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organic lawn care for the cheap and lazy  RSS feed

 
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grass around maples:  tall fescue.  Shade tolerant and drought tolerant.

dog crap:  Here's a wacky idea:  I recently read an article where a rancher in Texas important some dung beetles.  They would destroy cowpies within days - spreading the cow-pie-fertilizer around.  I wonder what dung beetles think of dog poop?
 
                    
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I love your lawn care for the cheap and lazy. I am both. I moved into my house 10 years ago and the lush green lawn up and died within weeks, and I said, aha! he used chemicals. We started feeding the birds and that got rid of the infestations. I started overseeding with various grasses for diversity. Shade grasses in shade and sun grasses in sun, etc. That helped a lot. Now I feed with a natural food once a year and use a muching mower.  I keep aphids off my mini rose by planting mint in with it. Keeps away the ants and aphids. I havent used chemicals since we moved in and I can't find bugs anywhere except for worms, butterflies and slugs, I keep them at bay by the firds and by keeping non growing things picked up. I pull weeds by hand and the muching mower really helps.
 
paul wheaton
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j t,

Thanks for your excellent info!  I really like the parts about the mint and feeding the wild birds!
 
                      
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Thanks so much for the helpful lawn info.  After years of chemicals, my grass has never looked worse:  grubs, bare spots, crabgrass, thin turf.  I'm ready to try something different, and found your site. 

Where may one find the BT to lose the grubs?
 
paul wheaton
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Keep in mind that I've never battled grubs.  Just lucky I guess?  Or ...  maybe ...  I haven't killed off the natural control for grubs.  If that's the case, I wonder if one just ignores the grubs, perhaps they will eventually go away.

Anyhoo, I did a little googling and found this site: http://www.nysipm.cornell.edu/publications/grubs/

And cruised around a bit and found that "milky spore" is a lot like BT.  Lots of vendors.  Also, beneficial nematodes seemed popular.  Both are naturally occuring, organic, and will not harm the other predators of grubs.

 
                              
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> 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.

Aren't you simply reinventing roto-tilling here?  I have done a variant on what you suggest, "Sheet Composting" or "Lasagne Beds" and it has worked well for me.  I tilled as deep as I could to start, brought in truckloads of organic material, composted it on the spot, tilled a second time and planted.  The grass likes it fine.

LawnDog, my experience is that dog manure is not some kind of toxic waste.  You can bury it or mix it with wood chips and it will break down into soil like anything else.  In my own yard I can see to it that it is broken down harmlessly.  It seems excessive to send it off to be sealed in a landfill somewhere.  Nature has been decomposing  predator manure for millions of years and is quite good at it by now.

Regarding the fellow with the Solomons Seal, can you get in there to put down a weed barrier?

 
paul wheaton
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kenmce wrote:
Aren't you simply reinventing roto-tilling here?  I have done a variant on what you suggest, "Sheet Composting" or "Lasagne Beds" and it has worked well for me.  I tilled as deep as I could to start, brought in truckloads of organic material, composted it on the spot, tilled a second time and planted.  The grass likes it fine.



Yes and no.

A rototiller will only go a few inches down.  Grass roots can go much deeper. 

By introducing a deep hole like this complete with rich soil all the way to the bottom, you are accomplishing many things.  One is that you are creating a spot in your lawn that might survive drought.  Another is that you are providing habitat for nature's rototillers:  the earthworm (of course, this is assuming that soil below your frost line is not good earthworm habitat, which is the case for a lot of folks). 

Tilling is a technique that could help a lawn.  Sheet composting is another.  Yet another would be growing a green manure.
 
                    
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You mentioned "lifesavers", which may be familiar to US readers, but are unknown in the UK. What are they? What size, shape, purpose, weight, characteristics?

Your spiel on lawns made sense,but for US readers. UK lawns are different in types and sizes of grass, based upon my visits to homes in Texas when I was working there. My lawn in the UK is of much finer grass than Texan lawns (not necessarily better, but finer!) and may need different grass types or feeds to improve it. It needs improvement!

David.
 
                    
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First: I love your website.  It's so funny!

Here's the scoop, (no pun intended to those dog poo problems!)
I have an odd place in my yard that won't grow grass. It is about 12 inches across and is at a straight diagonal all the way across my yard. It started out as a large patch and I figured the lawn maintanence man must have spilled gas there or something, but it has grown longer and thiner and slowly come all the way across the lawn.
Another strange thing that is happening is a line of mushrooms is now growing in a straight line on one side of the gap, also all the way across my lawn....
So weird!
What do you think? Has someone cursed my yard?
 
paul wheaton
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lifesavers:

A roll of lifesavers is about 7cm long and 1.5cm thick in the shape of a cylinder.

Lines in the grass:

Mushrooms in a line can be explained, but the no grow zone ....  that's a new one on me!
 
                    
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Not only do I have problems with grubs, but my whole development does as well.

Thing is, we have tons of birds, particularly crows, around and there are entire patches of dirt in common areas where grass used to grow very nicely.

I want to try the BT or milky spore, but I'm wondering if, once I treat mine, it'll become 're-infected' if all my neighbors don't also treat.
 
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What if your neighbors are watering too much and mowing too low?  Thier grass is so stressed that the grubs are just the last straw

I wonder if a lawn that is a tall, thick turf, with a deep, rich soil will think nothing of a bunch of grubs.

 
                    
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I would like to know from the expert how do you know the defrent in detal between paspalm grass and the berumoda grass???
and what is the best for hot and humed climet++ 
 
                          
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Thanks for the very useful article. I am new to lawns and sown tall fescue grass about 7 weeks ago (I'm in Melbourne, Australia so it is the beginning of summer now).

The lawn is doing fine at the moment but I pick out weeds almost daily and it seems never ending. I know that with starting a lawn this is expected as I am watering quite regularly and keeping the top layer of soil moist.

My question is when is newly sown grass old enough to start applying your technique of infrequent deep watering so I can get rid of weeds naturally? And shall I just wait until the grass will start to curl or check the soil?

Thanks,
Alex
 
paul wheaton
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When the grass is about an inch tall, you can water half as much.  At two inches, you can water half as much again.  At four inches, half as much again.  At about five or six inches, it's time to mow for the first time.  About a week after that you can start training the roots to go deep.
 
                    
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My problem isn't the gubs, I don't mind a few brown spots in the lawn.  My problem is the crows that come and feast on the grubs.  They tear the lawn apart searching for a meal.  I can hardly blame them when you see the size of the grubs.  However, I would like to deter them from destroying my lawn so I figure I should deal with the grubs.  When is the best time to apply the BT?  And how long afterward should I re-seed?  Thanks for the article it has been a great help!
 
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Eventually, won't the crows so over-eat the grubs that there will be no more grubs to eat?

I think the BT can be applied any time you have grubs and it isn't a downpour.
 
                    
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Hey Paul,

Here in Sacramento County (California), the extension office is in the blue "County" pages under Cooperative Extension. Perhaps you could add this to your list of places to find extension offices and save somebody else the time I just spent. 

Jim,
http://SonicChicken.net/blog

 
                    
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Hey!  Loved the article.  I'm planning to seed my lawn with clover next year, because we have poor nitrogen content in our soil, and I'm really lazy when it comes to lawn care.

Neem will kill lawn grubs, and its natural and nontoxic to birds and other critters.  Apply in late April, and early October when those nasty grubs are in a larval stage.  Neem oil coats their skin, and they smother.  Yuck!

all the best,

KerriO
 
paul wheaton
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Kerri Oberhauser wrote:

Neem will kill lawn grubs, and its natural and nontoxic to birds and other critters.  Apply in late April, and early October when those nasty grubs are in a larval stage.  Neem oil coats their skin, and they smother.  Yuck!



What does it do to earthworms?

 
                    
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I love the conversation about lawn care.  I mow high, rarely pick up Copper (dog) poop (when it gets 'unwelcoming' or excessively tracked into the house), water very infrequently...only enough to avoid super deflocculation, garden obsessively, eat lots of stuff that grows in my yard. If you think for one minute you can kill to promote life, stop and re-think that one.  I have transformed a rough lookin' rental yard into a lushious green scape in two summers of the afore mentioned behavior.   My neighbor mows super short and has numerous dead patches in that same time frame and la la-lots of delicious dandelions.
Question on diatoms???  I bought a gigantic quantity which I have been using inside only for flea control for years.  Last summer there were a couple of dead millipedes in the basement.  Did the diatoms get them or simply no water bowl in the basement?What does it do lady bug larvae etc.  Is it a desiccant for them too? I origianlly bought it to combat grasshoppers which haven't been a problem since attracting more birds.
 
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DE does its thing against all exoskeleton creatures.  So, yes, it may have contributed to the demise of the millipedes.
 
                    
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I have compacted clay and when we get severe rain showers 1.5" + I get an area of standing water, that lasts less than a day.  I have read about humic acid or otherwise called liquid aerators.  What is you opinion of this treatment and will it loosen the soil / dirt?

Also, the ground is really uneven to walk on, and it seems like the grass grows in clumps and the clumps are close enough so that it looks OK, but if kids are playing it is less than ideal.
 
                    
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My lawn is very patchy, good solid parts of dirt, then there are good patches of grass and then there are parts with very little grass spots and dirt.  the lawn is really ugly and I'm looking for a long term solution to this problem but for not a lot of money.  I would like to re-seed and just tear up the entire lawn but i know that the cost would be more then i really can afford.  Plus I need something that is durable enough for people to be on it at least once a week.  I think that I have a fairly good idea of what to do from your site and from my local extension office's web site, but i would still appreciate a little more incite on my situation because most of the situations require more money then i really have at this time.  One other thing is I'm not sure about a high altitude grass that would be really good for colorado, if you can think of any options on that i would appreciate those as well.

Thank you,
    Brett
 
                    
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Hi Paul,
Thanks for all the info on lawn care.  We bought a house with a big backyard and a lot of grass only we're not very experienced taking care of it.  We also live in Las Vegas, NV.  We can't afford to hire lawn care, which the previous owner did, so we have lost some of our lawn- a lot of those brown spots you talked about and some dying areas too.  I am going to fertilize, add compost and seed to the dead spots/areas and hope I can get it back.  We have water restrictions here but right now it's 3 times a week until May, then its everyday through Sept.  I don't think in Las Vegas we can water once a month!  I love your website and reading your stories.  We have ants around our palm trees so I will try the DE.  We also have scorpions that wander into our yard/home once or twice a month during the summer  Anyone know how to get rid of those?  Thanks again!!
 
                      
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Hey, great site!
I am going to fertilize with Ringer very soon. You say I should use half of what the bag says to? My lawn is pretty short (less than 3 inches) due to such a dry winter. Should I wait for it to get past 3 inches before I fertilize?
 
                    
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I have had a decent lawn for the few years I have lived in this house and have done very little to it. I have a few mushrooms each year not many but this year the moss has totally taken over.  I have always had a little moss which was fine.  I now have almost all moss.  then when it gets pulled up by the dog or the mower I have a big empty spot. 

How can I feed my soil and reclaim the lawn.  I have used lime in the past but it seemed to feed the moss this year instead of knocking it down.

 
                    
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I have been looking at organic lawn websites for a couple of years.  Apart from  the best practical information, yours is the most fun I have had the pleasure of reading.  Congratulations on a wonderful accomplishment.
 
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Wow!  A little time away and look at all of these posts!

Mike,

humic acid treatment:  that's a new one on me.  But humic acid is humus:  very decomposed organic matter.  If your soil is loaded with it, there are lots of great bennies.  But a company doing it as business?  It doesn't sound very cheap.  Also, I wonder if it is chemical-ish.  I can't help but think that I probably wouldn't do it - whatever it is.

As for the standing water - any chance you can make one part of your lawn a little lower and the puddle part a little higher?  Either that, or just accept the puddle ...

thinking really long term - if you follow my advice, the organic matter should build up in your soil and eventually earthworms will work organic matter down into the soil and your soil will naturally be a little higher.  Maybe these things in combination will make it so that in three years you won't have a puddle - more like a squishy spot.

Clumps:  If you are patient, these will also go away over time.  I think that the clumps have to do with a lack of organic matter in your soil.  By mowing high, leaving your clippings and regular fertilizing, you should rebuild your organic matter in the soil and eventually these clumps will disappear (three years?)  If you want to part with money and sweat, you could truck in some compost - it will settle into the lower spots.

Brett,

What is your altitude?

I think following my advice combined with patience will be the cheapest solution.    Your grass is patchy because the soil is crappy or the grass has been distressed.  With enough good soil, your grass can overcome damn near anything.  Good soil is going to come from more organic matter in the soil.  More organic matter is going to come from more grass clippings.  More grass clippings is going to come from a thick, healthy turf converting lots of sun and fertilizer into grass. 

Mow high.  Mow often.  Leave the clippings.  Use organic fertilizer.

The advice I gave to Mike would help you too.

Joanne

"3 times a week until May" - ha!  That's no restriction!

try to train the roots of your grass to go deeeeeeeep!  And improving your organic matter should help you too!

I would not be surprised if DE made the scorpions really sad due to their exoskeleton.

garyd,

I think you should go easy on the fertilizer until it really starts to grow.  A little now would probably help.  A little more in a few weeks. 

Kevin,

A few weeks ago I saw a lawn that 100% moss.  Intenionally.  It was beautiful.  Might be worth a small experimental patch just for laughs.

You are on the right track with the lime.  Moss is usually an indicator of acidic soil.  Tell me about how high you mow and what your watering habits are like.  Have you applied any fertilizer?

George,

Thanks for the kind words!


 
                                  
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I loved the article.  I have a couple questions for you. I live in southern New Mexico where it is mostly arid and for obvious reason have a tough time time keeping my lawn lush. I know I need to add topsoil to my lawn and a lot of it, but the problem I am having is that I have a 7 month old dog that loves to chew up and eat the small bits of wood that are in most topsoils. Is there any topsoil you can reccomend so that I could avoid this problem with my pet?  Also, I don't think worms exist around here naturally is it your advice to give them a home in my backyard, and if so, is there any particular type of worm I should look for?  Last one, I promise, I have a device that you dig a hole and put in your backyard for dog feces and add a enzyme and it will turn the feces into compost.  Do you think this would be a worth while project?  Thank you for your time, Roger
 
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Does the device dig the hole?

Small bits of wood - usually not a big help in lawns.  Usually commercial composts and soils with this sort of thing have some nitrogen so you get a quick greenup but then the wood chips suck all the remaining nitrogen out of the soil.  Then your lawn (or other growies) become sad and pathetic.

The best thing for your lawn is to mow high and leave the clippings.  Add some organic fertilizer once in a while.  Your dog might eat that - but if you mow high, your dog probably won't be able to eat enough to make a difference.

Worms:  I'm thinking of good ole earthworms.  It seems weird to think of a place where there aren't any. Does it freeze there in the winter?
 
                      
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One of my biggest problems is a lot dandelions right on the edges of my lawn along the sidewalk and next to the lawn edging. The dandelions grow in bunches and it is difficult to pull all of them out. I have no dandelions in the middle of my lawn except for one or two and they were single plants. What is the best way to deal with this? Also, have you heard of "Richlawn" fertizer? If so what do you think of it? It is supposed to be organic, made with poultry waste.
 
                                  
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paul wheaton wrote:
Does the device dig the hole?

Small bits of wood - usually not a big help in lawns.  Usually commercial composts and soils with this sort of thing have some nitrogen so you get a quick greenup but then the wood chips suck all the remaining nitrogen out of the soil.  Then your lawn (or other growies) become sad and pathetic.

The best thing for your lawn is to mow high and leave the clippings.  Add some organic fertilizer once in a while.  Your dog might eat that - but if you mow high, your dog probably won't be able to eat enough to make a difference.

Worms:  I'm thinking of good ole earthworms.  It seems weird to think of a place where there aren't any. Does it freeze there in the winter?

No Paul dig a hole and put the device in it, it's kind of qa diamond shaped box with a top that you put your dog's presents in and then when it gets to a certain point you add water and an enzyme and it turn it into xompost.  I live in the high desert and put in a seeded yard about 2 years ago, before that it was all sand, the problem I am having I think is that there is no longer enough good topsoil and I am losing my yard.  That why I was asking if you can reccomend some that dosn't have those small wood chips in it.  The first year I put it in it was a beautiful yard.  The only thing around here that is naturally lush is the valley around the Rio Grande.  Can I go to any bait shop to find worms and what kind do I need just regular earthworms?  Thank you 
 
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Haven't heard of richlawn.  Can you list the ingredients?

Dandelions on the edge - is the "edge" cement?    I would like you to try an experiment:  pick a ten foot long stretch and pour vinegar on the plants.



 
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Iamavictory,

Doggy compost:  I don't think you need the special container or the enzyme.  Maybe a little sawdust would be nice.

Before dumping all sorts of compost-like stuff on your lawn, let's first figure out why you had a great lawn and now you don't.

Did you mow high?

Did you leave the clippings?
 
                      
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Yeah, they are against cement as well as next to the metal lawn edging. They are not all right up against the edge. Most are surounded by grass. I tried the vineger on a patch last year and it killed them and some of the grass but they came back after a few weeks. I tried corn gluten last year but it didn't work. Could this mean I have bad PH on the edges of my lawn? The ingrediants of Richlawn are: 10-5-5 + iron, dehydrated organic poultry waste. Another of their products is: 8-2-1, dehydrated organic poultry waste, feather meal and blood meal. www.richlawn.com
 
                    
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Kevin,

A few weeks ago I saw a lawn that 100% moss.  Intenionally.  It was beautiful.  Might be worth a small experimental patch just for laughs.

You are on the right track with the lime.  Moss is usually an indicator of acidic soil.  Tell me about how high you mow and what your watering habits are like.  Have you applied any fertilizer?

George,

Thanks for the kind words!



I have never minded the moss until it totally started to take over.  My dog rips it up and leaves huge brown spots.  I have started mowing much higher this spring (following your advice) I am also adding rich soil to some very hard parts of my yard.  ( I have just started a plan to dig holes and put compost/dirt mix back in) 

We also have access to Rabbit poo, and I am working on composting it with dirt and grass clippings (limited) to create some of my own topsoil.

thanks for advice.
 
                                  
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Paul, yes I mowed high, it wasnt on the highest setting but it was the highest and left the clippings.  I think for whatever reason I just lost the topsoil and didnt have enough to sustain the yard.  I am also thinking maybe because the only bugs I have in the yard that I have noticed are those grey "roly-poly" bugs that roll up into a ball when you mess with them and ive seen a couple of laybugs our there.  I have yer to see and earthworm out there. Thanks again, Roger
 
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garyd wrote:
Yeah, they are against cement as well as next to the metal lawn edging. They are not all right up against the edge. Most are surounded by grass. I tried the vineger on a patch last year and it killed them and some of the grass but they came back after a few weeks. I tried corn gluten last year but it didn't work. Could this mean I have bad PH on the edges of my lawn? The ingrediants of Richlawn are: 10-5-5 + iron, dehydrated organic poultry waste. Another of their products is: 8-2-1, dehydrated organic poultry waste, feather meal and blood meal. www.richlawn.com



The trick with the edge is that the mowing tricks don't work.  Put the vinegar down once a week for four weeks.

The richlawn stuff sounds like it is probably okay.
 
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Kevin,

To get the moss to go away, you need to create an environment that is friendlier for the grass than the moss.  I'm thinking lime and fertilizer.  And if you've been watering, cut way back on that:  moss likes lots of shallow watering.
 
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