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View Full Version : In Michigan, very hard to find lawn experts!! Maybe you gurus have suggestions?


Staffy
06-23-2009, 11:54 PM
So I moved to Oakland County, Michigan over 10 years ago and purchased a corner lot home with one of the best lawns on the block ..

9 years of paying national and local "lawn experts" later and having my lawn slowly degrade to one of the worst on the block, I fired the last one as I happened to be home and watched what they did. I will not go into all of the details, but I do not think 2 laps around my house with a spreader, 5 cigarette butts on my driveway, and 10 minutes of yelling at his wife/GF over the cell phone with his windows down at 9 AM in the morning constitutes a "professional". No spot weed treatment (Even though I had 12" tall thistles he could see out of his truck window), no killing of grass in driveway cracks, nothing... I just had enough.

On a positive note, the very first company I hired had the ONLY person who cared about my lawn, if he found an issue, he always would knock on the door and if I was home, show me the issue, then tell me how he was going to fix it. After a year, he left the company and I put up with inexperienced hacks for 3 years before ditching them after numerous calls and supervisor visits.

Last year, my lawn was the very last lawn to turn green compared to my adjacent neighbors, I had some sort of field grass infestation, clover, and like 4-5 different types of grass that shows up in 1 ft diameter patches across the lawn. I asked both neighbors who have decent lawns what they did, I then replicated their treatment and it seemed to get worse.

This year after reading a few books to try and educate myself, I got a soil sample done and am starting my search for a true expert. I am even willing to do all of the labor, I just cannot find anyone with knowledge like I find on this forum.

From what I have learned so far. I learned my sub is build on basically a sand pile. I also learned that my neighbor thinks the builder sprayed on my lawn instead of laying sod/topsoil like they had done to theirs. I think the most important thing is that it seems like no matter what I do through mulching, fertilizing, watering 1" per week, etc is that there seems to be very little organic matter in the soil. I tried to solve this by spreading 10+ yards of topsoil/compost mixture myself. Over a year later and it all seems to have disappeared and the field grass went crazy.

So I am not asking for free advice in order to not pay you professionals, I am asking for help in finding a true lawn expert who can either make magic happen remotely or locally who will charge a fair price for their knowledge. If I cannot find anyone, then it is actually cheaper to replace 7000 sq ft of sod every 3 years than it is to throw money to the wind... but I am stubborn and want to have help to create a smart lawn maintenance program that will shut my teasing neighbor up who now cracks jokes about my lawn!

My goal is to find "my yard guru", kind of like my previous quest to find a good old fashiond barber. I am willing to also negotiate free cups of coffee, lunches, and the occasional Starbucks card to sweeten the deal! I of course intend to document the progress of this overhaul with lots of glorious pictures :)

All thoughts, comments, recommendations , or referrals are welcomed!

-Jay

Smallaxe
06-24-2009, 08:35 AM
Field grass may have come in with your topsoil. Add compost and till it all under, in mid August and reseed b4 Labor Day. Tilling it, 2 weeks apart will kill any germinating weed seeds b4 planting.
If you till in Milorganite then you will have a nice bit of slow release fertilizer down in the soil profile. This will encourage deep root growth.

Az Gardener
06-24-2009, 09:11 AM
Do you have full sun? Turf needs full sun to be healthy/vigorous it will live in part shade but not thrive.

Is your soil compact or does it easily absorb the water? If it is very hard your water may not be penetrating. If this is the case aeration and remove cores and fill the core space with "Turface". If it is sandy you may need to water more than the 1" per week. Several shorter water cycles close together per day when you do water.

Was your house/lawn'irrigation system brand new when you purchased it? Your irrigation system may be tied into a water softener line or a gray water system either of which will slowly cause your turf to decline over the years.

These are just a few of the things I would consider before I moved foreword.

Staffy
06-24-2009, 09:32 AM
Do you have full sun? Turf needs full sun to be healthy/vigorous it will live in part shade but not thrive..... .

In response to your questions:
-Full sun

-Since mostly sand, it absorbs the water (too much IMO).

-I aerated last year (I did not fill with "turface"), but am willing to do it again this year. I am kind of hesitant to buy topsoil/compost again until I can figure out a way to make sure it has no weeds in it that will make the problem even worse :)

-Sprinkler system came with the house, but I have gone through it time and time again, so I know 100% it is NOT tied to the water softener.

Staffy
06-24-2009, 11:01 PM
While on my search for an expert, I think I will do another soil test to speed up the process.

If I can't locate anyone locally, then I will just have to experiment myself.. probably with a good layer of compost over the sandy soil and keep it moist.

Az Gardener
06-25-2009, 01:05 AM
If the water is sinking in rather than running off you don't need to aerate. Sand does not hold moisture and it does not hold nutrients. I would go to syringe water cycles like several short run times throughout the day and water daily.

I would also consider putting on an inexpensive fertilizer injector like a Fertile Earth so it is getting micro doses of the fertilizer. Unless you like walking the spreader weekly.

Your fertilizer is just leaching through the soil, err I mean sand. You can add compost top dressing as frequently as you are compelled to do so and eventually it will improve but it will take a few years.

I have been top dressing some drain lines in a lawn that were filled with sand. I have done this about every other month for over a year on a clients home and the improvement is barely noticeable. If we back off the water those damn lines show up and it looks like hell.

Don't worry about the weeds at this point, healthy turf will choke out most weeds. I would also re-seed with a good perennial rye. It will come up quick and look nice fast. We use it here for the winter lawn, it is so easy to keep looking good. When/if it gets hot just switch to a Iron fertilizer rather than the Nitrogen so it wont burn.

Staffy
06-25-2009, 01:27 AM
TY for your response AZ, I will start watering daily and reduce times from 45 minutes to 15 minutes a zone.

I don't mind the multi year battle to build good soil and figured a compost topper was a good starting point. The only problem is I have had crap luck finding a good compost source here and am hoping a local expert might recommend a source.

I will start researching Fertile Earth, thanks very much for your recommendations, too bad you didn't live closer! Question: Do water based fertilizer systems like this require you to only use their solution, or do you mix up your own (I think they call it tea).

Az Gardener
06-25-2009, 01:46 AM
Fertile Earth has a lubricant they add to their product. Without it the gaskets will fail. Even if you just run water through it. You can buy replacement motors for about 70 bucks. Teas are very chunky on a microscopic level and damage most injectors.

I'm guessing your sprinkler heads are rotors? I would go to 6 starts of 8 minutes each. 9-11-12:30-2:00-3:30-5:00 as a jumping off point see what it looks like and adjust as needed.

Smallaxe
06-25-2009, 08:26 AM
The right question is... How did the previous owner maintain the best lawn on the block and how did I cause the decline.
Sandy soil is NOT an issue... many people have to deal with sand.

Staffy
06-25-2009, 09:27 AM
The right question is... How did the previous owner maintain the best lawn on the block and how did I cause the decline.
Sandy soil is NOT an issue... many people have to deal with sand.

Excellent question, I happened to ask a nosey neighbor the same thing when I moved in as the original owners were already out of state. The told me the name of the company, and I called them a month later to continue the service as they had come by and left a flier on the door as well...

This ended up being the one decent guy who knew what he was doing...after he left the company, it has been downhill ever since.

So if you say sandy soil is not a huge issue, then I might as well sit tight and wait 2 weeks for the results to get in from the soil test.

Thanks Smallaxe,
Jay

Az Gardener
06-25-2009, 10:04 AM
The right question is... How did the previous owner maintain the best lawn on the block and how did I cause the decline.
Sandy soil is NOT an issue... many people have to deal with sand.

I would bet he watered the hell out of it and was fertilizing all the time. They deal with sand by watering and fertilizing frequently. No One I know would consider tilling up their whole yard. What should he do for the next 6 weeks? He should be putting on that turf in 6 weeks with my advise.

Let me look into my crystal ball... the soil report will say you are low in all nutrients and you have little to no organic matter. Put down some compost, 6-20-20 and some seed and get some grass growin. After it pops use some roots brand turf product to get some more more life into the soil. Life is short feel the grass between your toes.

In all seriousness I know I'm not in MI but as long as you have heat, sun, water, nutrients and some soil you should be able to get grass to grow. Rye germinates here in 5 days or so and we are mowing in two weeks and it is beautiful in 6 weeks. If you have Wilbur Ellis up their try and find a rep from them and get your seed there. They will have a turf expert for your area too. They supply golf courses and have got far superior seed than what you will find at a box store or a irrigation supply house.

Kiril
06-25-2009, 10:47 AM
@Staffy,

Read this then come back with any questions. While it may not be specific to your region, the underlying principles are sound.

http://www.seattle.gov/util/lawncare/LawnReport.htm

Kiril
06-25-2009, 10:52 AM
While on my search for an expert, I think I will do another soil test to speed up the process.

Make sure you sample correctly so you get a good representation of your soil.

http://www.lawnsite.com/showpost.php?p=3047922&postcount=3

Staffy
06-25-2009, 01:41 PM
Thanks for the awesome info guys, I have many hours of research ahead of me and am starting on it now.

No Wilbur Ellis in Michigan, I am SOL there :)

Kiril, I did exactly what was posted in your link last year. I took at least 8-10 soil sample areas (0-8" depth), I took the sod, roots and all... placed them into a bucket, filled the holes with bagged topsoil, shook the soil out of the sod, mixed the soil, then filled the sample box to the brim.

My current action is trying to find a compost supplier that has good compost or who can at a minimum tell me what is in it. I see tons all over craigslist, but when talking to them, their lack of knowledge makes me a little uneasy... or am I being too picky and just pick any compost?

Staffy
06-25-2009, 01:42 PM
Make sure you sample correctly so you get a good representation of your soil.

http://www.lawnsite.com/showpost.php?p=3047922&postcount=3

Great post BTW, I had to explain to my neighbors how to do it as well as they just took a sample from 1 spot and sent it in, which is almost a waste of 15$ if you ask me :)

Kiril
06-25-2009, 02:04 PM
My current action is trying to find a compost supplier that has good compost or who can at a minimum tell me what is in it. I see tons all over craigslist, but when talking to them, their lack of knowledge makes me a little uneasy... or am I being too picky and just pick any compost?

I would look for a reputable bulk supplier. If they can't give you the info you need, then there is a couple things you can do.

1) Find someone that has used it on turf and will vouch for it.

2) Go and look at the stuff yourself. If it looks OK (i.e. properly finished and screened) and smells OK, then it probably is. I would think (hope) most bulk suppliers can tell you what the stuff is derived from.

If you want you can always send a sample off to the lab for analysis once you find a good source.

RigglePLC
06-25-2009, 07:32 PM
Skip the compost--organic--however--too many weed seeds. If you have low organic matter substitute a top-quality slow release fertilizer. If you can afford it, 75 percent slow release is best. Apply about once a month until grass is growing too fast for your taste. John Deere landscapes (formerly Lesco) will have the fert you need. Plan to mow twice per week. Taking off about an inch at a time. Over time you will build up your own organic matter. If still thin, overseed about Aug 15 with a top quality ryegrass--say Silverdollar, Derby Xtreme, or Palmer IV.

Better yet, get a pro to do it. Look for a small company, one that has been in business for about 20 years. My Michigan PAB (Pesticide Application Business) license number is 410043. Look for one at least that low.

Heidi J.
06-28-2009, 11:25 AM
Skip the compost--organic--however--too many weed seeds. If you have low organic matter substitute a top-quality slow release fertilizer. If you can afford it, 75 percent slow release is best. Apply about once a month until grass is growing too fast for your taste. John Deere landscapes (formerly Lesco) will have the fert you need. Plan to mow twice per week. Taking off about an inch at a time. Over time you will build up your own organic matter. If still thin, overseed about Aug 15 with a top quality ryegrass--say Silverdollar, Derby Xtreme, or Palmer IV.

Better yet, get a pro to do it. Look for a small company, one that has been in business for about 20 years. My Michigan PAB (Pesticide Application Business) license number is 410043. Look for one at least that low.

I totally agree, riggle. Don't give up Staffy.. there are plenty of good lawn professionals left in Michigan:). Because your lawn was hydroseeded (sprayed on) really makes no difference. But, having sandy soil in Michigan makes all the difference with our weather here.

Call around in your area to get several estimates on repairing the lawn. Ask alot of questions. Test their knowledge and incite. Let them know all your concerns. Sometimes homeowners have higher expectations then what is initially perceived. HO want us to spray our weed control in areas that can't be sprayed. I like doing estimates when the HO are there and can tell us what they expect and we can let them know what we can deliver.

Show us some pics. We would love to see what you are dealing with.

Kiril
06-28-2009, 11:29 AM
Skip the compost--organic--however--too many weed seeds.

Come on Riggle, you know better than that. Weed seeds are not a problem with a properly finished compost.

Staffy
06-28-2009, 12:35 PM
Okay guys, I think I am off to a good start... I actually managed to find a local Lesco/ John Deere place and went there with my soil test results.

3 guys were there, when I asked for assistance with fertilizers, they all pointed to one guy, so I waited in line for him. Happens he was in charge of a golf course for a long time and he seemed very knowledgeable.

He is very familiar with the soil in the area, basically said I would only need a high nitrogen slow release fertilizer, but also recommended a good weed and feed for later in the year.

He told me not to worry about the crabgrass, but to get my bluegrass nice and thick, then worry about the rest.

Should I create a different post to track my soil test results, fertilizer details and pictures or just keep it in this one?

Heidi J.
06-28-2009, 02:11 PM
Keep it here! Glad to see you are getting a good handle on this!!

Good luck!

EVM
06-28-2009, 09:48 PM
So I moved to Oakland County, Michigan over 10 years ago and purchased a corner lot home with one of the best lawns on the block ..

9 years of paying national and local "lawn experts" later and having my lawn slowly degrade to one of the worst on the block, I fired the last one as I happened to be home and watched what they did. I will not go into all of the details, but I do not think 2 laps around my house with a spreader, 5 cigarette butts on my driveway, and 10 minutes of yelling at his wife/GF over the cell phone with his windows down at 9 AM in the morning constitutes a "professional". No spot weed treatment (Even though I had 12" tall thistles he could see out of his truck window), no killing of grass in driveway cracks, nothing... I just had enough.

On a positive note, the very first company I hired had the ONLY person who cared about my lawn, if he found an issue, he always would knock on the door and if I was home, show me the issue, then tell me how he was going to fix it. After a year, he left the company and I put up with inexperienced hacks for 3 years before ditching them after numerous calls and supervisor visits.

Last year, my lawn was the very last lawn to turn green compared to my adjacent neighbors, I had some sort of field grass infestation, clover, and like 4-5 different types of grass that shows up in 1 ft diameter patches across the lawn. I asked both neighbors who have decent lawns what they did, I then replicated their treatment and it seemed to get worse.

This year after reading a few books to try and educate myself, I got a soil sample done and am starting my search for a true expert. I am even willing to do all of the labor, I just cannot find anyone with knowledge like I find on this forum.

From what I have learned so far. I learned my sub is build on basically a sand pile. I also learned that my neighbor thinks the builder sprayed on my lawn instead of laying sod/topsoil like they had done to theirs. I think the most important thing is that it seems like no matter what I do through mulching, fertilizing, watering 1" per week, etc is that there seems to be very little organic matter in the soil. I tried to solve this by spreading 10+ yards of topsoil/compost mixture myself. Over a year later and it all seems to have disappeared and the field grass went crazy.

So I am not asking for free advice in order to not pay you professionals, I am asking for help in finding a true lawn expert who can either make magic happen remotely or locally who will charge a fair price for their knowledge. If I cannot find anyone, then it is actually cheaper to replace 7000 sq ft of sod every 3 years than it is to throw money to the wind... but I am stubborn and want to have help to create a smart lawn maintenance program that will shut my teasing neighbor up who now cracks jokes about my lawn!

My goal is to find "my yard guru", kind of like my previous quest to find a good old fashiond barber. I am willing to also negotiate free cups of coffee, lunches, and the occasional Starbucks card to sweeten the deal! I of course intend to document the progress of this overhaul with lots of glorious pictures :)

All thoughts, comments, recommendations , or referrals are welcomed!

-Jay

Do this process in early fall or early spring. Spray some round up all over your yard and kill all the grass. Have a sod company deliver you some sod and start rolling. Make sure you have an irrigation system before you install the sod. Good luck and stop messing around with seed.

You have allot of hard work ahead of you but it will be worth it. Either that or hire a PROFESSIONAL landscape company to sod your yard.

Staffy
04-14-2010, 07:46 PM
Sorry to asked for advice and then kinda disappear... but had a ton of research to do. Just wanted to stop by and update, as I only have a few mins to type...

I did as recommended... killed of the entire yard last fall.

This past month, rented a sod cutter, then had all sod removed after I dug around all edges and made it simple for a sked steer to get in.

Sod is all gone, 3 semi- dump loads. Found out I had 10,000 sq ft instead of 7 :) Going to hit the entire yard with RoundUp again a week before topsoil is delivered.

This week is raking and prepping for a PROFESSIONAL landscape company just to bring in topsoil and topsoil grown sod (cut the morning of the install). This will run me about 2700$ for sod and topsoil (installed). Much cheaper than the 8k I was quoted, so started to do it all myself.

Took pics or progress.

Tonight after work, digging out sprinklers and thinking of replacing all with Rainbird 5004 series which sells for 11$ locally or 7$ mailorder... thoughts??

Going to buy all of the 4" RB popups for along sidewalk from a local irrigation company for $3 a pop, since they have to put the right nozzles on for an 8-10' throw. I do not see a rule of thumb on how far to keep sprinklers away from the sidewalks and driveway. I assume just enough to keep the edger from tearing them up.. but pls advise if you can or send a link as I am willing to read.

Will come back later when time to do all the pics, when more progress is made unless you all want to see them now.

Comments and advice is welcome.. and I think I am on the downhill side of the project... suburn is healing up and nightly cramped muscles are going away!

Jay