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Habitat 4 Beneficial Microbes

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Jun 14, 2008.

  1. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Does anyone have a formula for creating a lawn habitat where beneficial microbes would thrive and other less useful and/or disease organisms would just not compete well?

    Other than a steady application of compost what things or practices would create a healthy lawn with healthy microbes?
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    A few off the top of my head.

    • limited traffic
    • proper water management
    • proper mow height
    • smart peripheral plantings
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    I am beginning to think that proper water management would be irrigate 2 days on 2 or 3 days off for a total of 1/2 - 3/4 inches. The second day getting water deeper into the soft, moist ground, then a couple of days for the surface to dry and allow air to return to the root zone.

    How dry should the grass (kbg, fescue) be b4 the next watering for optimum benefit for microbes?
  4. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,911

    char, shade,different types of plants possibly Incorporated into the lawn, lawn enhancers???
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    In my area and soils, summer watering for turf (fescue) at average temps (mid to upper 90's), every 3 days is sufficient in full sun. Shaded areas can be stretched to 4 days in some cases.

    Put all your water on in 1 day. If you need soak times, then use the feature in the controller if it has it, or schedule multiple starts.

    Optimum interval between waterings for each site is best determined using soil moisture tests and observations of indicator plants (in this case your turf).

    My very general rule of thumb....if the surface of the soil isn't dry, then it is not time to water.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    The monsoons are apparently over now :) So I can start plugging various areas to check the soil moisture relying on irrigation. I understand it is a very general rule of thumb and the idea behind it. Thanks.

    Is it generally true that - a soil that dries to the point of 'almost' stressing the grass b4 watering - will have better populations of beneficial microbes?

    Would they be able to build a better soil structure in a soak/dry cycle? or is a steady moisture more desirable?
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    There are too many other factors that contribute to microbial population density as soils dry to answer that question with a yes or no. If suppose if you look at only oxygen availability as soils dry, then I would say generally yes.

    Once again, there are too many other factors involved here to give a simple yes/no answer. If you want to conserve water (as you should), this should not be a concern. In most areas, soils naturally go through wet and dry cycles. Also consider in your irrigated turf grass scenario, your soils are never really going to be "dry".

    Problem with most irrigation systems is they are never scheduled correctly, nor are they designed properly. More often than not you find systems applying too much water in some areas, not enough in others, and almost all are either watering too deep or too shallow.

    To determine how much water you should apply, find or pick a depth for your effective root zone and water to that depth + any leaching requirements if necessary. To determine your AE, you need a soil moisture meter (or some other method) of determining your irrigation depth once your soils reach field capacity after an irrigation event.
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    So the general idea is that what is best for the grass is best for the microbes?
    For the sake of beneficial microbes, we are able to get oxygen/water ratio sorted. It is now just a matter of food.

    I do think the best way to irrigate for the sake of the lawn would be to max the field capacity then let it dry out. I think that is what you are saying :)
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,308

    Basically, yes. Your trying to grow turf, not microbes. :)

    Providing you allow your soils to dry to your AD, then you need not worry.

    Best way to irrigate IMO is to water to the depth of your effective root zone, or the depth you would like your effective root zone to be at. I think for turf, a good value to shoot for generally in most soils is 6-10" for an effective root zone, however this will vary depending on soil conditions and turf variety.
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    Actually, I am more interested in what it takes to optimize the habitat for beneficial microbes. The grass will be fine at any rate as long the disease microbes do not prevail.

    I am beginning to understand how the little guys contribute to soil structure and am trying to figure out just how deep we can get that soil structure to go.

    By definition: a perpetual application of CT or even Compost is NOT sustainable. Getting microbes to unlock nutrients deep in the soil and recycling efficiently - and - thrive in their own environment; means one step closer to a sustainable healthy environment for all plants.

    We are on the same page with watering as far as plants are concerned :)
    I am suspecting however, that a daily morning sprinkle on the plants and soil surface sets up a refreshment to the biology. I do that in my garden almost every day and it seems to help.

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