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organic lawn care for the cheap and lazy

 
Posts: 523
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft Grafter, veggie gardener
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I'd suggest you investigate whether you can buy mushroom manure in your area. Mushroom manure is manure that was used to grow mushrooms commercially. It's spent manure still with plenty of nourishment for your lawn. It's advantage is that it was steamed 2 or 3 times. It's been used to grow a couple batches of mushrooms. So; many of the weed seeds have germinated and been picked out. The steaming will also kill many weed seeds. It will green up a lawn and any roots of your trees and plantings that grow under the lawn. This is a permanent organic improvement to your lawn and the soil.

Spreading this is not as easy as buying a bag of fertilizer as you can't buy a spreader at the big box store. I've bought a pickup load and spread it over a lawn quite a few times. You only need a small covering. A half inch thick. An inch thick covering won't hurt your lawn. You do need to break up the 3 inch diameter clumps that you will find before you spread it. I'd suggest you use a flat shovel not a spade. You simply throw a shovel full over a broad area and on successive throws try to spread it evenly. Small areas can be covered by rocking the shovel so the it falls off the shovel on either side. If this product is available in your area then I'd either use my pickup, a rental, or get it delivered, for about $35 a load in this area. The product is about $35 a yard and you can comfortably get 2 yards in an 8 foot pickup bed. If you use a truck you have the advantage of getting it closer to where your spreading it. Myself tho, I wouldn't drive the truck over the lawn.

Another thing you can do is to spread grass seed before you spread the manure. A light covering of seed is called overseeding. A heavy layer of seed would be reseeding. If you sow the seed by hand you can do the overseeding/reseeding in one pass by simply sowing as much seed as each area needs. Myself I spread more seed than many do; as I find the amount you save by going cheap isn't worth the effort you've spent in labor.

I've added amendments to the manure. If you have clay I'd suggest you shovel 3 shovels of mushroom manure and one of sand into a wheel barrow. By the time you shovel it out of the wheel barrow and onto the lawn the product will spread extremely evenly. The sand is amazing at changing the tilth. When you buy this it may be quite wet. If it's been raining a lot it'll be much worse than if you buy it after a few days of dry weather. You can also mix some lime into the mixture. There are some on this site that will tell you to never add sand to clay, but they do this on golf courses where it's called topdressing. Also the majority of top soil sold commercially in my area is a shredded mix of clay and sand without any improvements.
 
John Indaburgh
Posts: 523
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft Grafter, veggie gardener
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I should have mentioned the smell. It will smell for a couple of days. Watering will help, and will also help the seed. With this product over top of the seed you won't have to water as often, but don't let it dry out.

If your lawn needs aerated I'd suggest you do it after you get this job done.

 
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Hello, I've enjoyed this "lawn care for the cheap and lazy" post for years and I esp love the graphic of the weeds vs. grass. Could I please have permission to use it in a slide show I give called Landscape for Life? It's a presentation I offer in the community for free.
 
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We rely heavily on wood chips from local tree trimmers, bags of raked fallen leaves from neighbors, and our own compost/vermicompost bins to build healthy soil.
 
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I've been following your "Organic lawn care for the cheap and lazy" advise for over 10 years and have been using organic fertilzers on my lawn for as long. I've used Ringer and a Ringer clone "Purely Organic" and for the last 2 years "Dr. Earth". The "lawn care nuts" on youtube are always promoting the use of a fertilizer called Milorganite. It is a biosolid that is a waste product of the Milwalkie sewer system that is supposed to be organic. What is your opinion of this fertilizer? Is it something that would be ok and good to use or is it something to stay away from?
 
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Curious with Ringer no longer available, what fertilizer you are using in fall.
 
steward
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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I'm not sure how Milorganite, being made from Milwaukee sewage sludge, could actually be truly organic and healthful.  I'm sure it passes the organic rules but there's a lot of stuff dumped down the drain that could maybe possibly end up in that stuff.
 
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My lawn is old.  I hate the way it looks.  It is full of bare patches & weeds.  I’ve had it aerated & dethatchec over the years and it still is eye pleasing.
I have put dirt down on bate patched with seed band still looks patchy.

It doesn’t help that we are in z as n area where there is a water deficit of 8” this year.  We do water and isn’t cheap.

What should I try to do for fall?  Aerate/ dethatching, seeding or put what fertilizer down to help with the weeds too.
 
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Carol, welcome to the forum.

I don't understand "we are in z as n area" though I can understand being where water is scarce.

For now, maybe you can find a good organic compost for those blank patches.

I would suggest trying to find a drought-tolerant native grass that will grow in your area for those blank patches.

If this grass will grow where you live it might help fill in those patches:

https://permies.com/t/93789/Love-Affair-Buffalograss-Buchloe-dactyloides
 
pollinator
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Location: Western MA, zone 6b
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Here is my "lawn".    People always comment "that doesn't look like a dog yard."    I mow it at about 6"  and I use a mulching mower to keep all my grass clippings and fall leaves on the lawn.   Unless I'm collecting some for the compost bin.    I overseeded with "microclover" but it looks like pretty normal white clover to me.    Yellow spots... I just sprinkle a little grass seed on them and kick it in.    I even scythe some of the clover and dry it for my rabbits overwinter.   It's about the laziest you can get with a lawn while still mowing.   I don't water or do put anything on it.   It's surrounded by a wide perimeter of deep wood chip garden,  I do think that has some benefits for the yard area as well.   I've been here 3 summers.   When I moved in, it was bare short scalped lawn with all organic matter removed and conventionally maintained.  It looked so sad.  Now when I dig I see a nice layer of dark topsoil.  

First picture with dog is before mowing,  2nd two are AFTER mowing.
lawn.jpg
[Thumbnail for lawn.jpg]
lawn2.jpg
[Thumbnail for lawn2.jpg]
lawn3.jpg
[Thumbnail for lawn3.jpg]
 
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I have provided organic lawn care for the cheap for over 30 years now. My experience is exclusively in Midwest US I hope my thoughts are useful to people in other places. I'm inspired by Fukuoka's do less approach. My target client is an elderly homeowner who can no longer take care of their yard. They often have pets or grandchildren who use the lawn, so they don't want chemicals. The idea is to have an attractive and useful lawn that costs little to maintain. I find that mowing less often and with a higher setting on the mower is best for most people. The clippings are usually mulched into the lawn. The thing most often limiting growth is water. Everybody's  lawn grows quickly in the spring, no fertilizer needed. I don't like to use precious tap water on lawns, and I want them to stay green during a droughty summer. Therefore I tolerate some species in the turf besides grasses. Things like wood violets, creeping charlie, clovers, dandelions will stay green when the grass goes dormant. Moreover they have flowers for the pollinators. Many of my clients have learned to appreciate the meadow look of a lawn with wildflowers in it. These common weeds will all blossom and tolerate mowing, leave them alone I say, it's too much work to fight them and why would you. Weeds I don't tolerate, say thistles, are controlled by mowing and/or hand weeding. The lawns often have mature trees and it can be difficult to grow nice turf under them. This is because the trees have roots near the surface which are competing with the grass for resources, primarily water imo. Ironically if there were grass growing already it would capture more available moisture on that spot by holding rainwater instead of it running off and by capturing dew.  So my strategy is to add organic material which will hold water to the soil surface. This doesn't need to be high quality compost I use soil made primarily of leaf mold I make myself. I don't test soil, I'm looking primarily at texture. I add a layer about a half inch thick of my soil to bare spots in May and September and sew new grass. The soil life will aerate as they come up from below to feed on the fresh carbon. My soil is from hugels I've built, it is full of organisms optimized to decompose all sorts of hard to break down stuff I've disposed of. All sorts of stuff from nut hulls, pine cones, old firewood, squirrel carcasses, lawn thatch, weeds and primarily autumn leaves gets broken down in a highly fungal pile. I am looking to transfer that ability to break down difficult stuff, so that it occurs more quickly in situ. Some trees simply shade too much to grow grass decently beneath them. I prefer to use ground covers like vinca or wild ginger there but a wood chip mulch is better than bare soil.
Some in this thread have mentioned mowing large lawns, like an acre or more. On an area that size I would keep a much smaller "lawn" mowed and plant a meadow with wildflowers like new England asters, goldenrod, mullein and milkweeds.
 
gardener
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Location: Málaga, Spain
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Hi.
I never thought I would say this, but I need advice on handling a lawn.

Is there any tools that I need other than the manual mower?
The lawn that I have to look after is currently drown because of excesive irrigation, so I'd say I need something to aireate it too.
The soil is so wet that the fruit trees are dieing.

I'm going to mix some potting mix to the soil under the fruit trees to try to recover them, but eventually I need to help the turf too.
 
pollinator
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Location: Zone 7a, AZ
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John Indaburgh wrote:I'd suggest you investigate whether you can buy mushroom manure in your area. Mushroom manure is manure that was used to grow mushrooms commercially. It's spent manure still with plenty of nourishment for your lawn. It's advantage is that it was steamed 2 or 3 times. It's been used to grow a couple batches of mushrooms. So; many of the weed seeds have germinated and been picked out. The steaming will also kill many weed seeds. It will green up a lawn and any roots of your trees and plantings that grow under the lawn. This is a permanent organic improvement to your lawn and the soil.

Spreading this is not as easy as buying a bag of fertilizer as you can't buy a spreader at the big box store. I've bought a pickup load and spread it over a lawn quite a few times. You only need a small covering. A half inch thick. An inch thick covering won't hurt your lawn. You do need to break up the 3 inch diameter clumps that you will find before you spread it. I'd suggest you use a flat shovel not a spade. You simply throw a shovel full over a broad area and on successive throws try to spread it evenly. Small areas can be covered by rocking the shovel so the it falls off the shovel on either side. If this product is available in your area then I'd either use my pickup, a rental, or get it delivered, for about $35 a load in this area. The product is about $35 a yard and you can comfortably get 2 yards in an 8 foot pickup bed. If you use a truck you have the advantage of getting it closer to where your spreading it. Myself tho, I wouldn't drive the truck over the lawn.

Another thing you can do is to spread grass seed before you spread the manure. A light covering of seed is called overseeding. A heavy layer of seed would be reseeding. If you sow the seed by hand you can do the overseeding/reseeding in one pass by simply sowing as much seed as each area needs. Myself I spread more seed than many do; as I find the amount you save by going cheap isn't worth the effort you've spent in labor.

I've added amendments to the manure. If you have clay I'd suggest you shovel 3 shovels of mushroom manure and one of sand into a wheel barrow. By the time you shovel it out of the wheel barrow and onto the lawn the product will spread extremely evenly. The sand is amazing at changing the tilth. When you buy this it may be quite wet. If it's been raining a lot it'll be much worse than if you buy it after a few days of dry weather. You can also mix some lime into the mixture. There are some on this site that will tell you to never add sand to clay, but they do this on golf courses where it's called topdressing. Also the majority of top soil sold commercially in my area is a shredded mix of clay and sand without any improvements.



So much good info here.  I can't believe it hasn't gotten more attention.  Did everyone else see this?  I have a mushroom farm not too far from me.  I'm going to use your ideas here.  Thanks for sharing this info.
 
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