Saw that love the wikipedia, you should submit your lawn care article. Yep those are the omnipresent yellow heads i'm a decapitating. Anything besides the basics to use on these guys? Up front I've never had a healthy tall thick lawn. basically these guys godormant/die as things dry out, but they have won the battle for light and nutrients/soil and I get a dirt patch. Seem to prefer shade, have had a tree pruned and one cut down, so that may help. I have nothing against a mixed lawn, but this takes over and leaves me with something both unbecomming and that doesnt retain moisture. my plan is to fertilize this week, keep moist those 1st 4 days as per the instructions mow high bi weekly and try and dry the guys out by infrequent h2o however, I think from my cursory researchthat these guys, unlike clover go deep with their little tubamajigs. hey If my fescue can coexist w/ it, great. It is beautiful, and a very nice cover in winter. Shall i introduce moles and gophers to go down and eat there little bulb?
*Great* article and I think I have some new approaches to take with my yard. I am in a patio home in Hou, TX and have a modest sized yard. I had two large trees taken out last year (made me said but all the shade made for a yard full of mud and dead leaves - bad combo with three big dogs . . .) and had the area sodded. It's done okay but I have the "above-soil runners" you mention. What can I do to improve the grass root depth? I fertililzed last year (non-organic, won't be doing that again) but didn't have the results I expected. I want a much thicher, lusher lawn with deep roots. Thanks!
Does anyone know anything about Eco-lawn seed?(www.wildflowerfarm.com) We spent last year trying to build the soil and adjust the ph, and attempting to rid the soil of grubs, this year we want to plant. Spending last summer with the kids and dog playing in a muddy mess...well it is not an experience I want to repeat! So here's my dilemma, Paul, I know you reccomend tall fescue, but we live in a neighborhood, and after being here two years I've come to understand that my neighboors take their lawn care VERY seriously (i.e. Chemlawn, mowing services, oodles and oodles of empty bags of Scotts and containers of Round up sitting out by the curb, sprinkler systems guzzling out gallons of water) The looks of mild curiosity and inquiries about my eyesore have grown to outrage. The chemlawn guy still comes by weekly, leaving little pamphlets. Any way you get my drift. Well, growing up in the south, my husband wants that nice soft walk around in your barefeet, northern grass. (We now live in SE Massachusetts) I need a compromise or I fear I will walk out my front door one morning with a little white sign in my yard warning all living creatures to stay off. Regardless of what my neighboors want to do to the patch of Earth they inhabit, I just can't sleep at night going that route. Besides, if I can make a go of this perhaps I convince them to follow suit. I had planned to plant a eco friendly mix, but after looking through some of the postings, found that the formula was very similar to what someone else had planted, ending up with a field of clover. So I came across this eco lawn stuff and was wondering if anyone had any input. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!! Thanks!!!
Dont bow to anyones pressure, keep it dirt if you prefer read the postings on seed vs sod, I went with a fescue sod and its doing very well, but I'm in a very different climate with very different soil I'm sure. The insta lawn factor was huge. The ecolawn seed is 7 different fescues. I contacted them and the response was that basically the grasses happier in a given condition will thrive, makes sense, But I really have no idea if sowing such a mix is better than figuring out which of the given seeds or others are best where your at. Theoretically could work nicely, one thrives in your shadier spots another in the sunnier spots. PS My "dwarf fescue" is very soft on the feet, like a massage.
A majority of what I had was weeds when we bought the house, with grass growing around the perimeter of the yard. We figured out we had grubs,(this was my first experience with them.) So we sent in a soil sample and I proceeded to find a natural way to combat the grubs. The guy at the garden center said milky spore was the only natural was to do this....but it would take 2-4 years to kill all of the grubs. Not good news, still, I left with my big blue bag and applied it last spring and again in the fall. I hoped that maybe if we got the soil right, which by the way came back with a ph level of 5.2 last spring, and planted some turbo seed, maybe the grass could withstand the grubs and they'd, I don't know move on. My second dilemma is that I have very sandy soil, and I really can't afford to bring in top soil, let alone the fact that most of the soil I went to look at didn't look much different than what I have. So I spent last summer adding lime, building compost piles, mowinghigh and mulching what grass I did have. Then I tilled it all up and threw out some seed, just hoping to build the soil. Sounds crazy, huh? Still, I am absolutely determined to do this naturally, I've no choice but to do it cheaply, the lazy part is not a big deal, because I enjoy working outside, but this year I have to come up with some results, because as you can imagine it is a mess and I feel a bit like I'm running in circles. At this point, trying to convince any one that natural is the way to go, is not working out so well. As of today, the grubs are still here, I can see the robins picking at them as I type, but I do have quite a bit more grass comming back this year than last, I'm getting ready to send off another soil sample. My hope is to dump all of the compost I've collected on the yard, till whats there up and plant seed. But, my husband wants nice green soft grass that the chemlawn guy promises he can provide, I want something that's not going to kill my kids or the environment. Am I just completely going about this all wrong?
Muddy mess probably wasn't the best description I could've used. More like a sandy disaster, mixed with the compost and occasional left over bags of potting soil, etc. from other uses that I've thrown out there, and when rained on becomes a magnet for little boys shoes and dog paws. Sorry, I'll try to be more precise I have literally been trying to add anything and everything to the front yard I can, hoping to improve the soil. I should mention that we are surrounded by pine trees, lots of them. As the crow flies we are probably less than 10 miles from the shore. I can't seem to find anyone who has planted a yard in the area intending to use organic practices, and unfortunately the people at the garden centers seem determined to sell me yucky stuff. I'm just hoping to get the seed in before I lose the advantage of the spring rains and cooler temps. Thanks for your help!!!
A few new developments, and I thought I'd ask for opinions. First, I just got back the soil test, ph is only 5.6!!! Yikes, this is very discouraging. I've been following the guidelines for adding lime, I guess maybe my pine trees are out competing my efforts? So my question is, if I go ahead and and till, how much lime can I add at one time without doing damage, and then how long should I wait to retest the soil? Secondly, I just found out we are having a cicada emergence this spring, this is my first experience with these. Bad idea to plant grass this spring?? Do I need to wait 'til fall after they are gone? Thanks for any advice!!!
The grass will start to curl before it turns brown. When it starts to curl, that is the best time to water. Anything after that is time for "intensive care watering" (water half an inch, wait three hours and water an inch).
Take a shovel and stick it into the soil about six inches. Keep the sun to your left or to your right when you do this. Push the handle forward. If you can see any moisture, wait. If it's all dry, water. If you can't get your shovel to go into the soil this deep, you need more soil.
The first method is the best - especially if you have not yet trained your grass to make deep roots.
Okay I'm freaking a bit out, but maybe not. Lets say a good ten percent of my lawn browned before it curled. Now this may be due to traffic rather than dehydration. First signs of it about 2 day after a fair size party. We also had an unusual cold spell just around that time. Spots that were more shaded, say under furniture are aok. Tried the shovel method as well. Woah it was hard to get the shovel past four -six inches. Our soil has really compacted. I know from tilling and digging all over the place our soil goes down and down. I could feel moisture doing the shovel method, but not "see" it. It was damp not wet. This sod was installed by yours truly about 6 mos ago. could it be premature to train the roots to grow deep?
hello its been a while. 1) i realize my back and fourt sprinkler "bogarts" It distributes the h2o very unevenly. much on the ends little on middle less at center. put three cups out and got my evidence. sprinkler suggestions. 2)My rear yard thrives my front is deadening, oh well. When is best to seed or sod. I assume not now. 3) I think my dwarf fescue is even happier at moe than 4 inches, kind of laying down. The Scotts mower really only does 4) inches at highset setting, oh well. Is the 1/3 cut rule true. Something like if you cut more than 1/3 at a time its shacking. I guess in my case I could let it go to 6 then cut to 4. 5) what happens to grass when it goes to seed. I had thought of letting the grass in the front go and let it reseed its self.
a) The nelson metal whirly style uses a square pattern and does a pretty good job of even distribution.
b) I like the tractor style that follows a hose. Fun, accurate and has an auto shutoff.
c) The back and forth fan style do a good job.
2) Now is the very best time to start new grass. In about two weeks, you should probably wait until fall.
3) Dwarf fescue is a special case. Nearly all grasses grown in lawns are Kentucky Bluegrass or Tall Fescue. These are best mown at 3 inches or higher. There are lots of perks to this for the organic lawn *and* for the grass. Dwarf Fescue thrives at a lower mow - not a great pick for an organic lawn. Good luck with that.
5) What would be the value of letting it go to seed? If that species is already established and not doing well, then more seeds are not going to improve the situation. If the grass is doing well, then it will send out lots of rhizomes to make for a much thicker turf.
X)Yikes, where did you get the dwarf fescue info? I got it up to 5-6 inches and mow to 4 or so. Its doing well. If it will thrive better at 3, I'll start working it down. Y)Didn't know "going to seed" induced rhyzomes, good info. Z)I wonder If I have a particularly wierd fan style sprinkler. Bet I got 3x as much water on the ends as opposed to the middle. Q) Just noticed your names relation to grasses. W)Planting. Why now best? I figured this would be a water intensive time here in coastal central Cali (Santa Cruz), not much falling from the sky this period. Working on poor man's gutter water harvesting. Was thinking of putting in annual rye or a front yard "victory" garden and planting in fall for less watering. This is my front funked up lawn not the fescue full of dwarves.
ONE} Well, I got this from a site and will keep looking. This was the only sod available in my area at the time.There seem to be many varieties of dwarf fescue. "Mowing: 1 to 2 times per week at a cutting height of 1.5 to 2.5 inches. The slower growth habits mean reduced mowing requirements and the high density helps this turf keep its freshly mowed appearance longer between mows. " How to know if this is indeed optimal versus a common preffered mow? I want to be stubborn and keep it long if we can. I will definitely keep it organic, and sure hope it to be the drought resistant variety it purports to be. I'll shorten it down if that will tend to hearty it up. There seems to be very little lateral growth.A couple of dead spots dont fill in and it doesnt encroach on the garden, Ay yi yi! However, I have it much higher 4-6 " height. It seems happy. I could see maybe a lower mow might help it to grow more densely?More light for the blades? I sure as heck aint pulling out this lawn. What are some things to look for to know when a grass is unhappily high. At this point it lays down nicely like shag carpet. I did get some puzzling browning despite the shovel and grass bending water check. Seems to be at blade tips. TWO}Too late for a last spring fertilization? Would I be feeding the weeds, which by the way I have near none of still in this rear yard. Darn, neighbors kicked up a veritable seed fest by letting all weeds grow big go to seed and then using a turbo blower. Since I did rototill deeply when prepping the yard I think I upset most of the Oxalia. Have it in shady spots around the perimeter. Particularly beneath and around the Airstream chill out space, where I did not till and added dirt so it would be a more compacted area.
Well the folks say where i got my grass that the reasoning for the low mow is "so more water will get into the soil, less evaporation from water on the blades" they rec. 1 1//2 to 2 1/2 for all their varieties. I am wondering if this is just a standard practice not how my grass was engineered. Maybe you found a specific web page I didnt? For watering they say. WATERING: After establishment, water 3 or more times per week during warm weather. In cooler weather, water once or twice per week. Give special attention to slopes and mounds where runoff occurs; more frequent and shorter watering times may be necessary. More frequent and shorter watering times may also be required on sandy soils. This is of course very contrary to deep infrequent root training practices you reccommend and I have adopted. I am trying for once every two weeks and watching the grass.
> There seem to be many varieties of dwarf fescue.
I am not surprised.
If I wanted to get rich selling herbicides, I would sell low growing grass seed at cost to all the local stores and put lots of advertising on it that says "less mowing! Mow shorter - like a putting green!" etc. Then, that sort of grass is not going to compete well with weeds, so the folks come and buy lots of herbicide.
You buy $4 worth of grass seed the first year, and then $50 worth of herbicide per year for the next 20 to 40 years.
Next step - lobby for laws that require lawns. After that - lobby for laws that forbid weeds.
I have to commend these folks for being so damn smart about their business. They are making boatloads of money. And the practices I have outlined are completely legal.
Brilliant. Genius. Fully implemented and they are laughing all the way to the bank.
Of course, it is completely toxic for us. (I just deleted my tirade on the MSDS no longer being on the shelves with the toxic product)
Okay ... back to the issue ... yes, I can see why you can easily find lots and lots of short growing varieties of lawn grasses. Just skip past those please.
> I sure as heck aint pulling out this lawn.
Try mowing it at 3 inches.
> Too late for a last spring fertilization?
I don't think so. It depends on the fertilizer and on the date. I would still put down feather meal based fertilizers for the next week or so.
> Darn, neighbors kicked up a veritable seed fest by letting all weeds grow big go to seed
With the techniques described in the article, and with a tall fescue grass, I encourage you to go get dandelion seed heads and blow the seeds off. In fact, get every kid in the neighborhood to gather all the seed heads in the neighborhood and blow them on your lawn. For the pure joy of watching the little seed parachutes fly off. I'm sorry, but to me this is one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed. I love blowing the seed heads of dandelions. I get the impression that some people love to see a dandelion twist in death because of the herbicides sprayed on them. To each his own I guess.
> I was just told that dwarf fescue is a form of tall fescue from a place that sells > the seed near us. He says mow 4 to 5 inches.
I think this information is probably partially correct. I suspect it is, indeed, a variety of tall fescue. But a very low growing tall fescue. Didn't you say that it sort of flopped over?
I think you should try mowing at 3 inches for a while. After a few mowings, report back here how it is going.
when at the dr earth organic fertilizer i noticed their lawncare recs were near identical....how about......top dressing 1 inch come spring? " Add a ? inch of organic mulch in late spring to help reduce heat stress in the summer"
Well an update on the back lawn w/dwarf fescue and mucho traffic. So far, I can follow the mow high water less often deeply ritual, but Its happier when watered once a week, Ive tried to train it to drought tolerance, but may have to give in. Boy is the grass happy under the picnic table where there is more shade and no heavy feet. I wish I'd gotten a heartier grass the name hard fescue sounds perfect. its tufty and nice and completely weed free. gets alot of browning which I attribute to traffic. Because of my particuler lazinesses, I water at 10 PM or midnight. Ive heard 4 AM is ideal, forget that! We shall see next year, but it appears my front yard mystery grasses have also recovered. there has been alot of seeding of dead patches,where the oxalia had been dominant. The wild barly has been regularly decapitated dosent seem to have done any harm. The oxalis is dormant and the dandelions mostly plucked, we shall see how it fairs next winter and spring. it has no traffic and the high mow is easy 'cause it sticks straight up. because many patches have been reseeded it is watered more frequently.
May go ahead and add an inch of quaolity compost and even borrow my buddies aerator prior. I know this is not particularly lazy. What do you think of the below links instructions? Adding sand. I think we could say to be sure that my lawn is compacted due to heavy traffic, and I hapoe to slide the grass more nutrients and to help it be less thirsty. Have been dong my best to water alot infrequently, but around twice a month its not happy this summer. Likes weekly better. Its 3-4 inches high. http://www.lawnandmower.com/top-dressing-the-lawn.aspx My main concern on "topdressing" adding an inch of compost is depriving the grass of light if I over do it, and foot traffics impact on top of this layer. That and whether the addition of sand is a good plan.
I've done topdressing before. Yes, you will smother a lot of grass, but it will come back really fast.
You will probably use commercial compost. So you will want to be prepared to mitigate the downsides. Commercial compost will have a lot of wood chips in it. So while your lawn will get a big boost for one to three weeks, it will then be starving for nitrogen as the wood chips suck all of the nitrogen out of everything. So watch for it and be prepared to fertilize. The wood chips will also be acidic, so be prepared to mitigate that with lime.
Aeration beforehand can help (time and money). Same can be said for the sand (again, time and money).
Myself, I would mow high, fertilize, encourage earthworms with a dusting of lime once in a while and wait a few years. Very cheap. Very lazy.
I have this weird idea that I have never tried, but I've told several people about in e-mail and have yet to hear back from anybody if they tried it.
Take a post hole digger and dig a hole about two feet deep. Re-fill the hole with 50% compost and 50% of what you took out of the hole. Stir a little grass seed into the top quarter inch of soil. I think that by doing this, you will create a wonderful home for worms and a great place for deeeeeep grass roots. Over time, the roots and the worms will convert the neighboring dirt into soil.
If anybody tries this, I hope you'll write me and tell me how it turned out.
It seems something like this was done centuries ago in parts of the Amazon. According to the cover article in the September 2008 National Geographic (C. C. Mann, "Our Good Earth", pp 80 - 109), it was called terra preta and described in some detail on pages 104 and 106. The key ingredient was charcoal, which got me to thinking that years ago, when I was still growing up in Michigan, I watched my dad, born into a farm family, work "potash" or ashes from burnng firewood into his compost piles.
I do intend to try this method out, but it may be awhile before you'll hear how it turned out. Meanwhile, some questions:
a. I got my soil tested by Extension Soil Testing Laboratory ($7, in case you're wondering) at the Univ of Florida. My soil has a high pH - would you believe 8.1? I never put lime down on my grass, which by the way is kind of thin. I'm in Zone 10b, so I doubt whether your Tall Fescue ewill really make it. Instead, I have a hybrid of St. Augustine grass called Floratam (preferred pH = 6.5). One footnote said, "The pH of this soil is quite high. If this is a natural condition (i.e. if it is not from the over-application of lime) it is generally impractical to lower the soil pH with soil amendments. Use plant species that are tolerant of high soil pH." One class of plants which will survive in this high pH, I know because I have observed, are the noxious weeds. I'm thinking the other class of plants which might thrive, if I'm flooded for a reasonable span of time, are seaweeds. I did not lime this soil, ever. I'm working with compacted (the little Bobcat thing) ocean floor (see the damn shells every time I turn over a shovelful) covered with a thin layer (about one inch) of sod in which Bahiagrass (imported from Argentina) was sprouted - the Floratam invaded and pushed the Argentine import to oblivion. Should I just give up and put my lawn into some kind of Zen rock garden, with bronzed mower, spreader, and st of soil-scratching tools as museum-quality centerpieces? In other words, is there still hope?
b. If there is still hope, assuming that I use Milorganite to boost my N and P (insufficient P, no K), how do I boost the P and the K for my fruit trees (mango and lychee) and ornamentals, some native and some exotic?
I think the important part is when you mentioned the shells. Those are almost pure calcium. That means a very high pH. So, yes, amendments aren't gonna do much for you.
And you are right, in your zone, cool season grasses would be a flop. You need the warm season grasses.
I suggest that you take each of your questions about other plants to some of our other forums. We have some folks coming through that have far more knowledge about tropical stuff that might be able to help you, but those folks typically don't check in here.
And the stuff about terra preta is different from the stuff about your dad putting ash in the soil. This, too, is an excellent topic, but I think it should be in one of the other forums here.
First of all I would like to say that I have find this forums very good and helpful.....Anyway, my name is Kevin and I live in Kansas City and I have been reading a little about organic lawn care in the early spring and just don't really have a clue or where to begin to start treating my lawn with organic fertilizer.....Now , after reading your forums you even make me just want to just go organic all the way and thatwhat I am going too be doing and I need all of the help that I can get plus I even think that everyone across the U.S. should just all get into this organic lawn care......I have around 8600 sq. ft. lawn and just last week I aerate my whole lawn doing the 2 pass through out the lawn and after that I apply Scott starter fert. and I over seed with Scott seed by useing slice seeder ....Now,I think its a very good time for me to go organic lawn so what to I do next in order for me to go organic lawn and 1 more thing I got soil that I dig up to have my soil test done but not yet sent them out so Paul may u have your son doing a soil test for me if I sent them to you...
My son is no longer doing the ph biz. He has moved on to scrubbing boats!
For now, I hope you stop using the scott's stuff and stop overseeding. Keep your money.
You will probably notice fantastic improvement in your lawn if you just mow higher. Maybe a little organic fertilizer once in a while - but maybe with a bit of clover you'll even let that go. Use that money to buy pizza instead. And take that time you would have spent spreading stuff around to watch the clouds float by instead.
Paul, awesome article. Parallels what I've been doing with my lawns for 20 years now, except I tend to use commercial products that aren't always organic.
I found the article looking for info on how to deal with dog poo in a small yard--we just moved into a smaller house, with a small yard, from a 2.3 acre yard and huge house, and even tho I have two small dogs (pugs)--so I was a bit worried about the poo overwhelming the yard and getting smelly. I'm not smelling much at all (but my smeller doesnt' work so well anymore), my wife says she smells a bit sometimes, but she worries about the flies that are out there, so if you have any ideas about dealing with flies, I'm listening.
And, if you can tell me if I can find some form of organic sawdust locally (North Texas area), so I can do that idea to the poo.
On another note: being from Texas, Bermuda is the typical grass of choice. Every reference I see says cut it no taller than 1-2"--however, I disagree. In the house before the previous house, we kept the Bermuda at least 4-6", and that was the healthiest and most beautiful yard ever--and it only had 8-12" of topsoil, atop colichi bedrock!! Short frequent waters were necessary, just to keep it from percolating thru the rock to the bluestone and ending up in the lower parts of the neighborhood.
But the key was working it similarly to your suggested method: don't overwater, build good roots, let it grow tall, don't overfertilize, and don't kill the microbes and earthworms. And I followed a similar method on the last house, but it was even MORE unique: lowest point in the neighborhood, basically a swamp, and the yard RIDDLED with crawdads. Soil depth was at least 10 feet, where it hit bluestone, and the water table would get to just under soil level in winter. But the grass truly loved growing--had to mow it at least 2x a week, sometimes 3x.
Last question: what's your opinion on overseeding in winter?? Here, we can grow fescue, bluegrass, and ryegrass without it dying off unless we have a 2-week hard freeze. I'm toying with the idea because there's some already in the yard that seems to have blown in, and because perhaps having a deep green growing yard in back will help break down more of the dog poo.
As for using products that are not organic: I'm going to go ahead an assume that you will never do that again. If you're gonna keep using that stuff, and you want my advice, then my rate is $200 per hour.
If you will never use that sort of thing again, I'm happy to answer your questions here at no charge.
Sawdust in texas: hellifiknow. Do they have a lumber industry in texas? I remember flying over texas once and I don't remember seeing any trees.
Bermuda mowing height: I have to admit that I have no experience with bermuda - i've always lived in a cool grass area - bermuda would not do well in these places. But! I have talked to plenty of experts from those regions and read plenty ... "mow high" still applies.
overseeding in winter: don't.
And here is a crazy idea for dog poop: Consider finding dung beetles. I've read some really fascinating stuff about them and cow poop. They will have all poop removed within 24 hours! Imagine if you had a few around ...
I am desperate. I would love something to feed my Tall Fescue that will, systemically, deter dogs from leaving their "business" on it. Fertilizer probably smells earthy to them and attracts them. I know of Aluminum sulfate but that will reduce the Ph of the soil and may not be good for the grass. Does anyone know of anything? Thank you all.
Stinging nettles are edible. But I really want to see you try to eat this tiny ad: