Adding/Replacing Organics to Current Practices

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Smallaxe, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    Of course I did. There has not been any visible change in the soil structure below the crown level of the grass. The grass has deeper roots, as expected this time of year. I used the compost to bed #350 of seed (overseeded field). I used straight compost mostly to avoid starting a soil layering problem that might haunt me later (because it does not migrate but stays on top where placed) but also because I knew it would help my seed get a good start under difficult circumstances. It looks good by the way.

    It is a heavy soil filed. I hope to deep core aerate next year instead of topdress but am not sure yet.
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Another strategy that I am going to go heavily into this season is 'Dormant Seed' Annual Ryegrass(AR)... The thinking here is that,,, the AR will grow well all summer long in those areas that have been compacted bare spots in the past, loosening up the soil as the roots force their way deeper into the ground as time goes by... Then,,, as they die off over the course of the following Spring, the better grass will have opportunity to grow into healthier soil as the roots decay...
  3. Exact Rototilling

    Exact Rototilling LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,378

    Annual rye...? Why not just a perennial rye dominant mix? Is this for non irrigated lower input lawns...?
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  4. foreplease

    foreplease LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,062

    Granular wetting agent followed by water :)

    5% OM is what is commonly recognized as adequate in good soil mixes; also a number you don't want to surpass by much. Sometimes we add 100% OM to get to that number. I worked an entire growing season with my soil and compost provider and a soil testing lab to come up with a sand-compost topdressing mix that is suitable for most of my fields. Initially the supplier got kind of a laugh out of it as most folks around here just want "a load of black dirt." Once they saw the first series of lab results and the adjustments that were being recommended it became a matter of pride for them to hit my ranges. They have been making it for me now for almost ten years and it has been very dependale. I have shown them lots of before, during, and after photos. They are now recommending and providing this mix to others.

    It's difficult to get any of it into the root zone unless you're starting from scratch and amending the soil. Otherwise several years of aerating followed by topdressing can make a difference. Around here not many homeowners would pay to see that through. If I have to turn a stand around and there are not any huge grading problems, I prefer to killl, slit seed, and topdress. There have been a few I have torn into, though, and I mean deep: 14-18". I have incorporated as much as 100 cubic yards of sand into a baseball infield (elevation needed help too) that had too much silt and OM. And I have tilled OM and soil into sandy fields.

    Annual ryes have come a long way from the forage and paddock types like 'Gulf' to turf types such as 'Pantera.' You're still well advised to whisper if you want to mention annual rye in cool season turf. I sought opinions on using it from everyone from Riggle (thank you) to a golf course superintendent in Georgia. My sales rep liked it.The company had research on germination under traffic, such as on the football field where I used it as part of the overall mx. A couple colleges on the west sie of MI are using it on their athletic fields. In the end, I took a chance and have been pleased with the results. It was 20-25% of the overall mix. I am somewhat apprehensive about what the transition may look like but I know now that it's not going to occur in-season so it should be fine. There is also the argument that annual ryes just take food and water the permanent grass could be using. It was a matter of quick establishment and color under a lot of stress.

    Axe, I'd say give it a try carefully - and I am sure I am in the minority, but I have just done it with good results. Do it as part of a mix though IMHO. I don't know that there will be quite as much benefit happening underground as you expect. You may need to regularly core aerate too.
  5. greendoctor

    greendoctor LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,124

    More than 5% OM is my indicator of soil chemistry and nutritional issues. Think grass that has been growing and dying on itself 365 days for maybe decades, yet soil pH, base ratios, and nitrogen content of the vegetation are not conducive to decomposition. I do the unthinkable, I do not collect clippings on my reel cut lawns. Thing is, in about a month, I cannot recognize them as clippings. Conversely, a common renovation procedure around here is to scalp a lawn to the point that you can see dirt and then verticut the H-L out of that lawn, picking up whatever comes to the surface. That is a good way to remove the excess organic matter. Those in the know either do not apply anything other than an inorganic fertilizer or silica or washed dune sand as a top dressing. I start fertilizing and addressing soil chemistry after scalping. The ones who really need to think about what they are doing put organic matter on a lawn where several cubic yards of it was just stripped off. :hammerhead:
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    These are areas in which using regular grass is poorly established, doesn't grow well and is not irrigated... AR is able to fill up such an area with a dense mat of strongly growing grass that germinates easily and survives quite well under less than ideal conditions... mulch mowing that stuff should give the soil adequate cover to keep microbial activity going along into the soil...
    Next year I Dormant seed and follow up with a Spring overseed after that... think about those roots filling up the soil then decaying back down... the soil building is what I'm shooting for in this procedure, because the regular grasses are already there,,, just doing so poorly that it looks bad... :)
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Remember this thread is about building up a soil full of living active microbials that are supplying turf roots with a superior healthy environment... Making the transition over time,,, but does NOT disappoint the client in a sudden drop in turf quality and increase in weeds...
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I've already hauled away the majority of the first wave of heavy leaf fall... Maple leaves and the last of the pine needles were sitting quite heavily on the ground and capable of suffocating grass...
    Rather than remove it I found it was quicker in the long run to double mow with the Timemaster 30 as it does such an excellent job mulching... looks like freshly mowed turf w/out any debris sitting at the surface...

    In this case it is actually Cheaper to do the 'organic thing' and it is going to be a huge improvement on these soils... I may add compost to aid in decomposition next Spring when it warms up again...

    I was hoping to hear from others some organic strategies that can be implemented to improve the conventional synthetic 7 step program, w/out telling the client to "lower expectations" while gradually leaving the 7 steps behind...
    This is all that has come to mind so far,,, but other creative ideas would be helpful... :)

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