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Charles A. Burger
Posts: 26
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I'm in St. Louis where rain seemed to not ever happen.  So my lawn is rather roached.  I have just aerated and was going to reseed, but I remembered this site the talk of using compost.

Where do I get compost and are there different grades.  What is a fair price to pay.  Also, what else should I do.  I need to convert to Tall Fescue because I'm tired of having a high water bill.

Also, When choosing a seed, what would I payattention to, should I try and get seed that is from my area.  Every bag of TF I look at seems to come from WA or ID.  Just a though.

Thanks

Chuck
 
Jeremy Bunag
gardener
Posts: 231
Location: Central IL
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Well until others chime in, I can tell you that I've been getting compost regularly from the local Landscape Recycling Center.  If your municipality (or a neighboring one) collects those landscape refuse bags, then there's a great chance that they'll have a similar service. 

The one around here sells both screened "garden compost" and "mushroom compost."  I've been getting the garden (it's cheaper), and while it does have some identifiable wood pieces in it, I'm very happy with the quality...nice and crumbly...MUCH better than my own personal dirt.  Plus I like that it's made from "local ingredients."  My LRC charges me $3 for the U-bag-it of 35-55 gallon containers, or $15-20 per yard where they'll dump it into your truck/trailer.  MUCH cheaper (at least for me) than buying bagged stuff from the home store.

If you read around the other posts you'll find that Paul suggests adding a wee bit of fertilizer to make up for the wood leaching N out of the compost as it finishes (if your compost has the wood still in it, like mine).

Can't really comment on your other questions though...sorry!

-Jeremy
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Charles A. Burger
Posts: 26
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It hasn't been as cold as it has been in the past, but below freezing for a number of days through the winter is normal.  Usually, there is an extreme week or 2 where it's gotten to 0°F or below.  The last time it's been -10°F or below was about in '96.
 
Charles A. Burger
Posts: 26
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OK, I found the equivalent of the LRC here in St. Louis.

http://www.stlcompost.com/products.htm

Now they have a few options;

  Topsoil - River-bottom topsoil, screened and pulverized. Ideal for lawn and garden use.

  Topsoil Plus - A mix of 70% screened and pulverized river-bottom topsoil and 30% screened compost. Ideal base for sod installation and garden beds needing a nutrient-rich soil.

  As far as compost goes;

  3/8" Screened Screened through 3/8" screens, this nutrient-rich material is ideal for incorporation into soils.

  Compost Blend A 50-50 mix of two composts: yard waste and manure.

  Composted Manure Compost cow manure and bedding screened to 1/2"; ideal for applications requiring an additional boost of nitrogen.

  Leaf Mulch Leaves that have been aged and coarsely ground.

So, Jeremy IL, what do you recommend?  Also, how much material do I need for the 1" of compost over 12000 sq ft. of yard.  An can you reseed over compost or do you need to wait? 

Would this be a substitute to buying the ringer fertilizer?

Thanks

Chuck

 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Each square foot is 12 inches by 12 inches.  144 square inches in a square foot.

12000 * 144 = 1,728,000 square inches one inch deep makes for 1,728,000 cubic inches.

Compost is typically sold by the cubic yard.  A cubic yard is 36 inches * 36 inchese * 36 inches.  46,656 cubic inches. 

1,728,000 / 46,656 is 37.04. 

A dump truck usually carries 10 cubic yards.

I think you are starting to talk about some serious coin.  Plus there is the effort to spread it around.  So while this is gonna help, it ain't cheap and lazy.


----

on to other matters ... 

Tall Fescue is going to be your best bet.  The fact that it is grown in idaho is no biggie.






 
Jeremy Bunag
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Posts: 231
Location: Central IL
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I'm glad you found the place near you!  It sounds like you're looking to cover everthing that's there and start over.  Paul's right, sounds expensive and work-intensive.  But it will yield some nice results!

Me, I'm try to improve what's there, and take the slower (lazier), and cheaper approach of amending a bit at a time.  I'm taking our host's advice for the most part and mowing high and watering infrequently, with the slightly more ambitious addition of topdressing small areas at a time with compost, to help along the transformation of my dirt into soil.  I understand the grass clippings are adding organic material every time I mow, and as the grass gets stronger and thicker the better it will help itself.  But I have some areas that aren't doing too hot and either the initial seeding or washout combined with a bad dirt starting point has given me some significant bumpy rutty bare areas that aren't going to fix themselves.

So I'm filling in the ruts and inadvertently (read: bonus) topdressing the areas around with garden compost, the equivalent of your 3/8" screened compost.  The ruts get filled and I'd say no more than 1/4" or so it making it as topdressing.  I've watched my lawn grow from dirt with grass clumps to grass with ruts (even before I started this regimen), so I have no doubt that I'll reach my goal in the not too distant future.

If you think your grass is scorched but just dormant, why not give it a chance to recover...  Help it along and make it nice and strong (in time).  Treat managable areas at a time and build a strong lawn one piece at a time!  BUT if you want to start over with TF then go smother and seed!  Though you might as well lay the smother on thicker, from all accounts it will pay dividends in health!  I don't think you need to wait for anything before seeding (except the ideal time of year).

Wow, that was a lot more than I intended on writing!

P.S.  I don't think composting necessarily replaces fertilizing, but I may be wrong.  It may depend on the compost!
 
Charles A. Burger
Posts: 26
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Thanks for the info.  And yes that is some coin which I cannot afford at this point.  I just want to go in a positive direction with out missing a critical planting window. 

Please explain what happens after grass goes dormant.  I've seen grass go brown and then the green comes back after a good amount of rain, however, in this case the brown grass is matted to the ground and just looks different.  I was doing pretty good about watering in the summer, but got caught not watering in september when it got hot again.

I've thought about just doing spots at a time, but I am not sure about which spots to pick.

Since I won't be getting the compost for the yard this year, when should I do it next year.  And should I just mow over the leaves that fall this year instead of picking them up?


 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Use a mulching mower on those leaves!!!  That is valuable organic matter.  Ten times ....  100 times more valuable than any compost you can buy.  Don't waste that!

The trees will enrich their own soil with the leaves - and the leaves will help to smother the grass that grows under the trees.  But if you mulch it with the mower, you can have the tree and the grass.

 
Charles A. Burger
Posts: 26
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Someone told me that leaves can make the soil acidic.

Currently I have 3 maples, 1 silver maple and a Gum tree.  Should I even go as far as to spread the leaves out and then mulch?

 
John Meshna
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
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Leaves do make the soil more acid.  The composting process itself is and acidifying process in the beginning.  Also, the beginning part of the composting process consumes nitrogen from the surroundings and deprives the plants for a while.
  So, what to do as you say?  You can use a mulching mower and put the mulch right back into the soil if there aren't huge volumes of leaves on the ground at one time.  Then, check the soil pH on a regular basis and add lime as necessary.  If you continue to get low pH readings (below 6.0 say), you'll want to stop mulching the leaves in and make some compost piles some where and use the compost once the compost is complete.  If you can get some manure and layer the leaves and manure in the pile along with house hold compost minus bones and meat products you can make some super compost your lawn will love.
  It's possible to use too much compost too, so, topdress only as much as you need to and if you have extra compost, use it in the vegetable garden and flower beds if you have them.  It's great for mixing with potting soil too.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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To add to what John says .... 

There are stages of composting that are quite alkaline too!

As for too much - I would say that there is the potential of smothering the lawn so that the grass cannot make it through all of the leaves - pulverized or not.    But I think that is the only worry.

 
John Meshna
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
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Well.. at the risk of attacking a sacred cow in organic circles, too much compost is as bad as too much fertilizer.  It can change the soil chemistry such that you can start to get excessive weed growth and you'll be wasting a good resource if you over do it.  You can, as mentioned quite literally smother the grass physically and get very little improvement in return for your hard work if you use too much.  Mustard and yellow flowered plants are one of the signs of excessive compost use in farm fields, lawns and gardens.
  Compost is not a very good fertilizer actually. Compost is a soil amendment used primarily to bring beneficial soil microbes to your soil and adding organic humus to mineral soils and it can help break up heavy clay soils too.
  If you want a thick, green turf grass, you need to add protein to feed the soil microbes. The microbes, in turn, will feed the grass. 
  The protein can come from blended organic fertilizer and mild fertilizers like cotton seed meal and alfalfa meal.  The microbes, if absent or small in number can be infused with an organic fertilizer that contains Mycorrhizae, available in places like.. er.. mine.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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These topics are always much richer than the short answers we give here.

I wish to add to what John is saying ....  organic matter (compost - or the pulverized leaves) is going to be a fantastic buffer for lots of nutrients and other stuff - all of which will help your lawn.  While it usually does not provide a lot of fertilizer, it does provide a lot of parking places for fertilizer until the plants can more readily take it up.  Same goes for water. 

Since the top few inches of soil is going to have lots of organic matter for a while, that does make a fantastic seed bed for weed seeds.

In the end, you can see that there are up sides, down sides, alternatives, etc. 

For example, you could compost the leaves and then put that compost on your lawn.  But that is not as easy as just running a mulching mower over the leaves. 

In a nutshell ....  it is my opinion that for most broadleaf trees, just run that mulching mower over the leaves.  If you have a really big tree, rake up all the leaves when the tree has dropped about half its leaves.  Then run the mulching mower over the second half.  In the spring, put down some organic lawn fertilizer. 

 
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