of P. annua. There were four small ones this year.

That having been said, herbicides have their place. If you're starting with a really weedy initial lawn, sometimes you just have to clear the deck of weeds to get a handle on things. There's nothing wrong with that, but I don't recommend making a habit of it.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

"--cides, almost never. However, I do use Tenacity in April on the inevitable outbreaks of P. annua. There were four small ones this year."

Let me just ask this out of curiosity. I understand the whole no -cides thing. What about pre-emergents especially if you have poa? I used a pre-emergent this year with great success. It completely eliminated poa from my yard which I had moderate problems with the last couple of years. If it wasn't for this one weed (no clue what it is) or shady spots in my bermuda that are thin, my lawn would have been totally weed free.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Sure, I regularly use Prodiamine (Barricade), which does help suppress P. annua and P. trivialis sprout a bit. The stuff soil-binds very strongly, doesn't kill any even semi-mature plant, and has no appreciable impact on bacterial, fungal, worm, insect, or mammal populations that I've ever heard.

I never object to a pre-emergent!


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

OK. I think Dimension is what I picked up from the John Deere store. No compalints about the results.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

About watering: I understand about encouraging deep roots. Let me ask sort of a philosophical question, though. Let's say I have underground sprinklers and a nice lawn. What is the danger in watering every night and letting the roots be more shallow? I understand the grass will be more resistant to heat stress with long roots, but is it more things like 'wet ground encourages weeds and disease,' or more related to the health of the grass itself? I'm not talking about situations where people mow too low in high heat and water too little. In that case it is clear that the grass will suffer.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>Let's say I have underground sprinklers and a nice lawn. What is the danger in watering every night and letting the roots be more shallow? I understand the grass will be more resistant to heat stress with long roots, but is it more things like 'wet ground encourages weeds and disease,' or more related to the health of the grass itself?

A little of a lot of the above.

Damp soils encourage weed growth by providing constantly perfect conditions for sprout and development.

Constantly wet soil is an invitation to infections, not only in the roots but also in the blade. Wetter soils will tend to support juicy, softer growth during seasons when the grass is supposed to be toughened up a little. Summer patch loves juicy growth, as do many other heat-loving diseases, and the warm damp conditions nurture them very well.

Deep, wide, dense root systems form more associations with fungi and bacterial mats. Those form part of the plant's immune system, albeit a minor part. More importantly, they mine resources that the plant can't otherwise get to or that the root is unable to extract. You're shorting your grass on resources by watering too much.

If you suddenly go into watering restrictions and have to stop, your grass will rapidly shock, go dormant, and has fewer roots to store energy to bring it back. It's going to die a lot faster and easier than mine will in identical weather. Mine will also tolerate that weather better for longer before wilting.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

OK thanks morpheus (and also Dave). I think I'm going to splurge and just get a sampling tube. It seems less invasive somehow and easier to get a larger number of samples. I'm sure if you are accustomed to the trowel method then a sampling tube is unnecessary.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I hate to say it, but David and I (and a number of others) are the manual.

I'd like to comment on that statement by morpheuspa. I know it is off topic, but he put it out there in reply to the OP. This summarizes my journey to become someone that he might say that about. Get comfortable, this is kinda long.

These days anyone can easily become an expert at something if they have an interest. GardenWeb was my first lawn forum. When I came here my lawn was a mess. I could not put enough chemical fertilizer on it to make it improve. I had spreading dead spots that would never recover even after resodding. I was watering every other day or so in the summer, and I mowed at the mower's lowest setting. In other words, I was doing it all wrong.

We have a couple of gardening guys that come on the radio on weekends. One of them, Bob Webster, had been a commercial orchid producer and held many other horticulture industry jobs. Currently is partners in a retail nursery. I had listened to him a couple times during the 90s and noticed he was leaning toward organic materials in the garden - chiefly compost, to cure certain issues. Then in 2002 I was listening and someone called in to talk about black spot and powdery mildew on roses. I paid attention because I had the same issue. He suggested scattering corn meal under the plant, on the plant, and soaking some corn meal in water and spraying the plant with that water. I flew home and did what he suggested. It worked! Not only did it clear up the black spot and PM, but I have not had aphids on my roses since that weekend. All of a sudden I was very interested in organics.

I found GardenWeb and went immediately to the organics forum. Back then they did not retain so much history so it was easier to read everything that everyone had said. I quickly sorted out who knew what he/she was talking about and who didn't. I went to the library and got a few books and magazines. What I found in the books was strictly old school, Rodale based, organics where compost is king. The non-Rodale magazine articles were simply gibberish written by non-gardeners getting paid by the word. They mixed up vegetable gardening with lawn care and vice versa. As of this very minute, nothing has changed in magazines. Books, on the other hand, are getting much better.

What changed since Rodale? In the late 90s, DNA testing became so inexpensive that someone decided to test dirt. Prior to this testing the dirt industry believed there might be as many as 50 different species of microbes living in the soil. Petri dish experiments were able to discover about a dozen, but they just knew there had to be more that would not grow in the lab. What the first DNA tests showed was 35,000 different microbial species of DNA. Suddenly all the old theories went out the window. Scientists knew that with only 50 species of microbes, not very much biochemistry was available to perform the miracles that soil was suspected of performing. But with 35,000 species, it was easy to make the leap that actual plant food could be produced right in the soil. Enter Dr Elaine Ingham and her treatment of the topic of soil biology.

Dr Ingham has become the guru's guru on that topic. She has parlayed her knowledge into becoming the queen of the Soil Food Web and the actively aerated compost tea industry. More recently she was named the chief scientist for the Rodale Institute. She and her followers have become the leaders in modern organic industry. I was a follower of hers on a little known Yahoo forum. While they were focused on adding more microbes to the soil using compost and compost tea, I was going a different direction.

My approach was to live with the microbes already in your soil and simply feed them. There are special cases where compost is needed, but in my opinion those are very special cases where the soil microbes had been poisoned with chemicals. Most of the people on the GW organic forum had been using compost, but a very few used odd fertilizer treatments. One lady from British Columbia used used coffee grounds to fertilize her lawn. She had undeniable pictorial proof of the benefits. Then I had to ask, "Did coffee beans have NPK value?" Back then there was a website from a feed store operator called, "The NPK of Stuff." They listed coffee grounds as having actual NPK. Looking around I found other sites listing the food values of different animal feed materials. I cross compared the two lists and found that the animal feeds with the highest NPK were also the ones with the highest protein levels. Drawing on my limited physiology background, I recalled that protein was composed of amino acids containing nitrogen (end of science discussion). BINGO! That had to be it. Protein was the key to organic fertilizer.

The corn meal that I used on my roses contained the protein which fed the microbes in the soil. It also has carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Wait! What about using other animal feed materials on the lawn? Well it turned out my feed store had corn for $3 per bag or alfalfa pellets for $8 per bag. I was out of work at the time and went with the corn exclusively and did not try the other materials. I did; however, see the potential for the higher protein materials and recommended them to the various forums I participated in. Back then I was only using 10 pounds per 1,000, but it worked a miracle on my lawn. The microbes had been so starved for real food that their populations exploded.

I hung on to 10 pounds per 1,000 for far too long. It was not until morph showed me the benefits of overdosing that I realized I was seriously underdoing it. I bumped up to 20 pounds for everything and my yard improved again. In the meantime corn had gone from $3 to $20 while alfalfa pellets only rose to $12. So now I use alfalfa.

Along the journey I had to unlearn everything I had known was the truth about lawn care and learn this new stuff. There is currently a guy here on this forum who is overwatering his lawn and in complete denial. He has fungus running rampant, but he won't stop watering simply because all his neighbors are doing it. He originally thought the problem was root knot nematodes. Well, in 10 years on this forum, rkn has never been an issue one time. He needs to unlearn what he knows to be the truth about watering. Over watering is an issue 80% of the time. For a long time I fought and resisted and argued about the benefits of watering frequently. Then a professional lawn care guy from Phoenix came to the forum. He and I fought for 2 weeks until he posted a picture of a beautiful Phoenix lawn that had not received any water for a full week. It was May, so the temps were just starting to get into the 100s every day. That was it. I had had my mind changed. You remember those days. I changed my watering schedule that day and weaned my grass off of 3x per week down to once. My weed pressure has gone away and nutgrass disappeared (slowly but disappeared!).

I don't recall my "mowing high" epiphany, but that was more or less based on simplification. When you look at the scientific studies of grass growing, they will recommend mowing height of 2.12439828593 inches, or so it seemed. But another variety of the same grass "must" be mowed at 2.13 inches. Well, I'm sorry but it's grass. It either needs to be mostly tall or mostly short. As it turns out only three grasses really become denser when mowed short. Those are creeping bentgrass, centipede, and bermuda. The first two I consider to be weeds and the third is only not a weed if you have a TIF variety. Thus most people should be mowing high. How high? The only easy definition is all the way up on your mower. Mower's differ but all the way up is guaranteed to be high. As it turns out further research revealed there are many benefits to mowing high. Mowing high develops deeper roots, provides more shade to the soil, prevents rain from directly hitting the soil (a rare source of true compaction), and it helps prevent weeds. I have taken 'mowing high' to the extreme in my weekday house and let the grass grow up to 32 inches. Don't want to belabor that, but taller grass is really better and easier to care for.

What I have done here at GardenWeb is hang on for the long haul. I have become the "corporate knowledge" simply due to longevity. There have been ups and downs with management here, but I'm pretty much back now. I am the organic lawn care moderator on two lawn care forums (not GardenWeb) and an absentee moderator on a third. Ten years or so ago I realized the same questions were getting asked all the time, so I wrote the Organic Lawn Care FAQ. I could be wrong, but I believe morph based his lawn care practice on that guide and has customized off of that. I know there are thousands of others who have converted to organics based on the simplicity and 'no hassle' approach I put out there. Having lived in half dozen forums for 12 years I have become "the manual" as morph said in the opening quote. Fortunately it is simple to be the manual because there are only three aspects I have to remember: water deeply and infrequently, mulch mow at the highest setting every week, and fertilize (preferably with organics) three times a year. The hardest part, besides sticking around, was the unlearning. I am still unlearning things from morph and his experiments, so I consider him a mentor.

I believe another reason morph said that like he did is that there are other people around writing books and on the Internet who have excellent intentions but don't follow through. These guys are good at local horticulture, but they make blanket statements which do not apply outside their region. For example a writer from Iowa might say grass always needs to be mowed high. Well, generally I agree with that, if you live in Iowa, but it is not universally true. When a Bermuda lawn owner reads that he or she might do the wrong thing and set their mower up high. Or the expert might say "never apply fertilizer in the summer." That is only true for chemical fertilizers. Or the expert might say to scalp your grass at the end of the growing season. That works for some but not in the south. Or they might recommend (PICK ONE: core aeration every fall, compost, seeding in the spring, topdressing every year). Those happen to be things I seriously disagree with, but I'm willing to explain myself where they don't. Those things won't kill your lawn but they require unnecessary expense in time and money. So when I read these other professional book writing experts, I'm looking for the blanket statements which are not universally true outside their context. I think morph and I know each other well enough to know where we stand in the community of lawn care knowledge.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>I could be wrong, but I believe morph based his lawn care practice on that guide and has customized off of that.

It was a factor. But as you said, some of the things differ by locale, and my methodology here in PA is fine-tuned to our long winters and for northern lawns, which differ considerably from your Texas weather and grass species.

My feedings, when done "normally," (which is to say I'm not hurling stuff around all the time) stack into fall as our weather is breaking colder. That would be a mistake on most southern grasses.

I do disagree on your definition of "weed grasses" most strenuously. A weed grass is, simply, a grass type I don't wish to have in my lawn. To me, a gorgeous fescue plant is a weed. So is a gorgeous bit of Abbey bluegrass.

If Abbey bluegrass, St. Aug, bentgrass, or centipede grass rock somebody's world, I think that's great. More power to them. To me and thee, they're weeds. To that person, cherished lawn.

Somebody had the audacity to criticize my Janie marigolds as "overdone weeds." No, in my garden they're beloved friends, reliable bloomers, and an attractant for bumblebees and several species of butterfly and moth. They tolerate blistering heat, low water levels, low feeding, any soil type, and look great. What's not to love?

I actually wrote a blog entry about that experience defending supposedly "overdone" plants.

There were other factors in my journey as well, notably soil chemistry. I find it to be a very ignored aspect of lawn and garden care--particularly in the Northeast, where rainfall is high, and collapsed soils are fairly common. pH values in my general area are often low enough that jaws drop when others see them (4.5 is a reasonable value for an untended soil, with the concurrent issues of calcium and magnesium deficiencies).

Historically, I started ... wow, eight years ago when I got my first major lawn. Over time I've been a moderator at one forum, but left there a while ago when it went to pot.

All that having been said, watching the number of people who mindlessly water every day (my back neighbor), seed in spring (everybody but me and my mother), mindlessly toss down lime (my cross-quarter neighbor) and so on, there's certainly plenty of bad methodology going on out there.

>>I think morph and I know each other well enough to know where we stand in the community of lawn care knowledge.

I am uncertain whether this is a compliment, an insult, or merely a neutral statement. :-)

Kidding, of course. We have different modes of operation, but they're not all that much different. They're just tuned for our locations.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

It's interesting to see the person behind the curtain/pics.

A bit disheartening that you are organic centric, but I've learned to tolerate dchall. :)

Who knows, I may be able to show you the "light" and bring you both over to the "dark side" eventually.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

As the OP of this thread, let me officially state that I am happy for this thread to turn into a discussion of you guys' (can you tell I'm from NJ?) backgrounds, sordid as they may or may not be. :)


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

yardtractor: I don't know any of the history between you and dchall, and I don't want to start something that's already been finished elsewhere, but I have a question. I take it you are not an organic-minded guy and prefer the conventional way of lawn care. Would you mind discussing what I am missing by trying to go organic? Or, do you have a blog or other resource that discusses your position?

Here is where I am at: My house was in our family for many years, and the lawn was always neglected (barely ever fertilized even... but it grew every year and hung in there). I now own the house outright. We flattened the house and rebuilt, along with a new sodded front yard and seeded back yard. As a kid I wanted to go organic, but the Jerry Baker methods just didn't seem feasible. Now, I have a beautiful front lawn and back lawn that is coming along and I don't want to screw it up.

So after coming in here and reading everything, my plan is this:

1. Get front/back soil test,
2. Treat lawn as recommended from soil test,
3. Water 1" weekly depending on heat,
4. Mow at max height (approx. 4"),
5. Add cornmeal and/or alfalfa and/or ? at intervals recommended here,
6. Adjust cutting height at end/beginning of season.
7. I think that's it.

What am I missing and/or what more do I need? Is your position that the protein supply is not enough to keep the lawn healthy?

Just curious, and trying to gather as much info as I can while there are still people around who seem interested. :o)


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

This is, to my mind, the best site I have been able to find relative to lawn care. I have been following his cutting height recommendations, but haven't had need to consider whether I needed anything at all to take care of thatch. (I take it here that thatch does not need to be removed regularly).

Anyway, do you guys know this gentleman, and do you have any comments on his website?

http://lawncaresimplified.typepad.com/


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

No ill history. I respect dchall's opinions and experiences. We would probably have stronger disagreements in other phases of lawn care (e.g. watering, aeration, seeding) and I try to limit my comments to KB lawns.
There is a dearth of "synthetic" advocates here and just about any other public lawn forum and a plethora of "organic" proponents.
My comment was meant as nothing more than a bit of good natured ribbing. Plus, I owed morpheuspa for sticking his tongue out at me.

I am not PRIMARILY an organic person. I am guided by what I consider the most effective processes whatever it may be within reason. I use organics to supplement, not as my sole source. So, no you aren't really missing anything by going organic in the general but possibly in specific circumstances.
There are some things I like about synthetics.
1. Control: I can have some determination of when the the nutrient gets into the root zone and to the turf. ( I don't have to wait until environmental conditions are to a micro-organism's liking or guess when some microbe is going to take a crap). I have my choice of WSN, WIN and proportions of each if desired. I can select the coating (sulfur or polymer) used to determine the WIN process of release. I have a plethora of nutrient choices and proportions of NPK. I can get it w/wo iron if I like.
2. Cost: Pound for pound of nutrient, synthetics are a fraction of the cost.
3. Control; did I say control? Did I mention cost?
I do use organics to some extent on a regular basis. I like to ensure a good soil web, and I have taken advantage of some of the hormones that some organic materials can provide. And you would be hard pressed to find a better source of iron than Milorganite, but I'm not sure it is truly an organic.
I do not have a blog, this is the only LC site I post on and I do it for fun and to try to help folks out.

What you will find promoted here is that with proper turf care, you shouldn't develop thatch problems. If you do have thatch that is thicker than 1/2", you need to take care of it and the only way to do that is by mechanical means (lol--dchall is going to disagree on that one I think)

This post was edited by yardtractor1 on Tue, Jul 1, 14 at 18:45


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I don't object to synthetic feedings (I use one myself as winterizer as it's too cold for organics to work at that time).

1) Control. True to a point, although on average I can pretty much tell you when something will hit. If I see a rainy period, I know the soybean meal will work in 2 weeks. If average, 3 weeks. If dry, not at all (but if dry, I wouldn't want it to anyway).

When starting out, it's harder to estimate that. Over time, you do learn to anticipate when the lawn will be wanting a feeding. My next feeding is scheduled for August first, to take effect just about the time night temps begin to drop.

2) True for many, for me, I'm not sure. It costs me $45 to feed 10,000 square feet of lawn with 1 pound of nitrogen via soybean meal, which is a touch higher than the synthetics.

Given the other benefits I get out of it (increased soil OM, a wide range of trace nutrients, increased worm population, and no major flush of growth), I always call it a win.

3) See above. :-)

Now, then, I'm not saying I don't use my magical homemade Kelp and Humic Acid mix, or homemade soil conditioner quite regularly. I do, although usage this year has more been in the gardens as the lawn is nearing its optimal state. I'm not happy in the gardens unless I can dig down 4" with my fingertips.

That adds to cost and effort. But both are completely optional and I've stripped the price down to very, very reasonable.

A good organic program also eats your thatch. I have a gorgeous, dense, lush, green KBG lawn...with no thatch, and I've never dethatched and don't plan to ever do so.

A good hybrid program, like what YardTractor1 is mentioning he uses, will do exactly the same thing.

Really, which one to use is up to you. If somebody insists they must use synthetics, I'll be more than happy to help you out. And yes, it does happen--one "client" (if you can call somebody you help online for free a client) is of advanced age and not such great physical health. Synthetics are lighter, easier to spread in fewer trips back to refill, and just what he needs.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

This thread is meandering and careening wildly all over the place. Sorry about that, you'll find that I'm chatty.

1. Get front/back soil test,
2. Treat lawn as recommended from soil test,

Perfect. Keep in mind that you probably won't be treating it too much until September (doing this stuff in summer is not a great idea), and may not finish before next year when the next soil test rolls around. Or you might finish. It depends on the problems, if any.

3. Water 1" weekly depending on heat,

Awesome. In blistering weather, twice weekly at 0.5" may serve you better, but you'll see when that's useful. The grass will wilt on day 4.

Bluegrass isn't known for its extensive root system (not like fescue or rye), so what it considers blistering hot is lower than what other grasses do.

4. Mow at max height (approx. 4"),

Spotless.

5. Add cornmeal and/or alfalfa and/or ? at intervals recommended here,

Hum. Corn is great for soil conditioning and to give minor fungal protection (it comes coated with and encourages the growth of trichoderma fungi, which are the vampires of the fungal world). It's a lousy feeding at 1.65-0.65-0.40 equivalent. 10 pounds per thousand is sufficient for fungal protection, once per year. I hit mine in May.

(David hates it when I quote NPK numbers for organics, but it does serve a purpose in letting you know what ballpark you're in). Sixty pounds per thousand of corn is required to supply 1 pound of nitrogen.

Alfalfa is roughly 2-1-2, so only 50 pounds per thousand is required. BUT, and it's a huge but, alfalfa is dumping growth hormones on the lawn as well. Excessive amounts actually stunt growth, and no more than 20 pounds per thousand per month is recommended. Less than that is, as far as I'm concerned, a better idea.

I'd drop alfalfa once at 20 pounds per thousand (20 per K as we usually say) in August to encourage September root growth--if you even bother with it at all. It's not strictly necessary.

My recommendation, if you can get it, is soybean meal. At 7-1-2 it ties for the highest hitter in terms of nitrogen (cottonseed meal is of identical measurements).

Fifteen pounds per thousand is all you need to supply 1 pound of N. For me, 150 pounds does the entire property.

How often? Not in July. Early August, sure, if your night-time temperatures are like mine and start to drop in late August. Then again in early September and October, and again around May first or so next year.

6. Adjust cutting height at end/beginning of season.

Works for me.

7. I think that's it.

Not quite.,,

>>What am I missing and/or what more do I need? Is your position that the protein supply is not enough to keep the lawn healthy?

Eventually, yes, but at first you're not going to have the microbes in sufficient numbers at the right depths to keep everybody happy--but it doesn't take long at all to get them.

Still, you may find your September performance lagging a bit. If so, don't be afraid to use half a pound of nitrogen in the form of any good synthetic. It won't hurt anything unless you have to lime, in which case just make sure the two are separated by 2 weeks and at least one good rainfall.

Additionally, northern lawns really want to be winterized (you can get by without it, as my mother does, and perform beautifully over winter and into spring, bu it really does help and I don't believe in shorting young lawns).

For that, any good synthetic. Apply at 1 to 1.5 pounds of N per thousand (I lean closer to 1 pound), and apply it when top growth stops and you do the last mow (or at least the last significant mow). For me here in eastern PA, that's usually around Thanksgiving, give or take about 2 weeks.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

"A good hybrid program, like what YardTractor1 is mentioning he uses, will do exactly the same thing."

You are too kind and I'm afraid I may have mislead you into believing I have much of a hybrid program. The only organic application I have applied the lat couple of years has been Milorganite right before July with an occasional second application after the first of August depending on conditions and my mood. Not sure that qualifies. I do mulch mow and mowing a very dense lawn every 3-5 days makes for a lot of clippings for OM. I just went out and parted my lawn in a couple of places and nothing but black soil. I'm happy. I'm sure if we continue to post here any differences of opinion will reveal themselves and will get due attention.
Yes, age and a fixed income does have a tendency to color one's view.

danielj,
As I mentioned, in general, organic care will serve you well and I see no problems with your plan. That doesn't mean that this fall, if we are both still here, that I might not suggest a synthetic app. or maybe even a mechanical process depending on circumstances (and my mood).


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

To quote an old, green sage, "Much to learn, I have." The added discussion about tweaking as necessary with synthetics is interesting. The good news is I don't have to learn it all at once. With your guys help and a soil test I'll be on my way. Thanks!


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Ain't nuthin' wrong with synthetics.

Shhh! In the flower gardens, fully half my feeding is synthetic. It's the only way to thunder in enough resources for heavy, constant blooming of 750 plants in 2,000 square feet. Or the only way without having a constant miasma of decay over the garden, overwhelming the flowers.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Or the only way without having a constant miasma of decay over the garden, overwhelming the flowers

Hilarious!!! He's referring to the "aroma" you get when you apply enough organic grains to actually have an effect on flowers.

I figure about $5 per 1,000 square feet per application of alfalfa pellets. I don't have any idea what chemical ferts cost per 1,000.

In retrospect, as I learn more about soil and grass, Jerry Baker's biggest mistake was relying on small amounts of ammonia as the sole fertilizer. Grass needs pounds and pounds of N to benefit. Ammonia won't supply that. But the rest of his ideas, soda, dish soap, beer, etc. were possibly ahead of their time - or at least ahead of the typical lawn pro's understanding. Also he was very vague on coverage for his concoctions. And his tobacco juice may have been slightly dangerous, but I don't see anyone dying from it.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Ok. I feel I must defend the world of synthetics.
Total annual cost per/M:
Triple 12 -applied 1 1/2# (some years just 1#) = $3.99
Urea - applied 3 1/2# (some years just 3#) = $3.04
Milorganite - applied 1# (sometimes 2# depending on synthetics) = $5.32
Total cost of 5# N/M of synthetics = $7.03
Total cost of 6# N/M with "organic" Milorganite = $12.35

$5.00 to apply 1# of N/M using alfalfa?

You really want to have this debate?


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I'm sure, because it's not a debate. Cost per 1,000 is simple facts. Thanks for your experience with the various materials.

Actually I don't know if that is a pound of N with alfalfa or not. That is a rate that works a miracle on my lawn and it works out to about $5 per application.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Unlike my lawn, I have a very, very dry sense of humor, acerbic maybe. I'm not attempting to discount organics, bait you or trick you into somehow admitting that synthetics are superior to organics.

The point is for those of us on a budget, do you really think $7.00 per M of alfalfa is going to produce a (KB in this instance as nutrient needs are going to vary) lawn the equal of a lawn given $7.00 per M of synthetics on an annual basis?

In other words, if a person were to say, "I want a first rate lawn. I live in Utica, New York and have a KB lawn and can spend no more than $10 per M on annual maintenance," what would you recommend?

This post was edited by yardtractor1 on Thu, Jul 3, 14 at 0:59


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>And his tobacco juice may have been slightly dangerous, but I don't see anyone dying from it.

Except bees. Nicotinoids and neonicotinoids are horrible for bee populations, as well as other pollinators. They're so peripatetic that the poor things get exposed to many plants.

>>The point is for those of us on a budget, do you really think $7.00 per M of alfalfa is going to produce a (KB in this instance as N needs are going to vary) lawn the equal of a lawn given $7.00 per M of synthetics on an annual basis?

Superior performance, actually, assuming that the soil chemistry is good, the owner always mulch mows, and we're not talking about the first to third year. Organics tend to hang around and cycle about over and over again. The fungal associations and bacterial populations in the root zone can't be underestimated in their importance.

Really, 75% at minimum of a plant's life is under the ground. That above-ground stuff is only there to gather carbon and sunlight--all else is sourced from the soil.

Synthetics are absolutely superior in the case where the soil chemistry is whacked. They don't care that, in my locale for example, the average pH is 4.5 and rainfall tends to be 4.0. Unfortunately, they also react acidically in their final state (urea's initial is intensely alkaline but the resultant is an acid) and tend to throw the pH off further and leach calcium, magnesium, and potassium over time.

Synthetics will still be more effective in the proper pH range (personally, my lawn's balanced at 6.2-ish, the gardens around 6.4, but I balance lower than average). They'll still leach resources, however.

I could almost certainly do this more cheaply with basic urea, but I don't touch the stuff. It's too easy to make a (big) mistake with a very small amount of material.

And yes, I put urea on the synthetic side even though it's an organic molecule and produced organically in large quantity. For most of us, the definition of organic also includes, "contains significant amounts of organic carbon including protein, lignite, cellulose, etc."


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Sorry I edited while you posted. Interesting insights have you. Refreshing to see someone who appreciates the importance of being "rooted."


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

If someone believes that chemicals are the only thing that fit into their lawn hobby, then I would recommend at least one application of organics per year to feed the soil microbes. One of the problems that can happen when the microbes get no food is what is called a see-saw effect. When the microbial populations collapse they cannot tend to the roots properly or process what is left of the chemical fertilizers. You end up needing more and more chemicals to see the normal effect. Then all of a sudden, blammo and the grass either dies from stress or explodes in growth. When the explosion effect subsides, it seems to sink to a new low and requires more and more chemicals to get the greening. At some point the stress on the grass will combine with other stresses and it will be prone to disease or heat. This is too easy to avoid with the occasional use of organics.

Back 15 years ago, the only organics was compost. In my neighborhood, with delivery, compost costs $75 per 1,000 square feet for one application, so the idea of using grain type fertilizer really cut down the cost of organic lawn care.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I saw see-sawing first-hand in my own soil the first couple of years, but the chemistry was in a fully collapsed state. Name an element important to plant health...I was deficient on it. Except manganese. Whoopee.

Warranted, I went in the opposite direction and my top-flight year was over 1,300 pounds of organics per thousand square feet--a lot of which was importing leaves from every source I could get my hands on in October and November. Hauling a grand total of 9 1/2 tons of OM to cover lawn and gardens in a growing season was no great fun.

I was trying to see if I could overload the soil. The answer was a resounding "no," although I did walk out of that with an organic matter percentage over 14% and worm populations that can actually be kind of gross in rainfall.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I understand your not wanting to answer the hypothetical. Hopefully you aren't stating that grass clippings don't qualify as organic OM or that they didn't exist until the last 15 years. I may disagree with your unsupported convictions but I do respect your religion. ;)


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>I understand your not wanting to answer the hypothetical. Hopefully you aren't stating that grass clippings don't qualify as organic OM or that they didn't exist until the last 15 years.

Did I miss a hypothetical in there? Sorry, this thread is getting hefty.

Grass clippings absolutely count as OM and can easily raise an established, older lawn to 6%-7% OM all by themselves in this area. It may take a long time (grass blade being mostly water), but it'll get there.

I've never done anything but recycle grass clippings, although I do occasionally steal a little bit for the compost bin. By default, my robotic mower only mulch-mows, but my Toro will happily do either.

Returning grass clippings doesn't do anything to actually feed the lawn, but does recycle some of what was used to feed it in the first place.

They can't correct a soil imbalance as they grew there in the first place--but I don't generally use organic methdology to correct an imbalance in the first place. It's too slow, and the actual content of a given element is too variable. I tend to lean toward sulfate-based chemistry for that as it's gentle, but still quite fast.

While grass clippings have existed as long as there's been grass, most people haven't grass-cycled for very long. It's only recently that cities and towns have encouraged the practice, or refused to take bags of grass.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

"Did I miss a hypothetical in there? Sorry, this thread is getting hefty"

Yes, I edited my post while you were posting, hence the apology post.

>> " if a person were to say, "I want a first rate lawn. I live in Utica, New York and have a KB lawn and can spend no more than $10 per M on annual maintenance," what would you recommend?"

I am not debating which is better (that has been beaten to death over the years and I'm not foolish enough to argue that a lawn doesn't need microbes), just cost.

"Hopefully you aren't stating that grass clippings don't qualify as organic OM or that they didn't exist until the last 15 years."

I was responding to dchall's statements about a collapse of the microbial populations. I have seen studies of nutrient requirements based on maximum growth potential, but I have never seen any study related to the level of microbial populations required for a health turf or the minimum levels of OM necessary to sustain that microbial population level. All I do know is that I've had a healthy lawn using my current practices, however, if I were to change my prctices and use nothing but synthtics and started bagging, I would expect the lawn to eventually suffer. I don't know when. It may be months or decades. (please spare me opinions folks, but if you have studies, feel free to chime in.)

"Returning grass clippings doesn't do anything to actually feed the lawn, but does recycle some of what was used to feed it in the first place."

As stated previously, I was alluding to using clippings to feed the soil (microbes/organisms) rather than feeding the turf. In regards to feeding the turf, I understand that the microbe population processes some amount of OM NPK into nutrients that are then available for use by the turf, but I must admit I'm a lot lost here. universities and turf management organizations tend to agree that the NPK value of clippings is 4-1-2 give or take. I've never been able to grasp that NPK levels/measurements aren't really applicable to organics. So I'm at a disadvantage here.

This post was edited by yardtractor1 on Thu, Jul 3, 14 at 15:04


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>> " if a person were to say, "I want a first rate lawn. I live in Utica, New York and have a KB lawn and can spend no more than $10 per M on annual maintenance," what would you recommend?"

Prayer. On my lawn, that's $100 over the whole thing.

In this particular instance, I'd recommend one synthetic application--when top growth stops at the end of the season. Of all the feedings, that one is going to increase survivability the most.

There's enough cash left over for a second application and a bottle of Weed-B-Gone concentrate. That second app, I'd recommend soybean meal in early September.

Spot treat weeds as necessary.

If temperatures were compatible--they're not--I'd recommend using soybean meal in November instead for a little added organic material in addition to the September app.

>>I was responding to dchall's statements about a collapse of the microbial populations. I have seen studies of nutrient requirements based on maximum growth potential, but I have never seen any study related to the level of microbial populations required for a health turf or the minimum levels of OM necessary to sustain that microbial population level.

I've seen no studies either.

Eventually, yes, it'll suffer. Synthetics, having no carbon in them, tend to burn soil carbon to use the nitrogen. Bacterial action is required in most cases to turn the N as applied into N the plants and bacteria can use. To do that, they need carbon for energy (sugar) and structure (reproduction).

If you start with a very high OM percentage, that could be a long time (assuming no-till, no aeration methods like most lawns get).

>>,,,universities and turf management organizations tend to agree that the NPK value of clippings is 4-1-2 give or take. I've never been able to grasp that NPK isn't really applicable to organics. So I'm at a disadvantage here.

Dry weight. Grass clippings range from 75% to 85% water, so only 15%-25% of the weight is applicable.

Yep, they do, but you also just returned the clippings to the same ground they came out of (which supplied all those resources in the first place). Nobody's saying that grass clippings don't reduce fertilization requirements. They sure do!

And you could import grass clippings in large masses to feed your lawn. 25 pounds per thousand of completely dry grass clippings (quite a lot) would supply 1 pound of N, assuming no resource losses during the drying process. But there you're going outside your local patch to bring in resources to add to your soil.

Analyzing that fully, it would seem that nature never gets ahead. Fortunately, that's false. Some nitrogen comes in during every rainfall (about 3 PPM, more in thunderstorms). Resources flow in via rainfall as well since raindrops tend to form on dust particulates.

It's not enough to maintain the kinds of lawns we like, however.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Two quick items:

1. What exactly is OM?

2. This is probably the least user friendly forum I've ever used. I have my preferences set to notify me of new emails in threads I'm contributing to, but I've never received an email that someone has posted. I do have my settings set to allow this as required. Anybody have any idea why this happens? I tried to contact the admins, but they never answer questions.

Thanks!


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

OM= organic matter (alfalfa, leaves, clippings, sludge, etc.)

Can't help you with #2.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

1) What YardTractor1 Said. :-) Sorry about the abbreviations, I do it without thinking.

2) Nor can I help you, I've never gotten the notifications to work correctly for me.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

OM, Organic Matter. I figured something like that.

So in NJ we got the outskirts of hurricane Arthur, which has blown out today. It got a little windy and we had periods of heavy rain. So anyway I have these large industrial cans of tuna I put out to check rainfall. Since we always think rain drops more water on the lawn than reality, I was curious to see the totals.

On the 2nd we had some heavy rain and I found 1" of water in the can. Yesterday, the 3rd, I emptied the can just before the next round of storms. This morning the dang can had just over 2" of water!! I was shocked. So that makes about 3" total on Wed and Thurs. I had already watered the lawn with 1" last Sunday, so it's fair to say the ground is saturated. 4" of water in less than a week! The mushrooms are going crazy!

Anyway if I'm lucky my core sampler will arrive in the mail tomorrow, and I get get some samples to the lab. I'm very interested to see the results.

Happy and safe 4th to everybody!

Dan


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Hope you had a great Fourth as well, Dan!

Yeah, Arthur wasn't much on wind, but in a few locales it was hefty in terms of rainfall. In my case over the line in PA, we got exactly 0.00" from it. At one point we did get a fifteen mile an hour wind gust, though...

I use a basic digital rain gauge. It's OK, nothing to write home about, but was about $10 on Amazon. It does its job.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I've never been able to grasp that NPK levels/measurements aren't really applicable to organics. So I'm at a disadvantage here.

With organics we're feeding food to the soil. NPK is not food. Neither are the traditional chemicals which are found in chemical fertilizers. Grains, grasses, nuts, beans, and seeds contain protein, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Animals contain protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Protein contains nitrogen molecules which eventually get turned into plant food. Carbohydrates contain carbon which, to me, is meaningless except that carbohydrates are an energy source and carbon is a black, worthless element. Once you convert your mind out of NPK you never need to look back. High protein food like soybean meal makes a better greening fertilizer than low protein food like corn and coffee beans. But that does not mean corn or coffee beans are not valuable. Carbohydrates are good, too, they just don't green up the grass. Or do they??? There are microbes in the soil which absorb nitrogen from the air, thus providing more pounds of nitrogen than you originally applied. There is also added value in that a byproduct of protein decomposition is ammonia gas. When ammonia gas has no moisture around, it drifts away and becomes that aroma we are all familiar with a few days after you apply too much grain. But if you have a layer of old grass clippings on the grass, those dried out clippings can absorb the ammonia and hold it in place. If you ever had a stinking compost pile, all you had to do to stop the stink was cover the top with dry leaves. Smell stopped. Same thing with the grass. Mowed grass clippings form a micro-mulch which absorbs ammonia gas. Once the dew hits and rewets the surface, the ammonia trapped in the micro-mulch soaks into the moisture and can leak back down into the soil to fertilize the plants. None of these are chemical (NPK) processes. These depend on setting up the soil with micro-mulch and feeding organic food to the microbes.

I don't know if that clears anything up, but...

Back on yardtractor's side topic, would you mind posting where you buy your chemical fertilizers, what brand, what size bag, etc.? I'm not asking to check your numbers, but fertilizer seems to be a mystery to many people. If they wanted to replicate your values, where would they go and what would they buy? As for mine, you go to the feed store and get a bag of alfalfa pellets for $12 to $15.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

"Back on yardtractor's side topic, would you mind posting where you buy your chemical fertilizers, what brand, what size bag, etc.? I'm not asking to check your numbers, but fertilizer seems to be a mystery to many people."

I get my products from one of two sources. The first is a unique Mom and Pop Seed and Fertilizer store that I think a local farmer started years ago and his daughter and son-in-law run. The second place is the same place you probably get your organic fertilizers, it is a "common" Feed and Seed store (the type that carries fertilizer, bird seeds and animal feed pretty much in generic bulk bags) about 25 miles from me. This year I bought from the M&P, but their prices are usually within a few cents of one another, The only reason I don't buy from the M&P is if they don't have it which varies from year to year, but I always compare prices and availability at the beginning of the season.
I purchase 46-0-0 in fifty pound bags, this year for $19.95. If I get it from the Mom and Pop, it is usually labeled "Farm Grow," (not Fox). If I get it from the Feed and Seed it is just labeled 46-0-0 and in small print says "packaged by X fertilizer company somewhere in Ohio--sorry I don't have any bags from last year to be more specific on the company. This year, I purchased 50# bags of triple 19 labeled "Farm Grow" for $19.95 a bag. Once again, if I get it from the Feed and Seed, it is labeled generically. Usually I like to get triple 12 (easier to spread) but it was $15.95 this year, so the triple 19 was a better buy. I bought Milorganite Classic 6-2-0 in 50# bags for $15.95 again from the M&P, and the Feed and Seed had it for the same price.

" If they wanted to replicate your values, where would they go and what would they buy?"

They have got to be willing to do the research and spend a little shoe leather to find a Feed and Seed store that hasn't gone "commercial," They may have to travel, but if you buy everything in March or April like I do, it is one trip.

Edit:: the Farm Grow bag states that it is distributed by the Western Reserve Farm Cooperative,-if that helps.

Here is a link that might be useful: Feed and Seed Locator (kinda)

This post was edited by yardtractor1 on Sun, Jul 6, 14 at 8:41


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>Carbohydrates are good, too, they just don't green up the grass. Or do they??? There are microbes in the soil which absorb nitrogen from the air, thus providing more pounds of nitrogen than you originally applied.

Kinda. Nitrogen fixation is an extremely expensive process. It's most effective when in association with a plant, where the plant can feed copious carbs to the bacteria. When we grow them as crops (like soybean, clover, and so on), we tend to feed the plants.

You'll notice that most plants don't form that association. It takes 9 units of energy to create 1 molecule of N. It takes less than 1 unit to absorb N from the soil.

Free-wheeling nitrogen fixers are generally not very efficient. They'll spend most of their lives absorbing it like any other bacteria--the process is there for nitrogen-short periods (which never exist in my lawn and gardens).


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

...and the best nitrogen fixer I know of, wood rot fungus, works best above ground. But it happens and we don't know what the value added is to the process. There is so much we don't know.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>...and the best nitrogen fixer I know of, wood rot fungus, works best above ground. But it happens and we don't know what the value added is to the process. There is so much we don't know.

Exactly. Wood is very high carbon, very low nitrogen--either it needs a nitrogen fixing bacteria/fungus to deal with it, an insect (like ants), or a source of nitrogen (rare).

Grass doesn't form associations with nitrogen-fixing bacteria, so the best we can do is allow white Dutch clover into our lawns to fix some nitrogen for us via their root nodules. Even so, it's not adequate to supply all the feeding for bluegrass by a mile. Some heirloom ryes or fescues...maybe.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I'm not sure it's better or not, but I thought I'd keep all my lawn issues/questions in this thread. I have a question while I'm waiting on my core sampler to arrive:

Last fall my sod was new and we've had so much rain this year that I've watered the lawn only once or twice. I want to "wean" my lawn onto a 10 day or so schedule and I know you have to do that gradually. When I take a core sample for soil analysis, I assume I will be able to see the length of the roots. Is this a correct assumption, and how long should I expect them to be for a 10 day watering cycle?


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Oh yeah, this IS your thread, sorry Dan.

How deep for a 10 day watering schedule? It is just not that simple.

Soil structure and conditions (clay, sand, hard pan, gravel or bed rock layer, etc.) and turf type (KB, fescue, bermuda, etc) have a far, far greater influence on rooting than watering.
A root system 3" deep in a clay soil may last 10 days between watering, but a root system 12" deep in sand probably wont last 5 days.
The better route is to observe for signs of distress (wilting, leaf roll, color change) and let that be your guide. Every couple of waterings, you lengthen the period between waterings. Eventually, you are going to hit a wall, the tipping point, where you can't lengthen the period any longer without harming the turf.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

That's interesting. About stress from lack of water -- I know people say the grass will wilt and won't bounce back after walking on it. However, I've seen areas of the lawn in the past where it started to look and feel dry, almost straw-like under foot. The grass isn't brown and dead, just kind of dry looking. Even on my front lawn sod the section closer to the house is shaded in late afternoon and that area grows fastest and greenest. The lower section is in full sun all day, and seems to get dryer and stiffer, rather than getting that wilted look. Oh, it is KBG.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I've done plenty of 10 days intervals with st augustine grass at my old house during the summers. A lot of people could not believe that... The soil was turning out to be very nice after inheriting rocky limestone soil mixed in with a bit of clay based topsoil (they completely razed the whole place for new subdivision). Full of earthworms too. I'm having to start over at the new house. At least they did not raze the whole neighborhood plus they added 6-8 yards of nice topsoil to my lot. It will take several years to get the soil all nice... again.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I found vast inconsistencies the first few years that were unrelated to the location in the yard. It was, simply, that the soil was crap.

I have 69% silt, 30% clay, 1% sand from the jar test. That's not a textbook perfect soil by any means, although I tend to prefer high silt levels.

In sandier soils, grasses (and everything else) will drop roots very deep, but dry out pretty fast. In my soil, shallower roots grow, but they don't dry out that fast.

In a very sandy soil, you may never reach 10 days. In an organic muck soil, maybe only every 14 to 21.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I don't know if the Logan Labs test will indicate whether my soil is sandy or clay, but I can say it is pretty "normal" NJ soil. It doesn't seem overly full of clay and it definitely isn't sandy. Just kind of average, I think. I'll post more when I start getting tube samples.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Unless you request the test, they don't report that. And there's no reason to request the test, you can put soil in a jar, add water, shake, and let it settle into layers. Sand settles in 3 minutes, silt in 3 hours, clay in 3 days.

Sum the total height and each measurement and figure out what each percentage is.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Dan,

If you are under the impression that there is a formula for calculating the watering schedules or even soil water holding capacity based on a soil's sand/silt/clay ratios, there isn't.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

morpheus - thanks I'll do that soil test with the leftovers.

yardtractor - I hadn't thought that deeply. My lawn is new from last fall and we've had a huge amount of rain this year. So as we get into the hot months and I'm going to a 1 week/10 day/2 week? watering schedule, I realized that it takes time to get roots into condition to handle that schedule. Not having any idea how deep my roots are, it occurred to me I could just look at how long the roots are when I take core samples. If soil samples are to be taken down to 6 inches, and my soil is "average" it seemed reasonable to think the roots should be at least 4" long to handle the less frequent watering schedule. I understand now it is more complicated than that, but there must be at least some value in looking at the length of the roots, no?


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Also, I think Logan Labs just says something like to sample down six inches. To a newbie that's a little vague. I assume we are supposed to remove soil for sampling from where the roots are all the way down to 6 inches?


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

I sample the soil in a zone that is below 3" but above 5". And yes, the current root zone is important for watering. The plant can only drink from where the roots are, but you want an area of oil mist deeper than the root zone to encourage root development and as a "buffer to help slow percolation of water out of the root zone. I suppose you could use your fancy plug remover to check how deep you are actually wetting the soil after a watering as a guide to watering.

This post was edited by yardtractor1 on Thu, Jul 10, 14 at 9:54


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

yardtractor - yes it is quite fancy! lol I just got it in the mail today. I thought I'd try that, too - to check for water depth.

So I guess I'm going to submit whatever soil I get between wherever the soil seems free of debris/root bits, and down to about 6". I can't imagine there is a great deal going on down there at 6" deep. What's it called, the "microherd"? Dem critters hang out that deep?


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Critters hang out down to miles. No, seriously, there are chemotropic extremophile bacteria living down there.

Most don't have much impact on your lawn, of course, in periods of less than millions of years, so we ignore them.

I tend to recommend sampling to 4" deep, and make sure you record that on the Logan sheet (when reading a Logan test, I adjust your figures for the depth given on the report). For average soils, that's about right--the vast majority of your feeder roots will be in the top four inches, with only structural and water supplying roots down below. Resources below the four inch level don't matter so much.

The A (top or second from the top) zone of your soil has the most activity and holds most of the feeder roots. An O (organic) zone may exist above that, but it's strictly temporary although exceptionally active in terms of bacteria, fungi, and micro-arthropods.

B zone soils contain structural and water roots, but no real feeder roots. I'm not concerned about soil pH or mineral resources at this level--they'll get down there eventually anyway. It's nice to have good OM in this region, but it'll take considerable time to get it down there (less with lots of earthworms, which can zip right through the B zone and well into lower zones).

Lower zones generally only contain tap roots (which often double as roots for structural integrity as well). Resource management at this level is of no concern, as well as being practically impossible to manage. "Soil" at this level is frequently very stony (in this area, limestone and granite are both common). Soil life does exist at this level, but it tends to be very low energy due to the lack of oxygen.

Base rock is effectively non-living and not able to support life, although if you sampled it you'd still find a lot of bacteria and fungi down there, happily living slow lives never seeing the sun.

And yes, there's no plan for watering (which annoyed my father to no end). My plan? Water when it gets dry, which might be every ten days or not at all that season. So far this year, I've watered two or three times.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Fat-fingered , meant to type 3-5. previous post corrected.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Critters hang out down to miles. No, seriously,...I've watered two or three times.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I like hanging out where morph hangs out. He's full of information.

So daniel, what's up with you? After reading all the pertinent and impertinent information in this running multilog, what are you doing to fix your lawn?


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I like hanging out where morph hangs out. He's full of information.

Don't get too excited, most of it's useless, or useful only under extremely unusual circumstances.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

Please cal me Dan, dchall!

Well, I've been reading this and all the other threads, too. I don't know why I find this interesting, but I do (background in chem engineering). I guess mowing a perfect lawn is like stocking your closet full of clean, nicely folded clothes, or getting all the bills paid and out of the way...

ANYWAY, here's where I'm at on the lawn:

I just received my core sampler so I can send two samples to Logan Labs. I figure one representative sample for the front lawn sod, and one for the back seeded lawn. I'll report results back here for my marching orders. I am going to test my soil for sand/clay per morpheus this weekend.

It seems to me there are benefits of using both organic and synthetic treatments for the lawn. If I could use 100% organic in a practical way and have the best, healthiest and greenest lawn that way then that'd be great. However, I read things here and there like how the organic fertilizers don't really work in cold weather when the bugs slow down.

Ultimately I am looking to piece together a full-year comprehensive lawn care program. Since you and morpheus seem to be the manual, I have to come here for that information! I'm trying to learn everything I can now so I don't need to ask a million questions you've already answered elsewhere.

I plan to buy cornmeal and/or cornmeal gluten and alfalpha pellets and so on, but I wanted to sample the lawn as it is before dressing it up with anything. I also need to reseed some of the back lawn in the fall, and learn how to get rid of some weeds (use preemerg? in the spring)?

So all in all I'm looking forward to getting started on a great lawn program, but I have to do the sampling first.

Thanks so much for your interest!

Dan


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

background in chem engineering

OMG! morph, Dan is going to love Logan Labs!!

Dan since you have KBG, it's going dormant in the winter anyway...unless you listen to morph. It just so happens that he's been successful at minimizing dormancy in his KBG. And I have a picture...

That pic was taken December 1, 2010. DECEMBER and he still has a head-turning lawn. Did I mention that you're going to love Logan Labs? If you'll reread morph's plan, he uses organics all year long until his last app of the year. When the grass is still green but has stopped growing, he hits it with a chemical winterizer.

Regarding the cost of organics: Look at what you're trying to do. You already are 90% of the way toward having the best lawn in your community. With the Logan Labs test you can get the rest of the way in minimal time. Then look at your total square footage. Calculate the difference between using Milorganite/Alfalfa/corn meal or whatever you can find locally versus the cost of chemical ferts. The annual difference is going to be in the range of $10. I'm not sure if the chemicals will cost more or less, because a pure organic plan seems to have benefits of fewer issues requiring less chemical inputs. I'm talking about herbicide, insecticide, and fungicide.

And then consider that this is your hobby. You are not the average home owner. Stomping the snot out of your closest lawn competitor is your goal. People are going to stop and say, "What the He(ck)!" and they'll do that 12 months out of the year. People will come up to you and ask how you do it. You'll say, "I just water, mow and fertilize." The difference is you're watering, mowing, and fertilizing right.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>It just so happens that he's been successful at minimizing dormancy in his KBG. And I have a picture...

So you're the one who stalks my lawn. Actually, you're not the only one. :-)

That photo was taken in an ice storm, so I'm actually standing out there with ice pelting me on the head. The lawn remains green through February, but does tend to take a four week break if we get temperatures dropping under fifteen consistently--then it gets less green and may even brown a bit.

Some is the organic base. Some is the potassium levels in the soil (I set them higher than average). Some is using kelp in November to offset the tendency to go dormant. And some is the iron spray it gets in November to boost the color, increase how dark it is (which concentrates sunlight as heat), and increases photosynthesis even in the short days of winter.

>>With the Logan Labs test you can get the rest of the way in minimal time.

Mind what you promise. :-) Primary issues can be dealt with reasonably quickly, but if the pH is severely off (I doubt it from the photo) or another resource is way off (could be), correction may still take several years. Micronutrient corrections may take several years as well to avoid stressing the grass.

>>The annual difference is going to be in the range of $10.

Post the earlier question, I figured out that my four apps per year cost a grand total of $18 per thousand square feet, or not very much. Add in the final winterization app (synthetic) and it comes up to about $22.

I haven't bought any chemicals in years--I have enough Tenacity on-hand for another decade. Round Up...I dunno, fifteen years?


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>With the Logan Labs test you can get the rest of the way in minimal time.

My point, not very well made, was that if you don't use Logan Labs to test the soil, you might never get there. Minimal might take years, but never takes a lot longer.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

lol dchall... yes, of course the purpose of all this is to kick the snot out of the neighbors -- especially since my next door neighbor owns a big lawn care company! (just kidding in case you are reading this, Jason). This lawn was a mild embarrassment for a long time, so I guess I have some past scores to settle.

The cost of treatment isn't a big issue for me, as long as it is the right thing for the lawn, then the cost is OK.

I have to say how much I hate the forum software that GardenWeb uses - it is the least user friendly of any I've used (for things like inline quoting, email notification, etc, plus they never answer questions). However, the content is excellent!

Morph's lawn is awesome, especially since that is December! The green"ness" in the winter is what really brought me here. My sod was put down in early October, and it stayed very green for a long time. That got me thinking there might be a way to maintain that. Looks like morph figured it out.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

So how do you guys deal with weeds around the edges of the lawn, in the cracks between the driveway and belgium block, in your mulched areas, and so on? (That is, without chemicals). Just pick them out? Particularly on the driveway and on the curb at the street I feel like I need regular weed killer spray, if not in the plant beds.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>Just pick them out?

Yep.

If the task is daunting (read, I ignored the gardens for far too long), I'll use Round Up in a sprayer that has a good tip. It can focus the spray down incredibly fine and only in a ten degree cone in front of the head. Isolation of individual weeds is pretty easy.

At most cracks and edges, I've applied a good amount of Prodiamine, sufficient for full-season protection. I do the same on the stone patio and front walkway so I'm not constantly pulling weeds there as well.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

"Add in the final winterization app (synthetic) and it comes up to about $22."

My gawd son, you don't need to buy the gold coated urea prills. Urea shouldn't cost more than $1 a pound.

If money isn't a consideration, definitely go organic with a synthetic urea winterizer for maintenance once your lawn is firmly established. As this is a newly sodded lawn, I'd suggest you do the organics and add spoon feeding triple NPK late summer and late September, substitute it for the winterizer and spoon feed it again next Spring and continue that schedule through next year and maybe even the next Then go straight organics (with the synthetic winterizer) for the rest of your life.
Just my 2 cents.
As far as weeds, get in the habit of walking your lawn before mowing it (you should doing this for safety anyway.) With experience you'll recognize which weeds you can reach down and pull root and all. The others, just spot spray with Ortho. If you keep a healthy lawn, you will eventually have very few weeds and even fewer that require spraying.


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RE: Sod - how green is green?

>>My gawd son, you don't need to buy the gold coated urea prills. Urea shouldn't cost more than $1 a pound.

I don't use urea. (Nose in air) It's a terrible, planet-destroying chemical.

No, but seriously, I produce the stuff myself in copious amounts. In my case, it's more being used to organics, which means that I'm used to seeing stuff hurled around. I don't have a good feel for smaller amounts, so tend to purchase 29-0-3. The margin of error is considerably greater.

And fortunately, lawns in November in Pennsylvania are very forgiving to begin with. Anything from 1 to 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per thousand is perfectly OK, and even slightly more than that will be tolerable. I target 1.2.

>>As far as weeds, get in the habit of walking your lawn before mowing it

Actually, I never do--because I use a robotic mower, so I never really mow the lawn, per se. I send out the robot, touch a button, and off she goes.


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