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To rototill or not to rototill.

Posted by grass_man (My Page) on
Fri, Jul 20, 07 at 14:49

I am planning a complete renovation soon and plan to add 2-3" of compost to my neglected sandy/gravely soil before I reseed. I have a soil test in the mail including organic content.

I plan to rototill in this compost (2 year old shredded leaf compost from township). Is the rototilling necessary for this ammount of compost? If so, I plan on getting started right away in order to give time for one or two more Roundup applications. Will 2 - 21/2 weeks be enough time for the soil to settle?

If I could avoid tilling what would be the maximum ammount of compost I could spread on top of slitseeding? Dependant upon my soil test results, is it possible to topdress with compost the nexy few years to build it up?

After spending some time on these forums, my goal is to prepare my soil for a transition into a more organic approach for fertilization.

Any input would be appreciated.

Note-I have one of those KBG help treads open but wanted to open a fresh one for this topic in part to some of buzzsaw8's concerns. Bestlawn is a very popular gal right now for her knowledge. I wanted to get her attention for help but gladly will listen to exeryone's opinion. Thanks everyone.
grASS-man <--That's for CosmoKramer and all of you Seinfeld fans out there.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: To rototill or not to rototill.

Grassman, I just addressed this but i will cut and paste. Regarding tilling compost into your soil. I am a great advocate of compost, but I dont think you should rototill your lawn. Just kill it, rake it, aerate, plant, topdress with compost, fertilize and water. If you cannot topdress all your lawn, then do any problem areas you have. Topdress with compost next year. Do mulch-mow all your leaves into your lawn. They will de-compose in place where you intended to compose t. 1/4 to 1/3 inch is the amount of compost for topdressing. Thats about one cu yard per 1000 sq ft. purchase it in bulk. Read this FAQ for more information

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic lawn care FAQ


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RE: To rototill or not to rototill.

Grassman - Some follow-up on my previous post. Great idea to get the soil test. So many people neglect to do that. Amend your soil PH as necessary. I discouraged you to rototill 2 or 3 inches of compost into your soil for several reasons. 1. Compost continues to decompose, it essentially disappears. That could leave you with a rough and bumpy lawn. 2. Tilling brings up tons of weed seeds that you dont want. 3. You are talking about a tremendous amount of physical work here. Not only is it possible to overdress every year, but it is the best thing you can do for your lawn and gardens. Sprinkle compost on any problem areas you have several times a year if you can. Go ahead and use starter fertilizer and a good pre-emergent herbicide in the spring. If you do decide to go organic next year, then soil PH, and NPK will take care of themselves without any amendment necessary, thus reducing the need or relevance of further soil testing. One other thing you should know, top dressing is optional when you plant grass seed. Its highly recommended, but you can have excellent results without topdressing. Just keep it moist.


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RE: To rototill or not to rototill.

Thanks for the info!
I plan to add 1/4 to 1/3" compost to the whole yard.
I am glad you and others from my search have discouraged tilling (especially quirkyquercus). My plan I guess if fairly simular to others this time of year.
My schedule is actually a copy, paste, and edit from vkolte01

July 28 - Round up lawn.
Aug 4 - Round up second round.
August 17,18 - Cut down the lawn as small as possible and bag the dead grass.
August 18,19 - Core aerate
August 18,19 - seed, add fertilizer, add compost

Barring unforseen problems, I will have a "homemade" irrigation system, using a 4 way hose bib, orbit timer, and differing spray heads. I have reviewed this thread a couple times from the irrigation forum.

http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/lawns/msg1000522723270.html?15572 - sorry, I could not get it to become a link

Now all I need to do is decide on what type of grass seed; KBG or TTTF. decisions ... decisions.


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RE: To rototill or not to rototill.

I wouldn't disagree with the advise above, but, I think like everything in gardening the "best" answer depends on your particular circumstances, and, to some extent, your personal preferences.

I've done it both ways with success.

Personally, if I had a yard that had been neglected and had heavy soil that was highly compacted and very low organic matter content, I'd rototill in much more than a top dressing amount of compost.

You will eventually get there using a top dressing, but it could take longer, by a matter of years.

Now, if I didn't have heavy soil or it wasn't compacted and had a decent amount of organic matter, I would not rototill.

Some would say tilling is never a the best answer. They might be right. But, in certain circumstances they better also be pretty patient to see their results catch up.

As usual, its a matter of degree and decisions, decisions. Good luck.


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RE: To rototill or not to rototill.

I hear you rcnaylor . My soil is actually sandy/gravely and not compacted. I will know the amt of organic content for sure when the soil test is back from PennState. I think using a little of my township's leaf compost now will give it a big boost. I have about 10 healthy maples in the back yard which supply more than enough leaves for future year's compost addition. It's way too many leaves to mulch-mow in. I will have to step up production of my backyard compost.

Thanks for the advice.


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lawn care forum

My family is helping me put in a new lawn this spring. I have about 1/2 acre so it'll be a lot of work.

Some have done their own lawns and did they did rototill.

I live in NE Ohio where the soil is solid clay! I do understand rototilling may improve drainage which is an issue for me. I will be adding about 2 inches of new topsoil.

I don't want to take too much advantage of their willingness to help, so if rototilling isn't essential to a good finished project, I'd like to avoid it.

I'm a novice so I'll appreciate your help.


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