Different Microbes Now???

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Smallaxe, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    I've been mulch mowing a lot of area that has not been allowed to even keep its grass clipping until this past Summer... The ground was dry and dusty in the past with a lot of bare soil between individual grass plants,,, now getting mulched over a bit...

    Anyways, we recycled the grass clipping during the warm moist weather and they were disintegrating quickly through microbial activity, I'm assuming...

    Now we are mulching in some pine needles and maple leaves through a process of double mowing and we now have more moisture, but cooler temperatures and of course a more varied food source...

    Should we imagine that the microbe populations are different now becuz of a different environment?
    What amendments would work best to aid in the decomposition of this type of organic matter??
    Would the melting snow and the freeze/thaw cycle cause a much more active microbe population to take care of this material in the Spring???

    I'm thinking compost in the Spring for certain areas that are more barren and need of seed...
    Is there a better way???

    GREENWITHENVY1 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 115

    Your correct in thinking cooler weather will effect biological activity in the grass but you do not need to add microbes! There all still there just moving around slower. The only way to speed them up would be to layer more organic material but being this is a lawn and not a compost pile you cant.You can just let it be my friend.Nature will do the rest.
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    So compost in the Spring to speed things up as the soil warms, is unnecessary???
  4. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,226

    I think...yes...you now will have different microbes predominating. Different food source and cooler temperatures. Slower overall due to low temps--but --high moisture is a slight help.

    Years ago there were a couple products on the market called "Compost starters" or something similar. Contained bacteria and fungi a a powder that would break down the grass clippings and leaves either in the lawn or in an actual compost heap--that is--if you believe the advertising and promotional material. I didn't notice any difference...but...if anyone knows of a product that actually works...I would be interested.
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    I was just wondering if the microbes that have been eating the grass clippings all Summer would also be eating the leaves... I don't think so, but who knows...

    We've had a lot more moisture and a lot more germination in the past couple weeks, so life continues to go on around here, in spite of the freezing nights... It is likely that decomp has started, although 'slowly' as you say...

    The other thing that occurred to me about getting all those leaves to mulch into the grass is that,,, decomposition ties up Nitrogen...
    So now I wonder if the decomp has started, will it affect the amount of N, available to the grass???
    Any thoughts about that???
  6. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 12,226

  7. phasthound

    phasthound LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,583

    When Do Soil Organisms Do Their Work?
    The activity of organisms is constantly changing with temperature, moisture, pH, food supply, and other environmental conditions. Different species prefer different conditions, so even at maximum total activity levels only a minority of soil microbes are busily eating and respiring. The highest total activity is in late spring/early summer and in late summer/early fall when the soil is warm and moist. In early spring, some farmers see nutrient deficiency symptoms in their plants because not enough microbes are warm enough to convert organic compounds into plant-available nutrients. Leaching of excess nitrate often happens in early spring when the soil is too cool for either plants or microbes to grow and immobilize the nitrogen.


    As stated above, microbial activity varies throughout the year. Different species become more or less active depending upon the environment they favor. Most favor warm temps, fewer favor cold temps. Some favor more water, some less. Some favor eating grass clippings while others favor tree leaves. Some microbial species favor oak leaves over maple & vice versa. And on and on....

    As for nitrogen, some species of microbes will make it plant available and others will sequester it. One recent study shows that microbial activity in the fall will sequester N and release it in spring, making it plant available when plants are coming out of dormancy.

    Another recent study shows that applications of N reduce microbial biomass and activity. Think this one through, are we hindering a natural process which favors plant health when we add additional N?

    Applying compost in the spring will most likely release nutrients and enzymes
    in time to reduce summer stress, but not in time to influence spring green up.

    Basically, it is in favor of the health of plants to encourage a wide diversity of soil microbiology for plants to prosper.
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Thanks for the article... I've been thinking about revisiting the maple leaf Michigan experiment to review the details,,, but the last one I read didn't talk about mulching in ankle deep oak leaves...

    Right now in Centro Wisco the pine needles are done and most all the deciduous leaves are just about done dropping,,, except for the oak leaves, of course... and now I've been given the green light to mulch mow them into the turf as well... this article was the first resource that actually did the oak leaves and didn't worry about poorly chopped pieces suffocating the grass...

    I am curious about the long term results of continuous mulching of leaves, year after year in the same spot/plot... I get the impression that they mulched at different times during a single year and recorded statistics from that one period...
    It seems to me that over time that more NPK would be released from the OM buildup at the surface...
    Any ideas about that???

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