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Breaking my back mowing  RSS feed

 
Jeremy Bunag
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Posts: 231
Location: Central IL
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Hi, I enjoyed your essay and really like your philosophy!  I find myself in a pickle (as does everybody that starts a new topic!):

I'm living on 3 acres converted farmland (Farmer sold it reportedly b/c it was crappy soil), which I had seeded before we moved in (I'm the 1st owner).  Well some of the sown seed grew and some didn't.  Well 3 years later it's filling in some every year, but in several areas I have the bumpiest ride on my lawn tractor.  It's where there are "islands" of grass either heaved up above or surrounded by eroded dirt.  It's been so bad as to bust the suspension linkages on the mower deck! [I'm now an expert in replacing those].  And I feel bad where the lumps are causing portions of the grass around them to get scalped!

My connundrum is now that I don't want to start over, since it seems to be getting better, but I want to help it out a little, and maybe save some $ on equipment breaking.  I try to aerate twice a year roll whenever possible, and now I'm going to try adding some sphagnum peat moss as topdressing in some especially bare areas after re-aerating.

Any suggestions on how to smooth out, encourage grass spreading, and work towards the cheap & lazy lawn I want?  I'm patient, and find myself giving the grass the "benefit of the doubt" that it will perservere and conquer weeds and bare spots.  But I don't think grass can fix my lumps.

More info:  I had the soil tested, and my Phosphorus was out of whack (very low), and I have next to no organic matter (thus the attempt to get some peat moss in).  pH is decent though.  Type of soil:  Clay.  Nice, hard, clay.  Ok, maybe not so nice.

Thanks for any suggestions!

-Jeremy
 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 22374
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Don't add peat moss!

You need organic matter.  Soil without organic matter has the makings of cement like stuff. 

The easiest, cheapest thing is to fertilize and leave the lawn clippings. 

You could wet your "dirt" a lot and then run a roller over it.  That should smash the bumps out.  But that sounds contrary to "cheap and lazy".

With three acres in three years, I would have planted a bunch of trees and gardens and stuff so that there wouldn't be much lawn left!
 
Jeremy Bunag
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Posts: 231
Location: Central IL
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Thanks for the response!  I try to roll after it rains an appreciable amount, but either my roller isn't heavy enough (18" diameter) or the ground isn't wet enough...

Why no peat moss?  I thought that it would help in getting something useful in the dirt.

At any rate, I've been mulching the clippings since I started, so I'm at least on-track with that!  And trees I got, they're just twigs at this point (good ol' Arbor day "freebies), so it'll be 20 or so years before they're anything other than dodge-ems (I'm not just cheap with the lawn... )

But you've hit my dirt on the head:  Cement.  I guess I could do with some fertilization (I'm a bit lax on that account).  Last year I had some bad rust that darn near killed a huge section of my grass.  I hear fertilization could have helped me there too (preventatively).

I guess I'll be hittin' the hardware of farming supply store soon!

Thanks,

-Jeremy
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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Peat moss is very acidic.  It also has some weird relationships with water

I have seen some ugly lawns where somebody thought they would fix things up a bit by tossing peat moss on the surface.  It just doesn't work. 

The fertilizer should give you about 10 times more grass growth this year.  Those clippings will feed the soil.    It's going to be slow and cheap - but it will work.

The peat moss approach can work if you till it in along with some lime.  But man, that's a lot of work!



 
Jeremy Bunag
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Posts: 231
Location: Central IL
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Sure does sound like some work!  I'll just go with the fertilizer

Thanks!

-Jeremy
 
paul wheaton
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Posts: 22374
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
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If you have some money and time to burn, you could buy some compost and spread it around an inch deep.  About two to three weeks after that you can put some fertilizer down (commercial compost almost always has wood chips in it - you need to compensate for the wood chips by putting down more fertilizer).  The wood chips will also be acidic - so a little lime might be good too.

I think I would still just rather fertilize and wait.

 
Jeremy Bunag
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Posts: 231
Location: Central IL
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Thanks for the option!  I might just get some compost and fill in some of the especially pitted spots where my lawnmower gets bounced around.  That'll be a mediocre time & money activity, plus it will give me some more instant satisfaction where it "hurts"...

I'll let most of the lawn "correct itself" though with a little fertilizer and some high mowin'!
 
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