• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Help with lawn  RSS feed

 
                        
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have been gardening organically for some time now, but my husband is still hesitant about going organic in our lawn. I'd prefer to just do away with the grass altogether and plant veggies and native plants, but that isn't going to happen. We're due in August with our first, so I convinced him to lay off the chemical stuff for this season at least.

The problem is that our front yard looks worse than ever - browning, bare spots and weeds. We used some chicken manure, gypsum (we have a dog and gypsum seems to help with her pee spots) and Scott's organic fertilizer in April and applied more fertilizer in June. The front yard is severely thatched, and we haven't had to mow it in 4+ weeks because it just isn't growing (aside from the weeds). We have had clover pop up in some spots, which we've never had before. Again, I'd prefer to just leave it, but hubby says no way.

Background: we live in central Indiana in a subdivision. Our front yard was sod, and our backyard was grown from seed. The backyard looks great - a little dry in spots, but nothing you wouldn't expect for a July lawn. We have to mow in the backyard at least once a week. The soil throughout the yard is heavy clay. We water minimally (an inch a week if there's no rain) and if necessary for an hour at a time early in the morning. We mow on the highest setting and only mow when it gets around three inches tall.

SOO I have to figure out a way to rescue this lawn or I'm going to lose my shot at going organic, and my husband will be back at the chemical crap next year. HELP!
 
                                  
Posts: 99
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would renovate the lawn with a slit seeder. This will pull up the thatch, slit the ground and seed all in one step. Remember to remove the dead grass. Water it in real good and through some organic fertilizer on it. You could also core aerate prior to seeding and top dress with some know organic compost. You'll see very good results this way. In the future you won't need to dethatch or aerate. The worms will do that for you, once the soil detoxes.

Good luck
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 21477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
How high does your mower mow?

You mention that you mow when the lawn gets to three inches.  If that's the case, then I think your mower is the source of the problem. 

Go dig a hole in your front lawn and tell us about it.  Maybe upload a pic. 

 
jeremiah bailey
Posts: 343
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The best thing to do right now is not do anything to the lawn. The lawn is going to sleep for the summer and doesn't want to be disturbed until early September. Just keep mowing it, but set your mower to 3" minimum.

You're definitely mowing too short. You should be mowing it down to 3", not mowing it down when it gets to 3". Being from central Indiana as well, I can attest that lawns around here love to be longer. Believe it or not, your lawn will actually grow in height slower if you do this, and you won't need to mow nearly so often, unless you want to. It also adds to your overall lawn health by allowing the grass to put its resources into plant health, instead of having to heal itself every time you mow. Instead of the grass putting all of its resources into regrowing the tops, it can build a healthy root system. Set your mower to at least 3" and you'll see dramatic improvements in a few weeks, especially once the fall grass growing season kicks in. Its not the end all, cure all, but its your best bet right now. That should also help your thatch problem. The lawn grows slower, therefore creating less thatch buildup when you mow.

Stop watering over the summer. The grass is going dormant and doesn't benefit from watering. However, your weeds love the water! If you want weeds, then now is the time to water! So stop the watering. Your grass will get a little brown. That's what healthy grass does around here in the summer. The main thing is you won't be watering your weeds while your grass sleeps.

Aerating might be a good idea in your situation, but I would leave the thatch where it is and not overseed. You have grass already. It will spread itself via its rhizomes and runners. The thatch will get better as you do the things to repair your lawn. The aerating will help get water, oxygen and nutrients to the top layer of soil. Topdressing with a good homemade compost would be a good idea. If you do these two steps, wait until the beginning of September.

Talk to your hubby. He should realize that your lawn is a chemical junkie. Just like the human variety of chemical junkie, it will take some time to rehabilitate it. In the mean time, it can get a bit ugly. Again, this is just like the human variety. Don't panic. This is normal. It will get much better in time. And you'll have a beautiful lawn that your beloved child can safely play in. The key is patience.
 
                        
Posts: 2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for your help! I was out of town and forgot to check my post till just now. I mispoke - we mow on the highest setting, down to 3 - 3.5 inches, not when it gets to three inches. Oops! The problem is our front yard hasn't even needed to be mowed (other than just weed eating the tall weeds) in 5+ weeks - it doesn't even get tall enough to get to the point of needing mowing.

We just went out a dug a hole in the front yard: we couldn't get much deeper than 6 inches. The dirt is like concrete. Below are some pics.

Questions:
--we do have a compost bin, but we don't get nearly enough to apply to the whole yard. Do you have any other suggestions/sources to buy commercial compost? How thickly do we want to put it on (i.e. enough to layer an inch over the grass? two inches? etc.)

Thanks for your help! I was out of town and forgot to check my post till just now. I mispoke - we mow on the highest setting, down to 3 - 3.5 inches, not when it gets to three inches. Oops! The problem is our front yard hasn't even needed to be mowed (other than just weed eating the tall weeds) in 5+ weeks - it doesn't even get tall enough to get to the point of needing mowing.

We just went out a dug a hole in the front yard: we couldn't get much deeper than 6 inches. The dirt is like concrete. Below are some pics.

Questions:
--we do have a compost bin, but we don't get nearly enough to apply to the whole yard. Do you have any other suggestions/sources to buy commercial compost? How thickly do we want to put it on (i.e. enough to layer an inch over the grass? two inches? etc.)


lawn1.jpg
[Thumbnail for lawn1.jpg]
lawn2.jpg
[Thumbnail for lawn2.jpg]
 
jeremiah bailey
Posts: 343
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I would avoid commercial compost. Your best bet is mulching your clippings and fertilizing with either Ringer or Scott's Organic in spring and fall. It is a shame that your hubby says no to the clover. Clover is a great companion to grass because it is nice and soft, and due to it being a legume, also provides nitrogen to the grass. It will help the grass stay green through the summer. If you can't get him to keep it, try vinegar on it. It will kill the clover and the grass should spread back over the spot. Wait until the beginning of Sept. for this. You don't want weeds to take advantage of a bare spot. Try and talk your husband into letting you grow a patch of clover somewhere, maybe near your garden. He may warm up to it. My wife doesn't like the look of clover, but I've persuaded her of the benefits, especially since we have three puppies running around in them.

Some things to consider: how much traffic does the back yard get vs the front? What kind of grass? Have you had soil tests done, separately for front and back? Summertime is a good time to do this to help get an idea of what needs done in the fall. The results will probably be geared toward a chemical approach, but many of the permies here could translate into sustainable practices.

I have a feeling your pH levels are different between the two. This is common since many builders just dump any concrete waste in the front and bury it. Also your driveway and sidewalks contribute to soil alkalinity.

When you dug down, did you notice any worms? You should have had several in that chunk you showed. I suspect it will take some time to get the worm population back up if you just stopped the chemicals. The worms are crucial to aerating and "tilling" the soil. Their tunnels allow oxygen to penetrate the upper levels of the soil and they carry nutrients and expel them along the way.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 21477
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
So this is gonna sound downright crazy, but it just popped into my head and is too funny to leave out ....

First, I suspect that years of poisoning the "weeds" and taking the clippings off of the lawn and watering too frequently and mowing too short has slowly turned your soil into cement-like dirt.  Although the sod in your picture does have pretty good color!

But the fact that you cannot dig much deeper than six inches tells the whole story. 

And so it makes me think:  what this woman really needs is some kind of plant that has a massive tap root that will punch deep into the soil and open up channels so that the lawn can then go deeper .....  something that will really rip up that deeper soil ....

And here is the funny part:  ....  like a dandelion. 

Okay, so you aren't going to intentionally plant dandelions in your yard. 

I would like to hear about worm discoveries too.

It is normal for your grass to not grow much in the summer. 

I suggest that you wait until the first of september and then put down some fertilizer and really go to town on mowing high.  The grass will eventually send down deeper roots and start to break up that cement-like dirt a little. 

If you are impatient and want some proof, that there is truth to all of this, dig a hole two feet deep and then refill the hole with a mix of sticks, leaves, kitchen scraps and dirt - leave it mounded in your yard and then notice how this fall it will fill in with grass and next spring it will be the thickest, lushest turf in your whole lawn.


 
jeremiah bailey
Posts: 343
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I love my dandelions. They are yummy! But I have noticed them becoming more sparse this year. Perhaps my extreme mow-a-thon this spring worked. For a week straight, I mowed every day, rain or shine, mostly rain. This was the week of the major spring dandelion bloom. I bagged the clippings. Voila, huge decline in my dandelion crop. Not to worry, I still have plenty to eat. I imagine if I were to keep doing that every time the dandelions have a major bloom, I could keep them down to a number that could easily be managed either by eating them, or pouring vinegar on them to kill them. Keep in mind my yard's background was one of neglect before I got it. You should be able to keep them, and the clover at bay with some vinegar. The grass should fill in nicely after the vinegar washes out.

Do that hole digging trick Paul mentioned. Grass seed on it is optional, as the grass will spread into it on its own. If you really feel like experimenting, try two holes. One with grass seed and one without.

The watering every week discourages your grass from growing its roots down. When your grass starts turning brown, its not dying. It is actually devoting its energy to root growth in search of water deeper in the ground. When you water on a regular basis, your roots have no reason to grow deeper and stronger as they can get the water they need from your sprinkler. This results in a weaker lawn.
 
These are not the droids you are looking for. Perhaps I can interest you in a tiny ad?
This is an example of the new permies.com Thread Boost feature
https://permies.com/wiki/61482/Thread-Boost-feature
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!