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Well I might have just wasted $350, what's next?

 
            
Posts: 10
Location: St. Paul, MN (Zone 4)
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So I've been reading the forum and trying to figure out what my next move is.  Any help is appreciated!  Here's the deal:

Moved into our 1970's house about 5 years ago.  We have a lot of mature Oak's on the property, so it's a bit shady except for 1/3 of the back and the side yard which has a southern exposure.  My first priority was to get rid of a LOT of the lawn (the whole lot was tree or lawn) and the little tutu of pink rock and straggly sun-loving shrubs surrounding the front of the house (horrors!).  I gardened for about 4 years and now have decided the lawn deserves some attention. 

Last year we hired a chemical-based service because I couldn't ever seem to get rid of all the weeds (dandelions, clover, a little medic, plantains, etc but mostly dandelions).  I fundamentally didn't like that and am now trying to get on an organic program.  The soil is super compacted.  My lawn is mostly fescues of some kind in the shade and fescue/KBG in the sunny areas. 

SO.  Since I have 2 little kids and no time and no way to get a rented machine here, I just paid an organic lawn care company to "renovate" my lawn.  This entailed double core aeration (meaning twice-over) followed by overseeding and alfalfa fertilizer and a dressing of lime pellets.

I deeply watered in prep for the aeration.  When I asked the guy today what kind of seed it was he said "sun seed".  Ok, what the heck does that mean - he doesn't know he's apparently just the dude-running-the-machine/spreader.

I knew this would bring up more weed seeds but I figured we needed to loosen the soil and get the bare spots / thin areas growing.

Now I've been reading the forum and thinking maybe I just wasted my money.  Or at least signed up for a whole lot of work this month.

So I know I need to water a lot until the seed germinates. 
Today I also ordered 7 million units of beneficial nematodes, 20 lbs of milky spore (for broadcast), and 4 lbs of Mycorrhizae to cover my 4000 sq. ft.

There was no top dressing with anything, but I could at least go out there and rake in the seed and throw a little soil around the bare spots from the "dirt pile" on the north side of the house.

I can tell Paul, in his pithy way, will tell me if I wasted my money, so let's hear it, Mr. W.    Anything else I should do now?  When it's ready to fertilize what should I use?  Once it's set up and germinated, I'm all for the cheap and easy methods, btw. 

Oh wise denizens of the lawn care forum, bestow your knowledge upon me - I beseech you!

 
 
                          
Posts: 40
Location: Portland Oregon
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I see from your profile you live in St Paul MN, and that your 4,000sq ft lot is shaded at least 2/3 with oak trees. It's going to be really hard to grow a golf course like lawn under these conditions. Hard as in lots of money and time.

My suggestion is to do some research on "Eco Lawns".  You can then go out and buy a bag of "Eco Lawn" seed or just let whatever grows, grow.  Mow it now and then and when the neighbors complain bury them with facts and figures about eco lawns and how you are growing the newest fashion in envriomental awareness.

Oh, and that 1/3 of your lot that is sunny, that's where your veggie garden is growing, right?
 
            
Posts: 10
Location: St. Paul, MN (Zone 4)
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Yep, it's pretty shady over most of the grass.  Luckily I'm not deluded enough to think I can have a golf course without giving some oak trees "the ultimate prune" - which I would never do anyway.  It's like dappled shade in the back and dappled shade with a few hours of intense late afternoon sun in the front.  And a very sunny but narrow southern side.

Ding! Ding! You're right about the veggies too   After trying water all this seed in for 2 days I'm starting to think that south side could stand to be ripped out further and put in another raised veg. area!  Hmmm maybe that berry patch I've been wanting...my suburban neighbors will LOVE that. 

I will have to investigate the eco lawn options (I'm guessing that's white clover seed with grass)...I just want to cut down on the amount of weeding I have to do in my gardens.  I've got about 8800 sq. ft. total and whats not grass is all low maintenance perennial or vegetable gardens. 
 
Joel Hollingsworth
pollinator
Posts: 2103
Location: Oakland, CA
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It sounds like the results might happen quicker due to the money you spent. It also sounds like the weeds you're fighting are of varieties that mowing will eventually take care of, so if you're willing to live with them for their short lifespans, and can prevent them from setting seed, you might not have signed up for any weeding at all...plus you've recruited an elite suicide squad of mulch-producing, spike-rooting, and (in some cases) nitrogen-fixing pioneers that will work with you on that compacted soil.

As to eco-lawns, I've seen strawberry clover and "micro-clover" listed more often than white clover. Chamomile and daisies are also mentioned occasionally, I think Roman chamomile more often than German.
 
            
Posts: 10
Location: St. Paul, MN (Zone 4)
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Well being an American, of course quicker is good!  I'm too impatient to wait 4 years for results...or at least I have to feel as if I'm taking some sort of remedial action.

I put down the micorrhizae today and milky spore will go down tomorrow and the nematodes too hopefully.  I've been researching mitochlorians for my lawn as well...

...just kidding (sorry - that was a bad Star Wars joke)

I'm just kicking myself for doing this in the spring since I should've done it in the fall and put down corn gluten to stop new junk from sprouting. 

Ecolawns...well I'm just not sure if I'm ready to sign on for that level of neighbor-hate just yet...we'll see how this season goes. 

Any advice on the how-to from here to the end of the season given what I've done already?

 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20390
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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So many things ....

First, I think you need to learn some patience. 

Why did you get the milky spore?  Do you have a problem with grubs? 

How do you know how compacted your soil is/was?

At this point, the money is already spent.  Let's wait it out and see how things go.  Stop putting stuff on your lawn!  Make sure you mow high!  I am so weary of people saying "I mow high - 1.5 inches is high, right?" or "my mower won't go more than 1.5 inches" and then I get there and show them that it will go to 4 inches.  And then after I leave they set it back down to 1.5 inches for some insane reason. 

Mowing high is about 85% of it.    The rest of it is just stupid unless you get a ruler out there make damn sure you are mowing at a height of at least three inches.


 
            
Posts: 10
Location: St. Paul, MN (Zone 4)
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Paul,

I have two very small kids, I waste all my patience on them.  Seriously though, I know it's going to take time, I was being a bit sarcastic with my commentary on my struggles with our American no-delayed-gratification culture. 

I believe there is a grub problem on a small section of lawn abutting my neighbors yard.  That's the only part I'm going to treat.  (that bit is a sunny area, and last late summer / early fall the grass was all dead and brown in weird patches and I found quite a lot of grubs near the live/dead border, so I'm pretty confident.)

I know how compacted the soil is based on 4 years of digging out gardens on our lot.  When we moved in it was all grass and oaks.  Trying to grow grass under mature shady oaks seemed futile so we removed all but a small lawn area in back and (over the past two summers) 50% of the front lawn as well.  The earth where there is garden is beautiful now.  When you dig into the lawn it's incredibly dense, solid and unlike soil.

Don't be weary - we do mow high, always have - I know that much.  We use highest setting on the mower all summer and then the very last mowing before winter we mow shorter.  Until last year's chemical blast, that's all we ever did, mow high and water deep - but we still have weeds weeds weeds, so something has got to change in my 30+ yr old lawn.

I'm just super annoyed that I did this in the spring.  I wanted to just aerate but I let the company convince me it was a good time to overseed and now I'm watching all the weeds sprout when I could have prevented so many from getting started.  So I've made more work for myself and spent money instead of being cheap and lazy.    bah.

I'm dedicating the rest of this summer to wait and see, because I don't know that there's much else to do at this point!

 
                        
Posts: 33
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What's wrong with the weeds?  Are they green?  If so, they coordinate perfectly!

I manually pluck the dandelions with my 2 (now 3) year old and spouse.  And what we miss the mower will get when they grow tall enough.  The clover is more durable than the blue grass which made up the majority of my lawn. 

I had new drain tile and some construction obliterate my lawn and weeds.  So I'll be re-seeding with pure tall fescue (Scott's Classic).  Once established, I'm going to be even more lazy.  It's just a lawn, not edibles at this point.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20390
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Maybe it is time that I write a whole new article that advocates "a mowable, edible meadow"  Something where it can be used for all of the things that a lawn is used for, but most "weeds" are okay.  And a lot of non-grass plants are encouraged.

About the compacted area ....  well .... if it were me and it was bugging me .... I think I would do the thing where I dig a hole about three feet deep and then refill the hole with a mixture of twigs, compost, hay and the soil I took out.  And then leave behind a mound - cuz I know that that spot is gonna sink as time passes.    I call this a "worm pit"  .... but wait ...

What is your subsoil like?  Good drainage?  Clay?
 
            
Posts: 10
Location: St. Paul, MN (Zone 4)
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I like the edibles idea...it's almost enough to get me over the whole suburban taboo of planting non-grass in a lawn.  I might try it in the back since that lawn is isolated and won't directly affect (or infect depending on their purview) their lawns.

The subsoil is awesome if a bit sandy.  It drains well.  No clay.  In fact the garden which we dug out from lawn this past summer is already nice and worm-y.  So I think if it's churned up a bit it will become more "friable" (I hate that term for some reason, it just sounds so...weird) but I don't want to start over entirely since I do have a lawn there already. 

Any suggestions for ecolawn materials for my back yard turf area?  It's 50% shady 50% sunny.  The shady part (of course) is where I'm having the most trouble.

 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20390
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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With good care, your lawn should become thick - even under the trees.

For the area with poor drainage, create a worm pit or two. 

 
Charles A. Burger
Posts: 26
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my two cents with the patience part.  I've been mowing high for 3 years now.  And mowing multiple times in a week during the peak growing season.  Now I still have clover, but not that bad and it just means its putting Nitrogen into the soil.  I do get some dandelions, but nothing like the others around me and that is a change from before I started mowing high.  As far as other weeds, they are there, but mowing high is the best camouflage.  I have core aerated which really does help and I try and seed only in late august, early Sept with TF.  Not that spring won't work, you just have to tend to the seed far more and if you are prone to rough summers, you will be disappointed.  I have some trouble spots, including an extremely shady area in the back of my house, which nature might have fixed free for me now that a big tree limb got blown down during a strong storm yesterday.

I'm always uncomfortable doing something for the first time when I'm not sure how my results are going to present themselves or when.  All I can say is mow high is the first commandment to any lawn care problems you have.  The best thing I can think to say is use the information that is logical to you from this board.  There are a lot of great ideas that I just can't see working well only because of what I am personally dealing with.  Also, time is spead up on these boards, some threads might be spread out over 6 months, but you can read them in five minutes.

Alright I'm done.
 
            
Posts: 10
Location: St. Paul, MN (Zone 4)
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Thanks Charles!  Your .02 is appreciated

I think once we can actually mow I will have to get out the ruler and see how high our highest setting really is.

My local hardware store has several custom seed mixes, as well as clover seed and the "boulevard mix" that MNDOT uses (it's got Timothy...and...a bunch of suff I can't remember now).  I'm guessing this last is hearty but wouldn't be so nice to walk/play on. 

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