NY - Regraded lawn now 100% crabgrass, and want to stay organic/safe
posted 10 years ago
I recently purchased a house on Long Island (Zone 7A I believe my extension office says), and the backyard (2,500 sq. ft.) needed to be re-graded. Prior to the regrading, the grass was actually decent. After the regrading was done, seed and fertilizer were applied (not sure what kind).
At first, I was getting some nice patches of grass growing in, and was optimistic. I had applied some Ringer's Lawn Restore about 5 weeks after it was done too. However, now a couple of months later, the lawn is covered almost completely in crabgrass and some other interspersed weeds.
I'll be honest... from a distance, the thick lush green yard looks kinda nice, but up close it's a weedy mess. I'd like to get some "real" grass back there for the kids and family to enjoy for years to come.
I mow high, and every now and then I toss some additional seed down in the hopes that it will overcome the weeds. Wishful thinking I'm sure. I've also contacted my extension office to have some soil samples done, and will post those results too.
For now, what's the best plan of attack for me? I've looked into "natural" herbicides (white vinegar with a bit of dish soap) to kill off the weeds, adding sugar to the lawn to encourage microbial production, using corn gluten meal in the fall/spring as a pre-emergent (possibly only in the spring if I reseed in the fall). I'm very much in favor or staying natural and avoiding the chemicals if possible... I'm also impatient, and wouldn't mind at least SOME rapid change for instant gratification.
Keep mowing high, weakening the weeds growing now. Stop throwing seed until the fall. Summer won't be nice on your seedlings. Stop fertilizing until the fall, when you can try again to throw some seed. Enjoy the "nice and green from afar" aspect of your lawn .
If the soil was decent before, and if what soil you added (if any) was decent, then it will be good again without too much trouble. For now, let the weeds put in their organics and pave the way for what you'll get going in the Fall.
Any instant gratification will be a lot of work, and in my opinion not worth it in the end, since you'll be doing a lot of stuff to sustain the seedlings that I wouldn't want them to grow accustomed to, while at the same time constantly fighting the weeds that will take advantage of the coddling environment and fighting the summer heat.
I think the most instant gratification would be sod, also the most expensive and still worrisome in getting to survive the summer heat.
Next in line would be dividing the lawn into sprinkler-reachable sections, clearing and seeding/watering/coddling/(strawing?) new grass into place, 2-4 weeks per section. Sprinkling much more often than spring or fall to fight the summer heat. Pulling weeds as they come. Whew! makes me tired just think about it!
Next I see waiting until fall and letting mother nature help.
Vinegar may help thin the weed herd, but with nothing to take the place of the weeds (unless you baby it intensely) I think it will either give you a worse looking dirt lot, or just let another weed pop up, possibly one that's tougher in resisting vinegar!
I don't want to sound TOO disparaging, I just don't want to futz around working much harder than you need to.
I don't think there will be any instant gratification either. It is what it is for now.
Do what Jeremy said and reseed in the fall. Maybe some corn gluten in the very early spring but not sooner I would think as you want those grass seedlings to grow this fall.
Good luck. A good lawn takes time. Organic lawns can take 3 years to get fully working, but it is worth the wait.
posted 10 years ago
If you can bag the grass you'll reduce the amount of weed seed you reintroduce into the lawn also.
posted 10 years ago
Hello, and thank you all for the comments/recommendations.
So, my plan will be to basically do nothing right now, other than to keep mowing high. At the end of the summer I should reseed/overseed the entire lawn and fertilize. [s]In early spring, I can apply corn gluten meal to prevent the weed seeds from germinating.[/s] I can then basically just keep deep watering and mowing high. In the fall, if the weeds have significantly dimished I can [s]apply corn gluten again[/s], if they haven't dimished I should repeat the same process.
Does that sound right? And, I have some questions if so:
[li]I've been mulch-mowing, but buddy110 recommended bagging to reduce the weed seeds. Which is preferred?[/li]
[li]When should I reseed and fertilize? I think I've read that the first frost will kill the weeds, so should I wait until then? I'm on Long Island, in zone 7A.[/li]
[li]My backyard is pretty much full sun and my front yard is half full sun and half dense shade. I've been using a standard Sun & Shade mix of seed (which contains a lot of Kentucky Bluegrass) and it hasn't done particularly well underneath a big tree. From my reading, should I switch to something more durable and shade tolerant? Perhaps tall fescue? Any recommended brands/blends?[/li] [li]Should I continue to use Ringer's Lawn Restore, or is there something better?[/li]
[li][s]When in the Spring should I apply the corn gluten meal?[/s][/li] [li]One other side question. I don't compost (yet), but I do save my used coffee grinds, as I've heard they are good natural fertilizer. Can those be used in addition to the Ringers, or should I use them elsewhere?[/li]
Thank you again in advance.
edit: I'm new to the forums, and wasn't aware of the details around corn gluten meal and that it's generally frowned upon here. I have no problem eliminating it from my regiment! I left the original post with those portions striked-out.
Location: Central IL
posted 10 years ago
Bagging will indeed keep most of the weed seed from getting redeposited, if the weeds are going to seed.
In a similar post: Just Getting Started I talk a little about how the weeds will hold the dirt for ya until you're ready to grass 'em.
Until I'm ready to seed in the fall, I just keep mowing them and keeping the clippings on the lawn. If you're worred about seeds then you have the option of mowing them down before they develop seeds, sucking up the seeds (and natural fertilizer), or letting the ones that germinate add to the organic matter of your soil until you reseed (which I guess is letting that worry go). The more you mow weeds the weaker they get (for most weeds, anyway).
So I guess you can probably read my preference on bagging (I'll love for the OM, hate for weediness, the new weeds that may come from not bagging).
Reseed and fertilize when the temps are cooler and atmosphere is a little moister. You won't be working so hard getting the grass to germinate. Then once it comes it will fight the weeds too.
Tall Fescue is the favorite around these parts. But most people won't shame you for putting in whatever grows best in your conditions. KBG is generally considered more of a pig than what it's worth, but some people put up with it for it's satiny feel...
Ringer's great, any other organic fertilizer where you recognize the ingredients is great too. Even vegetable meals (I've been known to put down soybean meal [one of your higher N vege meals] and alfalfa pellets [has rooting hormone]).
Coffee grinds are great everywhere: compost pile or straight to soil. It's OM no matter how you cut it, and it has a little N too.