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In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

Posted by elbow_grease 5 (My Page) on
Sat, Aug 10, 13 at 13:35

Hello everyone,
I have been browsing this forum for about 5 months now and would appreciate some advise on starting an organic lawn care program. This is my first post and it is going be be kinda lengthy. I apologize in advance for any ignorance towards this subject.

A little background about me -
I live about 1 hour south west of Chicago and recently have decided to go the organic route. One of the main reason is because of my 2 dogs, 1 has terrible environmental allergies and this time of year particularly he licks, and bites his paws uncontrollably. Other reasons are because my wife and I live in a fairly new neighborhood and whenever someone moves in they tend to stop by and almost always the lawn care conversation comes up. Soooo, I think if I can (with your help) come up with a program that I can implement I would be able to help my neighbors. Anyways that is my motivation. When I used a lawn care company (tru Green) my lawn did indeed look good, but I felt guilty and knew there was a better approach.

I have been reading a lot of post about the subject and the more I read the more I get stir crazy. I think I have a decent understanding of the terminology and process of organic lawn care. Formulating a plan that I can put on a calendar and follow is my goal.

Here is what I have done so far-
An aeration done in March and put down a couple applications of Milorganite fert. (now I know there is no need to aerate the lawn after reading many posts) I do have a sprinkler system, but haven�t used it very much this year due to a rainy season so far. I mow the grass at the highest height my mower will go. 3-1/2 to 4 inches. My biggest problem is weeds. Some clover, and other weeds I cannot identify.

Some info that may help you help me-

My house sits between 2 vacant lots, that are mowed 2-3 times per year. Behind my house there is a business that has a mole infestation (which I have under control on my property) My soil is a sandy clay mix, parts of it are very dry and my whole yard is on a pitch. I believe I may have water
absorption problems in some areas. The front of the house faces the south and the dry problem areas are on the NE side. Some areas of the lawn where I get a decent amount of moisture and the water gets absorbed I have very little weeds and the grass grows great.

I would appreciate anyones support in helping me achieve an organic lawn care program. After everything I have read I just want to make sure I have the right plan in place for the zone I am in.

Thanks in advance,

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

I only use organics as a supplement, so I'm not your guy for recommending a purely organic plan. It would help people advise you if you were to identify the type of grass you have. I take it you don't want to use chemicals for weed control either? Have you had a soil test? Have you done a jar test?

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

My lawn is KBG, My goal is to do this without the use of chemicals, if I need them to get this under control then I will. I have not had a soil test done either and please forgive me but I’m not sure what the Jar Test consists of.
Below is a pic of the dry area i was referencing in my original post.

Thanks for the reply grass

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

A jar test doesn't have much to do with developing an organic program. I asked about it as an aid to addressing your "dry area" problem. A number of things can contribute to "dry areas." For instance: In compacted soil, the soil particles are so close together that there are no spaces available for air or water to penetrate. Excess magnesium can create tight soil conditions which also can prevent water penetration. Sandy soil can allow water to perculate through so quickly that little is retained for use. Some soil microbes can create a hydrophobic film that repels water. Soils high in silt or clay can create a crust that repels water. Soils low in OM content don't hold moisture as well as soils with higher OM. etc.
A jar test can help determine some of the possible sources/causes/cures of dry areas. (soil profile) A soil test can point to some other possible sources/cures ( magnesium, low OM) Some causes/cures are trial and error.
A jar test is a simple, no cost test that will help you determine if you really have high clay content. Remove a piece of sod and dig down to the 3" level' Then remove the soil from the 3-5" level and place it on a clean piece of paper or carbord and remove as many of the stones and pebbles and roots as reasonably possible. Place the soil in a mason sized jar so that the jar is ablut 2/3-3/4 full. Fill the jar with water and cap the jar. Agitate the jar to suspend all of the soil in the water. Set the jar on a table where it wont be distured and after 2 minutes mark the level of the soil that has settled out. after another 2hrs mark the level that has settled out and after 24 hours mark the level again. The soil that settles out in the first hour will be the sand content of your soi. The soil that settles out during the next 2 hours will be the silt and the soil that settles out on top of that will be the clay. Even if you don't make marks, you should be able to identify distinct horizons/layers. By comparing the ratios of the marks to one another, you sould be able to calculate the sand to silt to clay percentages of your soil. (You may not have the clay soil you believe you have. Mine wasn't--it turned out to be high in silt)

This post was edited by grass1950 on Mon, Aug 12, 13 at 9:18

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

Did you use the milorganite at the recommended bag rate? Because it looks like it hasn't been fertilized in a year. The dark green spots are likely where your dogs pee and turn the grass green. When it is properly fertilized you won't see those spots.

During the summer, for the weeks you did not receive a full inch of rain, you should have supplemented the rainfall to get the rest of the inch. When the high temps are barely making 90, then you can go to once every 2 weeks. These water apps should be a full inch all at one time so it soaks down deep.

The beauty of an organic regimen is you don't need a schedule. But as a minimum you should fertilize 3x per year. Once in late spring (Memorial Day is good), once in early fall (Labor day is good), and once in late fall (Thanksgiving is good). The normal application rate for a grain type organic fertilizer is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Grain type fertilizers come from grains. SHOCK! Grains include corn and wheat but also beans like soybean and other plants like cottonseed and alfalfa. These are distinguished from the animal matter fertilizers including blood meal, meat meal, fish meal, and others. Another class of organic fertilizer is the animal byproducts like feathers and dung. These work completely opposite from each other but I've put them together just for classification here. Grain type ferts should be used at somewhere between 20 and 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Animal products should be used more like 5 pounds per 1,000. Feathers can go on at any rate as they don't decompose very quickly - at least until you have used them for a year or so. Something like poultry litter works well as an additive to other organic fertilizers. Use it at the rate of the other fertilizer schedule.

Can you overdo organic fertilizer? No. One of the gurus on another forum wanted to increase the amount of organic matter in his soil, so he applied 50 pounds of Milorganite and soybean meal every weekend all summer long. The only thing that happened is his lawn became the best lawn on the planet for 5 months. Actually it was the best for 12 months because it remained green all through the year.

So basically you and your wallet can come up with your own plan. I would use 3 apps per year as a minimum. Grain type organics will not burn so you can use them any day, or every day, of the year.

I would get the grass fertilized and get the watering under control before doing anything about the weeds. Once the grass is greened up and the weeds, too, then you can spot spray the weeds with Weed-b-Gone Chickweed, Clover, and Oxalis liquid. That's the full name. After you get the weeds out, the KBG should fill in and help keep them out. The infrequent watering mentioned above will help keep them out.

Mulch mow weekly at a minimum of 3 inches. I've seen KBG mowed at 4 and really like the look. Taller grass holds the water longer and has deeper roots to go get it. It also helps keep weeds out by shading the ground better.

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

Grass, and dchall,
Thanks so much for taking the time to help me out. I will be doing the Jar test this weekend and will also be getting some fertilizer. Should I continue to use Milorganite? And where would I find soybean meal.

To answer your question DC, I did use the fertilizer at the recommended rate but only did one application this season, which was in March. Knowing that I haven’t been watering correctly I wasted time and money. (thank God I only did one app)

I posted one more picture of a “decent area" of my yard, which is still the back yard where the animals roam. I believe this part of the yard thrives because of the grade of the yard and the water runs off to this area. This is on the North/ North West side. Am I correct in my assumption?

It seems to me the parts of my yard that get the most sun tend to be more dry and the grass doesn’t grow as quick which promotes weed growth. And these areas are also on the slope. I have been reading about applying shampoo to the lawn for better water absorption. How will I know if this should be done?

KBG will spread on its own I have read, but I have been told by “lawn care professionals” to over seed every year, when I aerate. After reading some posts (which was after I already aerated) I read not to over seed in the spring EVER. I do have some small bare spots and a few un level areas that I plan on covering up later this month. I have a bag of Scotts Lawn Soil for this, but don’t not have any seed. Sorry for trailing off but have lots of questions and I don’t want to make any costly mistakes.

Thanks again fellas.

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

I'm always amused that people balk at spraying shampoo. It's going to cost you a dollar or less and it's sort of fun to do. Just do it. Do it once today followed up with an inch of water. Then repeat in 2 weeks. The second application spaced out really makes the difference. Okay, $2. Everyone who tries it seems to like it. I participate on another forum where the people can be very skeptical. Even they are all advocates of using a surfactant. Many of them use a custom soap formula, but shampoo works for me.

Yes you should never seed in the spring. You'll end up with a crabgrass lawn by July.

You only need to bring in more soil if you want to raise low spots. Why? Because that's all it can do. If you don't have a low spot but want to improve the soil, then use organic fertilizer and get a good soil test.

Your lawn, by the way, looks beautiful in the pic above.

Shop for organic fertilizers (alfalfa, Milorganite, and soybean meal) at your local feed stores. They are everywhere. You probably drive right by them without noticing.

You used the milorganite a little early to still be seeing the benefit now. Had you used it in May it would be greener. One of the beauties of organic fertilizer is you can use them any day, or every day, of the year.

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

It has been 24hrs since I started the jar test. I took 2 pics but not sure how to post them at the same time so sorry for that.
I’m not sure that I did this right but it doesn’t look like what was described.

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

This pic is of a sample of the dirt I pulled out. It is like a hard mud ball, the consistency of pottery clay. More than half of what is in the jar is filled with this, the rest was muddy water.

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

I'd be pretty comfortable saying you do have a high clay content. I suggest you try shampoo per dchall's directions, increase watering freguency at lower durations and see if that helps. If not, you can try more drastic measures. The good news is your soil is going to have a high TEC and can hold a lot of nutrients.

This post was edited by grass1950 on Mon, Aug 12, 13 at 22:24

RE: In Need Of An Organic Lawn Care Schedule

If I might take pause. You have KBG and a pretty good stand of it. Besides shampoo and a change in watering schedule, I'd suggest ramping up the KBG. The best defense to weeds is a thick lawn. Stong, deep and prolific rooting can go a long way in improving any soil profile.
I can't say if this would be compatable with your pet issues, but I'd push KBG spreading with a Fall synthetic program (search Book on KBG on this forum) and a pre and post emergent program. Use synthetics (or organics if you must if temps coop) to keep the turf green into late Fall. Once topgrowth stops (probably very early November) apply 46-0-0 urea. KBG will continue producing roots until ground temperatures hit freezing in the root zone ( research has shown increase root growth of turf winterized vs unwinterized tur)f and the additional available N will feed this growth, The additional N and the continued photosynthesis of the still green grass into late Fall will also help the turf store carbs for early Spring green-up and truly prolific Spring spreading. The improved turf density from spreading and increased rooting will improve water absorbtion and retention and will reduce weed infestation next year. Once KBG has the upper hand, it becomes a bully.

This post was edited by grass1950 on Mon, Aug 12, 13 at 23:10

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