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Top dressing

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Grass Happens, Apr 19, 2009.

  1. Grass Happens

    Grass Happens LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 682

    I have a yard, oh 2000 ft2, that looks like complete crap. Its fairly new construction, so cheap sod on sub-soil in the front, and seeded in the back. I picked up the yard last year, and started applying 8-3-8 w/Fe chicken poo fertilizer and spot treated with 2,4-D. The front had to be mowed once for every 2 backyard mows. However, the front is relatively thick, and had no weeds, pretty good considering the two vacant lots on either side. The fenced in backyard grew well, but was thinner (as it was seeded) and is spotted courtesy of the dog. This spring, I went to do my rake out, and a large majority of the lawn is just thatch. As are most of the neighbors. The soil test she had done just before I came on last year has <3%OM and poor fertility ratings. I am getting another one done next week. My thinking on this lawn is a heavy dethatch, aeration, over seeding and top dressing of compost. I have never top dressed before, what is a good amount? I will also be doing via the old-school wheel barrow and shovel method. My guess was 3 yards, spread about .5" thick.
    Am I off my rockers? If this isn't a good idea, what else should I do? Gypsum as opposed to compost, or both?
    CTs aren't really possible as this is the only yard of its type, and all my other customers have decided to stick with grasscrack.
     
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,298

    when seeding and topdressing at the same time, the amount of compost you put down will depend on the seed requirements.

    How did you determine the thatch?
    Why would you use gypsum?
     
  3. Grass Happens

    Grass Happens LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 682

    I noticed the thatch as i was doing my spring rake. I looked at a few different points, and had a thatch layer just under an inch and 3/4 on the old tape measure. I mow at just about 3.25" weekly (bi- for the front) and there wasn't much in the way of excessive clippings, I bag if it gets to tall between cuts. Does gypsum not help improve soil structure and CEC ratio?
    By seed requirements, I'm not so sure what you mean? I will be over seeding with KBG, and was simply going to compost over the seed and rake the compost to out. And water, or course.
    Thank you!
     
  4. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 18,298

    This is thatch.

    http://www.lawnsite.com/showpost.php?p=2926420&postcount=6


    Gypsum is good for sodic soil reclamation and nutrient amendments.


    Different varieties have different germination requirements. For example, fescue likes about 1/4" seed covering.
     
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    You get a bit of discussion about thatch here from your own state.

    http://urbanext.illinois.edu/lawnchallenge/lesson5.html
    Dead grass/clippings etc., actually make good OM and nutrients for the soil once they are broken down into plant food. It's called nutrient cycling, and is the natural process used build soils around the world.

    IL is known for it's high pH in different regions. Do you know what yours is?
     
  6. Grass Happens

    Grass Happens LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 682

    Kiril, that is what I was referring to. I always thought anything over ~1" was not good for the plant. Its so thickly matted that i had to use a screw driver in spots to work it away to get an accurate measurement. I will have to look at her soil test again, as I don't have the exact number, but i do remember it being a bit high, but not the worst I have seen. As soon as it dries out some, I will be getting a current test completed.
    KBG, I thought, was just a slight covering over the seed, something like no more the 2-3 times the thickness of the seed.
     
  7. bicmudpuppy

    bicmudpuppy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,781

    That would be the point. Why would you put .5" of top dressing on top of the seed if you wanted it to germinate? Top dress, seed and lightly rake. KBG will germ w/ little or no cover, but .5" deep, you might be very disappointed.
     
  8. Grass Happens

    Grass Happens LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 682

    Sorry, I did say that, and i don't know why. I was thinking about 2.5 yrds of compost, which would come out about .2", if i could possibly rake that evenly.
    When I was doing the winter rake out, I picked out 3 areas and raked vigorously, where as the rest of the lawn was a light rake. Those areas have greened up substantially compared to every where else. So for now, I'm going to just recommended a dethatch, and do reseeding this fall.
     
  9. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    So in your mind - What did the vigorous raking do for the thatch layer? Is the 1 3/4" layer of thatch going to be reduced by a de-thatching?

    Put down sugar/molasses in order to digest the thatch layer and turn it into nutrients and usable OM.

    If you have an 1 3/4" layer of living roots and stems intertangled with half digested OM your dethatching will be a waste of time and even worse, charging the client to haul away OM and nutrients. What are you going to bring back?

    This is a Forum called Organic Lawn Care... hauling away the basis for nutrient cycling to purchase and transport different products is ... unsustainable. :)
     
  10. bicmudpuppy

    bicmudpuppy LawnSite Silver Member
    Posts: 2,781

    I've said or attempted to say this before, but maybe without the right "inflection". The most important thing that happens with aerification is breaking up those cores across the surface. If you just leave the cores to "melt", you've wasted a great opportunity. If you skipped the process because you felt the depth wasn't enough, you still missed the opportunity. I see golf courses aerify and then harvest the cores and put nothing back. Just allow the holes to fill in. This does open the soil for air and water, but it doesn't help the thatch. On greens, I don't get much choice, but we top dress after core removal for a similar end result. On other turf areas, I prefer to break up the cores and put some of that soil on top of the existing thatch. Now, decomposition of the thatch layer can begin. If you get soil on top of that thatch layer, if very quickly loses its definition of being thatch. It now becomes "just" organic matter that will decompose and become available nutrients.
     

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