• Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

New to organic lawns

 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hi,

We purchased a house in Central New Jersey at the end of May where the owners had been organically taking care of their lawn themselves, but hadn't found a local organic gardener to help them out. While I was away on an extended business trip I had the lawn service the owners had used mow the lawn, but do nothing else and when I came back I had the feeling the lawn didn't look as good as when we had purchased the house. The grass had been cut very short. Lots of weeds and clovers in one area, some mushrooms in another, and no grass in a 3rd area under a tree which blocked sunlight. There had been more grass there previously.

I've been following this forum after reading "Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy". I'm completely new to gardening other than mowing my lawn, find the idea of doing it organically great, but have a few questions as to the proper way to do it.

I sent soil samples to the local extension office, which is part of a nearby university, to find out what the situation is and just got the results back today.

1. Backyard
pH 6.55
Lime Recommendation: The soil test indicates a very slightly acidic soil. The pH is slightly higher than the best range for the growth of most Lawn but no correction is needed. Do not apply any limestone.

2. Sideyard
pH: 7.05, very slightly alkaline, indicative of overliming
Lime Recommendation: The soil test indictaes a neutral soil. The pH is somewhat higher than the best range for the growth of most Lawn but no correction should be made. Do not apply any limestone.

For both these areas the Fertilizer Recommendation is:
Any of the following fertilizer grades and amounts may be used to supply the needed amounts of nutrients. Other fertilizer grades containing the appropriate ratio (2-0-1) of nutrients may be used. Use fertilizers containing 30-60% of the nitrogen in slow-release form (Water Insoluble Nitrogen).

Grades: 9 pounds 11-0-0 (Feather Meal) plus 12.5 pounds 0-0-4 (Granite Meal) or 2 pounds 0-0-22 (Langbeinite (IMC Sul-Po-Mag, Espoma Epson Plus)),

Or 8 pounds 12-0-0 (Dried Blood Meal (Espoma, Schultz)) plus 12.5 pounds 0-0-4 (Granite Meal) or 2 pounds 0-0-22 (Langbeinite (IMC Sul-Po-Mag, Espoma Epsom Plus)),

Or 14 pounds 7-0-2 (Soybean Meal) plus 5.5 pounds 0-0-4 (Granite Meal) or 1 pound 0-0-22 (Langbeinite (IMC Sul-Po-Mag, Espoma Epsom Plus))

Spread the indicated amount of pounds/1000 square feet per application of one of these fertilizers in 2 applications evenly over the soil in September-October and in April-May each year.


3. Frontyard
pH: 6.35
Lime Recommendation: The soil test indicates a slightly acidic soil and is in the best range for the growth of most Lawn. Do not apply any limestone.

Fertilizer Recommendation:
Any of the following fertilizer grades and amounts may be used to supply the needed amounts of nutrients. Other fertilizer grades containing the appropriate ratio (1-0-0) of nutrients may be used. Use fertilizers containing 30-60% of the nitrogen in slow-release form (Water Insoluble Nitrogen)

Grades: 8 pounds 12-0-0 (Dried Blood Meal (Espoma, Schultz)),
Or 9 pounds 11-0-0 (Feather Meal)

Spread the indicated amount of pounds/1000 square feet per application of one of these fertilizers in 1 application evenly over the soil in September-October or in April-May each year.


So my questions are to the proper way of managing this.

a. In what order (fertilizer - aerating - seeding) should I do these steps now in October?

b. For lawn areas 1 and 2 they make several recommendations. Do they mean I should mix 2 types of fertilizer to get the proper nutrients?

c. Are the suggestions ok?

d. Can I get grass to grow again under the tree? I'm still trying to identify it. Rather odd looking tree that had some berries in it in September which a squirrel and birds munched on frequently. The tree trunk is on the neighbor's property, but I'm thinking about trimming the branches coming over to our side.

Thanks for your help!

Emery
 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I'm sort of in a bind as to what to do next. I'll make a guess and maybe someone can give me a nod if I'm correct?

I'll forget the aerating and seeding for now and just fertilize.

Areas 1+2 Feather Meal with Espoma Epsom Plus mixed in.
Area 3 Feather Meal

Then in the Spring fertilize areas 1+2 again and then do some seeding for the areas where there's no grass. I just don't know in which order or how much time should elapse between the 2 events.

Is that ok?

Thanks.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20428
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
This is kinda creepy.  I wrote a long response to this several days ago and my response appears to be not here. 

I'll respond again.

 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20428
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The recommendations to not add lime are good recommendations.

The fertilizer recommendations sound like they are good too.

Seeding:  why?  Do you mean under the tree?

aerating:  why?  Is your soil terrible?

tree: can you attach a pic?
 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the reply.

Seeding: Yes, under the tree, patches that are bare from where I dug out weeds before finding this site, where we removed a plastic children's house from the previous owners and areas where the grass isn't that thick in the shade of other trees.

Aerating: The previous owner had supposedly done this and seeding every Fall, according to the lawn service who had mowed their lawn. I really don't know if it's necessary.

Here are some pictures of the tree from mid September when the berries were still on it. Rose hip perhaps?

Thanks!
tree_close.jpg
[Thumbnail for tree_close.jpg]
berries_close.jpg
[Thumbnail for berries_close.jpg]
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20428
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have no clue what kind of tree that is.  Anybody else?

I would put lawn seed wherever there is  a bare patch a foot wide or bigger.  Other than that, I wouldn't mess with it.

If your predecessor was throwing down seed every year, I wonder if they were throwing down an annual seed:  something that grows very fast and thick, but dies at the first frost. 

If the lawn is sparse, that means that the grass conditions are lousy.  Trying to raise babies in hostile conditions isn't going to improve the situation.  Once you have things on the mend, the existing grass will fill out your turf nicely.

My advice:  skip seeding and aerating.  Focus on fertilizing and good, general care.

 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
OK, we'll do that.

What do you mean by good general care?

And also, when should I put the seed down on bare patches, before or after fertilizing, and how much time in between?
 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
A neighbor just identified the tree as a dogwood. One question resolved.

I can't seem to find feather meal in the area and will have to turn to blood meal for now.
 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I got the blood meal, but there isn't any information on it as to whether to water (or put it down just before rain is expected) or when there is a dry period.

Sorry for asking so many questions.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20428
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
general care:  like in the article: http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp

Whenever you put down grass seed, hold off on fertilizing until after the first mow.

Blood meal should be watered in right away.  If you don't do this, you'll attract vermin:  e.g. dogs will come and lick your lawn.

 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Great, thanks. This all helps a lot.

The last thing I have to work out is how to set the spreader for 8lbs / 1000 feet. I asked Espoma whose blood meal I purchased and they didn't know. All they said was "we do not recommend spreading with a broadcast spreader as the product is a meal and this can generate dust."

I've also read that the Earthway drop spreader seems to get clogged up easily and then drops in large clumps.
 
                                      
Posts: 92
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
The tree is a dogwood as mentioned.

Aerating is always a good idea, as it breaks up the soil, reduces compaction, adds nutrients and oxygen to the soil through the holes left behind, and creates healthier lawns in general.

Your PH range is actually pretty good, so don't mess with it for now.

Fertilizing should be done at the time of seeding, since you want the seeds to grow healthy roots and a good root structure as soon as possible.

Seeding and growing grass under trees with low lying limbs and much shade will be difficult at best, particularly if you don't create a nice seed bed through tilling or loosening the soil by some method for good root growth.
 
                                      
Posts: 92
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Just for the record, Paul and I have a differing veiwpoint on fertilizing newly seeded areas, but his explanation to me on why he recomends not doing so
until new growth reaches mowing height makes sense for many reasons as well.

The transition from synthetic based thinking to organic thinking takes some time, and the lawn care and landscaping industry has a long way to go, as do the customers looking for instant gratification.

BUT, that's why I'm here................
 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Thanks for the advice. I'm keeping busy with my attempts at turning the lawn around. I did fertilize in October with blood meal and I've noticed some areas turned lighter green, but some turned brown. The areas which turned brown seem to be crabgrass and not the actual lawn.

I think I missed the opportunity to aerate and seed the area under the dogwood and will have to wait until Spring and next Fall.

I did purchase a netting-type compost bin at the local county office for the mulched leaves and when I turned the leaves yesterday was surprised at the amount of heat and steaming that came out of it after less than a week.

I do have 2 questions about what I should still do now.

1. I've been cutting the grass long since August, but how short do I want to cut it the last time before winter?

2. I've read something about "winterizer" fertilizing on or just after Thanksgiving. Is this something I should still do? Can I use Ringer Lawn Restore for this or should I go for something else? Or should I do it at all?
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20428
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
1)  how cold does it get?  If it freezes pretty hard through the winter and your whole lawn turns brown, then you could mow low - but I cannot think of a reason why you might do that.  Otherwise, your grass does grow a little now and then through the winter, so you should not mow low.

2)  Wait until spring.  Laying down fertilizer now does very little - other than give money to the folks that sell that sort of thing.
 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
1. I'm up near New York City in New Jersey. I haven't spent a winter in this house yet to know what happens to the lawn, but depending on how bad the winter is it gets pretty cold here.

2. OK, great. More time to be lazy.


PS. Also like your java ranch site. Glad to see it alive and healthy.
 
                      
Posts: 10
Location: New York / New Jersey
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
BTW, found another organic fertilizer from a company called Converted Organics, http://convertedorganics.com/index.php/Lawn-and-Turf.html

The idea seems interesting.
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20428
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
EPM13 wrote:
BTW, found another organic fertilizer from a company called Converted Organics, http://convertedorganics.com/index.php/Lawn-and-Turf.html

The idea seems interesting.


Well, they don't say what's in it.  That makes me nervous. 


 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Yes, no mention of sources.

I emailed them and asked.  We shall see.

Sue
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I guess I should have done a little more searching before I emailed them.

From http://greenupgrader.com/3567/food-waste-to-fertilizer-converted-organics/

"This Boston based company creates “biostimulant” fertilizers. Using food waste from produce handlers, food processors, supermarkets, farmers’ markets, restaurants, hospitals, and airlines and using their proprietary technology the waste food is broken down by bacteria much like in waste water treatment facilities. The fermentation of the food waste/bacteria mixture is aided with heat and oxygen, like many compost digestion processes. The products produced include odorless fertilizers for the residential and commercial worlds for lawn, turf growth, and gardens. The fertilizers are completely natural and their production methods means the waste is diverted from landfills, methane and CO2 production from their decomposition is eliminated, and they replace artificial fertilizers that pollute water sources and damage soil quality over the long term."
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
And I just received a response to my email from Converted Organics:

"Thank you for your interest in Converted Organics. In response to your email below;  a Converted Organics facility can process solid and liquid organic wastes from a variety of sources, including produce handlers, food processors, supermarkets, farmers’ markets, restaurants, hospitals, and airlines. Converted Organics All Natural Fertilizers are derived from food waste and other natural ingredients. We do not use manure, poultry litter, sludge or other bio-solids."

It sounds pretty good.

Sue
 
paul wheaton
master steward
Posts: 20428
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
bee chicken hugelkultur trees wofati woodworking
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Hmmmm  ....  In that case, I think it has potential.  I'm still a little nervous about non-organic food going into it ... 

I would say that based on what little I know so far, it isn't as good as home made compost, but it is probably better than other commercial composts.
 
Susan Monroe
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
"I would say that based on what little I know so far, it isn't as good as home made compost, but it is probably better than other commercial composts."

Acquiring enough organic waste to make it is too much to expect.  I don't think there's much that is as good as the homemade brand.

But you've got to give them credit: they aren't adding sewage sludge and other crap like that, and they're keeping their materials out of the landfills.

I'll have to find some and see what it looks like.

Sue
 
                                      
Posts: 92
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
SueinWA wrote:
And I just received a response to my email from Converted Organics:

"Thank you for your interest in Converted Organics. In response to your email below;  a Converted Organics facility can process solid and liquid organic wastes from a variety of sources, including produce handlers, food processors, supermarkets, farmers’ markets, restaurants, hospitals, and airlines. Converted Organics All Natural Fertilizers are derived from food waste and other natural ingredients. We do not use manure, poultry litter, sludge or other bio-solids."

It sounds pretty good.

Sue



I've posted their link and some info on our site when they made the announcement of some of the things they are doing, and I must say, it's a good idea in my mind, and better than pure synthetic ferts.

We'll see what really comes of it, but I think it will be a plus overall.
 
                                      
Posts: 92
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
[quote author=EPM13 link=top

I do have 2 questions about what I should still do now.

1. I've been cutting the grass long since August, but how short do I want to cut it the last time before winter?

2. I've read something about "winterizer" fertilizing on or just after Thanksgiving. Is this something I should still do? Can I use Ringer Lawn Restore for this or should I go for something else? Or should I do it at all?



3 inches is as short as I'll ever cut cool season turf, but warm season turf is a different story if your in a transition zone or down south.

Cutting a bit shorter now helps keep snow mold and other fungal infections to a minimum,
and keeps it from laying over so much for fescue lawns and such, creating a breeding ground for problems.

Fertilizing for winter helps with root growth because the roots on your lawn will continue to grow until the soil temperature gets below 40 degrees, which here in pennsylvania is well into december. Root structures on a well cared for lawn that's properly fertilized and cared for will reach a depth of 8 inches or more.

The new thinking is that nitrogen alone can create root growth through feeding the top growth, hence creating more food for the roots, but I don't subscribe to that theory.
Roots need more than nitrogen, and it's the roots that create spring growth.

It all depends what kind of lawn you want.

Personally, my lawn gets fertilized 3 times a year, with a more balanced fertilizer.
 
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!