Compost/Turf Problem

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by jkelton, Jul 27, 2004.

  1. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    I have a problem that I figured I would ask you guys on to see if anyone had any answers.

    I did a job last fall where I had the customer kill off all of the existing grass, aerate the area, and then I blew in a compost/seed mixture (about 1" total compost, 80/20 mix of turf type fescue/perrenial rye). The seed came up beautifully and has done well since then - until 3 or 4 weeks ago from my understanding (around July 1). The customer has been very pleased until it started turning yellow in spots and dying out in other spots. I told her that I would be by there in the morning to take a look at it and see if I could notice anything obvious.

    The customer does not have an irrigation system, but I do not think that is the problem since here in Mid Tennessee we have had a lot of rain this year. The only problems the customer had was where I did the compost mix - other areas were sodded before. I checked another job I did a week later than this job (with the same parameters), and it does have a hint of yellowing in it also. Other jobs which I only did 1/3~1/2" compost show no signs of yellowing.

    My initial theory is that since we have had so much rain this year and the compost tends to hold quite a bit of moisture, the compost held too much moisture around the grass and basically drowned it. Does this sound possible? I have several pictures showing the area. Any ideas on what might be causing this would be much appreciated.

    This grass was in very good condition until this and I would like for it to get back to that condition if possible.

  2. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    Picture #2 - the back of the property

  3. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    Picture #3 - between the mulch beds

  4. trying 2b organic

    trying 2b organic LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 566

    very very strange, i wish i knew what it was. Fescue is more drought tolerant than Rye, maybe the sod is Fescue and the Fescue in nthe new area is ok but the Rye died. With the Rye overseeding I have done i have found that it needs more than usual watering for at least a season. Not heavier but quite frequent.

    Compost is the perfect meduim for grass, it will retain the perfect amount of water, definatley not more than it should like clay. Of course at first blush it looks like drought stress yet the tufts of green that are left look ok. It could be insect damage but why had the sod area not suffered?
  5. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394

    Interesting pics. Since the neighbors yard looks fine right up to the border, and I doubt they irrigate so perfectly that no water reaches the lawn you worked on I would rule out water as a cause and focus on the soil in the yard.

    First thing I would do is have a soil test done.

    Also, what was the source of the compost? Was it a municipal facility or someone else? Since you indicate that this has been down since last year it is not likely that it was the compost if it came in strong and green last year.

    Does the neighbor use synthetic insect control? If so, I would dig up a square foot of soil to check for grubs etc.

    Start with a soil test and an insect check and let us know what you learn.
  6. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394

    Also, although I don't deal with perennial rye monoculture lawns, you may want to investigate if it is pythium blight. I understand it is very fond of perrenial rye lawns and can do this kind of damage.
    If the neighbor uses a broad spectrum fungicide or does not have perennial rye then it may be another avenue to investigate.

    Check out this link:
  7. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    The dying out of the Rye grass portion is interesting to me. If the seed was not mixed properly, could this be the result (i.e., too much Rye) and the rye natually died out? I'm used to a little yellowing in the summer when the rye dyes out and the fescue keeps on growing, but I suppose if there was too much rye, the rye could have overtaken the fescue in those areas, thus leaving the brown, dead grass when it got hot. Does this sound right to you guys as a possiblity?

    Thanks for the input - anyone else that might have any other suggestions feel free to jump in.
  8. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 394

    Ahh, sorry, for some reason I missed the 80% fescue part and thought we were looking at straight rye. Hmmm. Is the grass that survived the rye or the fescue or a mix of both? Some close up shots would be real cool. We can solve this mystery. Has the look of a fungus but without some real closeups it is tough to say. A friend just got a stereo microscope that we are trying to hook up to a digital camera just for such things.

    I would find out what the neighbor's grass blend is and what treatment program they are using. It looks good and may provide a clue as to what is going on here.

    Also, are you sure the owner didn't sneak in a "special treatment" of something from Lowe's that he didn't tell you about. Can't imagine that things could go so bad in a year with compost unless it had some sort of contamination or suffered some severe stress causing a fungal outbreak. The borders between the two properties indicate something very specific was done on this piece of property. Now it is just to find out what.

    Soil test good place to start I would imagine. Hopefully some of the real pros here chime in soon with some answers before you lose the whole thing.
  9. wpines

    wpines LawnSite Member
    Messages: 54

    the "compost" was probably loaded with some type of ground wood product. It's utilizing all of the nitrogen while it decays.
    half of what you find as "compost" now is wood based junk.
  10. jkelton

    jkelton LawnSite Member
    Messages: 243

    No, the compost is a true compost (USCC approved compost with C:N ratio less than 10:1).

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