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Organic lawn care for the cheap and lazy in Southern California

 
                                
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An update on what I've been doing.

Mowing at 3", which is about as high as I can do it and not have to mow twice a week (and that's pushing it.)

Moved from watering 10 min everyday to 30 min every 4 days.  Generally this is working, but I have to adjust once in a while with the heat.  It's getting hotter and I think it may not be getting enough water.

Ringer fertilizer in the spring, about 2 months ago.  I applied at half the recommended rate.  Previously done last fall, same way.
 
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Mowing at 3", which is about as high as I can do it and not have to mow twice a week (and that's pushing it.)



I don't know what this means.  Are you suggesting that if you mow higher that you would have to mow more often?  I think the oposite is the truth.

Moved from watering 10 min everyday to 30 min every 4 days.



A good first step!  Eventually, you will want to move to the next step which would be to water when your grass needs it, instead of watering on a schedule.  But that can wait.

Invading clovers:  I like clover in my lawn.  But if it bugs you we can explore ways to minimize it.  Generally, a wee bit more fertilizer in those spots will do the trick.

Bare spots:  do you have any home-made compost?

the flat patch of dirt:  the key word you used is "dirt".  If you had a bucketfull of home made compost, I would suggest spreading that on a patch and watch how it gets radically better quickly.    When looking at the pictures, it looks like grass struggling to grow on dirt (as opposed to a thick grass turf growing on soil).

Wow!  Interesting weed!  I have to admit that I don't know what that is.    But!  I can guess that if you improve your soil and follow the cheap and lazy techniques, you will beat it with nothing more than mowing high.  Of course, it would be nice to figure out what it is.    Focus, focus, focus .... the real problem is the dirt - until you mend that, you are going to be riddled with all sorts of problems.  There are the cheap and lazy techniques that will require patience.  And there are other ways that are a bit more immediate. 

And then there are some wacky ways that might be a bit fun if it is what you are into.  Like planting buckwheat!  Followed this fall with a big crop of winter peas!  And then next year with tall fescue. 





 
                                
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paul wheaton wrote:
I don't know what this means.  Are you suggesting that if you mow higher that you would have to mow more often?  I think the oposite is the truth.



Yes.  It looks very non-manicured.  That may not be a big deal to some, but my HOA would fine me  relentlessly.  That sort of goes against the "cheap" part of the cheap and lazy.  So 3" is about the max I can do.

A good first step!  Eventually, you will want to move to the next step which would be to water when your grass needs it, instead of watering on a schedule.  But that can wait.



I actually do adjust the water cycle slightly based on what I see, but I like having it on a schedule so I don't have to think about it as much. 

Invading clovers:  I like clover in my lawn.  But if it bugs you we can explore ways to minimize it.  Generally, a wee bit more fertilizer in those spots will do the trick.



I thought so.  A little more Ringer?

Bare spots:   do you have any home-made compost?



Not yet.  We are going to start doing so.  Not having many trees that drop leaves, we're a little short of one some of the ingredients.  Trying to figure that one out.

the flat patch of dirt:  the key word you used is "dirt".  If you had a bucketfull of home made compost, I would suggest spreading that on a patch and watch how it gets radically better quickly.    When looking at the pictures, it looks like grass struggling to grow on dirt (as opposed to a thick grass turf growing on soil).



Last fall we spread .5"-1.0" of a 60/40 topsoil compost mix over the entire yard.  So while it's still not great, it should be better than it once was.  I guess I need more compost!

Wow!  Interesting weed!  I have to admit that I don't know what that is.    But!  I can guess that if you improve your soil and follow the cheap and lazy techniques, you will beat it with nothing more than mowing high.  Of course, it would be nice to figure out what it is.    Focus, focus, focus .... the real problem is the dirt - until you mend that, you are going to be riddled with all sorts of problems.  There are the cheap and lazy techniques that will require patience.  And there are other ways that are a bit more immediate. 



OK, got it.  I'll keep working on the dirt.  Just compost?  Compost holes?

And yes, I'd love to know what this weed is.  Maybe one of the other members knows.

And then there are some wacky ways that might be a bit fun if it is what you are into.  Like planting buckwheat!  Followed this fall with a big crop of winter peas!  And then next year with tall fescue. 



lol  I like wacky, but see the comment about the HOA above.  I'm a little limited.
 
                                
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Oh, about the grass type.  Is it really Tall Fescue?
 
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(I'm tryig to get caught up here - sorry for the delay)

paul said:  I don't know what this means.  Are you suggesting that if you mow higher that you would have to mow more often?  I think the oposite is the truth.

"letterk" said: Yes.  It looks very non-manicured.  That may not be a big deal to some, but my HOA would fine me  relentlessly.  That sort of goes against the "cheap" part of the cheap and lazy.  So 3" is about the max I can do.


I think 3.5 inches is better, but 3 inches is fine. 

After several mowings at the taller height, the lawn will fill in and look manicured.

And ...  and this is the important part ...  at the higher mowing height you will mow less often.  And it will look manicured for longer between mowings.

paul said: Invading clovers:  I like clover in my lawn.  But if it bugs you we can explore ways to minimize it.  Generally, a wee bit more fertilizer in those spots will do the trick.

"letterk" said:  I thought so.  A little more Ringer?


Yes.  In the spots where you have clover.  Just a little.  And gradually.  And only during times when the grass will be experiencing a growth spurt.

OK, got it.  I'll keep working on the dirt.  Just compost?  Compost holes?



It sounds like you want very fast results and are welling to part with time and money to have fast results. 

Yes, go with the compost holes. 

Oh, about the grass type.  Is it really Tall Fescue?



I'm not sure what your question is. 

I do recommend tall fescue for new seed for areas where it freezes in winter.





 
                                
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paul wheaton wrote:
It sounds like you want very fast results and are welling to part with time and money to have fast results. 



Not necessarily.  Assuming I can keep the HOA happy, I'm willing to wait to do it right.

Yes, go with the compost holes. 



We plan to compost, but haven't started just yet.  I know you're not a fan of commercial compost, but what else is there?

I'm not sure what your question is. 

I do recommend tall fescue for new seed for areas where it freezes in winter.



My question is what kind of grass do I have?  I've been told it's tall fescue, but you've said you doubted that because I live in a warm climate.  I know the new grass I planted is tall fescue, because that's what I bought, but I'm not sure about what is already there.  I posted some photos so that those that know more about this than me can help me figure it out. 
 
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letterk wrote:

We plan to compost, but haven't started just yet.  I know you're not a fan of commercial compost, but what else is there?



Home made compost is the best.

Short of that, dig the hole and fill it with whatever organic matter you have lying around mixed with the soil you took out of the hole.

As for the variety of grass ....  if you have a warm season grass it should be growing like gangbusters now!  If you have a cool season grass (like tall fescue) it should be browning and kinda dormant right now. 

 
                                
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paul wheaton wrote:
Home made compost is the best.

Short of that, dig the hole and fill it with whatever organic matter you have lying around mixed with the soil you took out of the hole.



It looks like some of the composting barrels claim compost in 14 days.  Sounds like a plan.

As for the variety of grass ....  if you have a warm season grass it should be growing like gangbusters now!  If you have a cool season grass (like tall fescue) it should be browning and kinda dormant right now. 



It's growing like crazy right now.  In the winter it just grows a bit slower, but is still green.  Is it possible there are multiple versions of Tall Fescue?  Tall Fescue looks like the most common grass sold around here.  50% of the seed at Home Depot is Tall Fescue.  I've been told contractors usually use Tall Fescue here.
 
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The 14 day stuff is awesome, but it requires you to tend it every day.  And the contraption is spendy.

Not cheap.  Not lazy.

Develop patience.  Patience is the friend of the cheap and lazy.  Throw your compostables in pile.  Give it a year.

Tall Fescue grows like crazy on cool mornings and afternoons in the 70s. 

Warm season grasses, on the other hand, hate cool mornings and love heat!

 
                                
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paul wheaton wrote:
The 14 day stuff is awesome, but it requires you to tend it every day.  And the contraption is spendy.

Not cheap.  Not lazy.

Develop patience.  Patience is the friend of the cheap and lazy.  Throw your compostables in pile.  Give it a year.

Tall Fescue grows like crazy on cool mornings and afternoons in the 70s. 

Warm season grasses, on the other hand, hate cool mornings and love heat!



With limited yard space, and three little kids, a pile isn't going to cut it.  Also, I'm SURE my wife would kill that idea.  I'm ok spending the money on the contraption.  Not for the speed (although that is nice) but having it contained and looking pretty will make this endeavor less painful.

I read what you're saying, and it makes sense, but everything I'm told and everything I see, and knowing what I planted, makes me believe I really do have tall fescue.  But I live in a warm climate. 
 
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Okay - here is the contraption.  I think they should make bigger ones just to get a bigger heat core going, but I have verified that this gets the heat up to 150.
 
                                
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paul wheaton wrote:
Okay - here is the contraption.  I think they should make bigger ones just to get a bigger heat core going, but I have verified that this gets the heat up to 150.



That's the one I thought you were talking about.  I think we'll put it in the budget next month.
 
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