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Winterkill and trench composting

Posted by ZoysiaSod 6a/6b St.Lou TranZon (My Page) on
Wed, Dec 21, 11 at 18:33

Winterkill can happen even before winter and before any snowfall. My next door neighbor who spent $500 to
machine-aerate and seed his front lawn with a cool-season
mixture has a lot of winterkill showing right now.

He left lots of leaves on his lawn for a long time, and
a couple weeks ago he noticed grass was dying underneath
the big, matted leaves. I volunteered to rake his front
lawn free-of-charge last week since he's an older man who
is retired and his wife died several years ago of cancer.
He's also a really nice guy.

Wow, his lawn has about 30 spots of dead grass, each
spot roughly 4 inches by 3 inches (some a bit smaller,
some bigger).

I raked the leaves off my own lawn a day or two later.
This was the second time this season I raked leaves off
my lawn. A couple other times, I mulch-mowed the
leaves into the lawn. No winterkill here.

After raking, I dumped all the leaves in my veggie garden, and went to the nearby library to bag-mow part of its
cool-season, green lawn in order to dump the nitrogen-rich
green clippings onto my leaves in the veggie garden, so
the carbon-rich leaves will decompose faster, enriching
the soil for next season. My zoysia is all brown now, so
I had no choice but to get the green clippings from the
library's lawn.

It's been cold lately, like 40's and 30's. But on leaf-raking and bag-mowing days, the temp was 55 and 56* F. Good stroke of luck.

I then used a pitchfork to mix the leaves and grass
clippings into the garden's soil. I guess this qualifies
as "tilling"--though not roto-tilling. What do you
think of tilling that stuff into the garden soil? Should
I have just left it on top of the soil without
pitchfork-tilling it?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

....Or maybe I should have used a straight-edged spade (instead of a pitchfork) to disturb the garden soil less, but still enable me to cover the leaves and grass clippings with a layer of the soil? In other words, to form a soil sandwich with leaves and clippings in the middle of the sandwich?


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

Help! My mom is killing the Soil FoodWeb with MiracleGro. I love my mom, but I gotta stop the killing.

Laugh-out-loud, this book called "Teaming with Microbes" puts some strange ideas in your head - Lol. But the ideas are probably correct, I guess.

My mother tends to her vegetable garden while I tend to the lawn. I know next to nothing about growing veggies, and she knows little about lawn care. The veggies are her domain; the lawn mine.

I guess I'll make the soil in the veggie garden as organically fortified as possible before next season's onslaught of MiracleGro kills all the beneficial fungal hyphae and bacteria in the garden soil.

I doubt I'll be able to convince her to skip the MiracleGro next season, or the 13-13-13 synthetic fertilizer, but I'll try to convince her to use less of each.

She did grow a bumper crop of egg plants last year.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

I just realized my question in this thread is off-topic, and belongs in the Soil forum. And luckily, I found the answer to my question in that very forum in this helpful and revealing thread, much of which was contributed to by the insightful kimmsr. Thank kimmsr.

The thread: http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/soil/msg111537195022.html?24


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting 2

Oops, the link to the thread is bad. Here's the correct link:
http://forums2.gardenweb.com/forums/load/soil/msg111537195022.html

The thread is called "Do you rototill in your mulch?" For newbies like myself, please don't forget all the other wonderful forums on GardenWeb, like the Soil and Compost forum :-)


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

By the way, I tilled just one-fourth of the veggie garden the other day. The other 3/4 I'm leaving as is, with the leaves and grass clippings on top of the soil as a mulch, not tilled in. I'll let Mother Nature work her cool-composting magic.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

That other forum generally deals with bedding soil, not lawn soil. They talk about tilling in the context that nobody will ever walk on the soil. Someone on that thread discussed the destruction of soil structure (worm holes and other capillary effects which develop with time). There are three reasons not to rototill lawn soil. The one I talk most about is the development of an uneven surface as the rototilled fluffy soil finally settles. The second reason is the destruction of the evolved soil structure. The third reason is the destruction of the microbial habitat. Microbes that live at the surface cannot survive even one inch below the surface. That holds true for microbes at all strata. Those that live on roots cannot survive at the surface. When you rototill, you set your garden soil back by a full season as that's how long it takes to recover the firmness, structure, and microbes.

Mulch is the undecomposed remains of plant life. If you pile it up it will decompose and become compost. Most mulch stock requires tremendous amounts of nitrogen for the fungi which decompose it. Those fungi will take nitrogen from every source available. If you bury undecomposed organic matter, the fungi will "rob" nitrogen from any fertilizer you apply as well as take all the available nitrogen created by microbes. If you bury too much mulch, you can easily have a yellowing effect on the plants that may last longer than one season no matter how much fertilizer you apply. When the mulch is finally decomposed, then the plants will green up again.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

dchall...You said tilling sets your garden back a full year? You are a fool my freind. Every thing you will ever eat in the form of vegetables bought in 99% of stores comes from large farms that till thier soil 5-6 times a year. I till my 60 x60 vegetable garden at least 6 times a year and incorporate loads of fresh leaves and horse manure (raw uncomposted) into the soil in the fall. During the growing season I scatter and till fresh clippings dropped off by my nieghbors by the bushell (between the rows). For you to say its set my soil back a year is an out and out lie. Hell I grow fantastic gardens and non of my OM is ever composted before I till it into the soil. I do have to admit that to be on the safe side I do apply 20-20-20 slow release lawn fertilzer every fall (Sept) Tilled in and watch my garden compost itself untill spring.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

Oil Robb. With all due respect to your ignorance, the OP is better served taking dchall's advice on matters microbial and organic. He has years of research and experience in those areas and I have seen much support by other knowledgeable sources for his positions.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

I think David is wrong - the tilling will not set the soil back a year.

It's more like two years.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

"I guess I'll make the soil in the veggie garden as organically fortified as possible before next season's onslaught of MiracleGro kills all the beneficial fungal hyphae and bacteria in the garden soil."

This is an absurd statement, that is completely false.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

I just throw my fall compost on my veggie garden for a few weeks in late fall. In winter, to kill my boredom, I use either my garden claw or garden fork to knock it into the top foot - granted the ground rarely freezes here. The worms do the rest. By Spring, I have great soil with very little effort. I started out with clay, now it's black year round. Thanks worms!!!


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

Zoysia Sod said: Help! My mom is killing the Soil FoodWeb with MiracleGro. I love my mom, but I gotta stop the killing.

That is probable the dumbest thing I think I have ever read on here. You have no clue what you are talking about.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

Texas-Weed wrote:
> That is probable the dumbest thing I think I have ever read on here. You have no clue what you are talking about.

So I'm gone for a few months and the Synthetic Fertilizer Cultists attack while I'm away.

Texas-Weed, try reading a book for once in your life, namely the well-respected book called The Soil Food Web.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

TW speaks/writes from decades of experience as a professional grass farmer. In terms of the soil food web, there might be some negative effect on the microbes from spraying chemicals. And that effect might be measurable in a laboratory. But in the end, that effect is not noticeable in a well cared for lawn. That's why commercial farmers have been using chemicals for 100 years on the same soil and getting away with it.

And for the record, we cultists did not revitalize this thread. Someone had a question about something I said which led to it getting a second look.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

ZS said: Texas-Weed, try reading a book for once in your life, namely the well-respected book called The Soil Food Web.

Why don't you take a drive out in farm country for some serious thought and ask yourself a serous like: Why am I alive if what i believe were true?

Think about that while you drive past all that farm land treated with the same fertilizer just like Miracle Grow, just sold under a non commercial market name. If what you believe was true, all that farm land and you would be dead. However it is alive and healthy soil keeping you alive and fat. But based on all your silly comments and beliefs you have expressed here over the years. I doubt you can figure it out.


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RE: Winterkill and trench composting

Dchall wrote:
> And for the record, we cultists did not revitalize this thread.

Now David, I know you're not in the Synthetic Fertilizer Cult or any other kind of cult for that matter. You're a rational Organic Practitioner except when you've gone astray and, on occasion, have used RoundUp, which scares the Bejesus and the Bemoses out of me. (But being a rational atheist, I guess they were both scared out of me long ago, but I would still not use RoundUp.)

However, Texas-Weed is for sure a Synthetic Fertilizer Cultist. He's as mean and aggressive in his Fertilizer beliefs as any other kind of cultist, just like the Not-See cultists of Germany early last century. T-W is a fertilizer Not-See.

And, no Texas-Wee , I'm not fat as you insinuated. I'm actually athletic, thin, and a rational jogger to maintain cardio health. So kindly quit it with the fat propaganda. Some of my best friends are fat [Lol].

By the way, I've never been clear on this. Do you spell your name Texas-Weed or Texas-Wee ?


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