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Composting a yard, questions

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by Precision, Dec 25, 2004.

  1. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    I have a client in a rather nice neighborhood whose lawn was laid over filldirt.
    what I mean is that the contractor scraped off all the soil and replaced it with sand and seashell mix.

    The lawn grows but it is starving for nutrients, has to fight through the soil hardness, has a difficult time keeping moisture. Basically in any time other than peak season it looks like it is somewhere between struggling and dying.

    So far is is holding on with large doses of fert and squirt, but the salts seem to be catching up to it.

    My plan.

    One year long renovation with 4 applications of 1/3 to 1/2 inch of compost with each application.

    Doing the fert myself and switching over to a mostly organic program (milorganite based) with high amounts of added organic matter.


    The lawn is */- 11,000 sq ft. (mowed) is there an easier way to spread the mulch other than wheelbarrow and shovel without buying expensive equipment?

    I know after a year of compost addition the lawn will be better off, but will this need to be kept up perpetually or with mulching clippings should that get it over the hump?

    Where can I get bulk compost (real finished compost) to do this with. My landfill offers free "mulch" but not compost, free or otherwise.

    Feel free to shoot holes in my plan or make suggestions on procedure.
  2. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    just bumping myself to the top.

    doesn't anyone do this kind of work?
  3. Garden Panzer

    Garden Panzer Banned
    from Seattle
    Messages: 313

    you can find soils in the yellow pages under landscape supplies...
    you can buy a compost spreader, it's a mesh drum that rolls along as you push it, they work good except in the rain, but if you're done by 3:00 you'll be ok...
    just curious as to what the realitive PH is in florida, do you know?
  4. Grassboy 101

    Grassboy 101 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 23

    The only thing with the mesh drum is that the compost must be completely finished and dry. If it is damp it will clog up the holes in the mesh. To do 11,000 sq ft you would use approximately 16 cu yards to cover the area 1/2 inch thick. You may want to contact. newerspreader.com I think they are located in Florida so the freight on the equipment should not be excessive.
    I have not used this equipment, but am looking at it very strongly.
  5. muddstopper

    muddstopper LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,341

    Core areate before applying compost. Also consider adding extra micro organisms and then mulch mowing without removing the grass clippings. Do a search on the soil food web.
  6. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,570

    best thing to do is start over.
    what is the turf?
    if it is st augustine, you can easially kill it by topdressing ( that's what you are doing is called). it is a stoloniferous grass and you can easially kill off the stolons. bermuda will not have too much of a problem with an inch or so of topdress. with centipede about 1/4 to 1/2 inch at a time.
    try just aireating and topdressing. you'll be amazed at the difference. also check the pH. if it's like the sand/shell mix here you probably have an alkaline condition.

    try coring the turf and then adjust the pH. first.

    the problem with what you are wanting to do is the amount of time that would need to be spent topdressing would be better spent in a lawn renovation.
    think about how long it will take to add the several inches of rhich material you're wanting. then the turf will have to grow up through it , then repeat.

    installing an irrigation system and a good fertility management program will work better in the long run than what you're proposing.
    unless you are adding a top soil grade material it will take a year or more to break down into something beneficial to the soil.
  7. Jay Ray

    Jay Ray LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,510

    Some builders here don't even clean up the mortar spatter, and the farm trucks just sod right over compacted red fill, hard pan, and debris. No amendments period. This is on expensive homes. Recently got a customer with a new 170k house and the builder put in 1 gal. shrubs, mostly lirope, and had weeds in almost every sod seam, I kid you not. The smartest thing buyers could do would be to demand the builder take all landscaping costs out of the price and do no landscaping except site prep for building, and the buyers hire their own landscaper. Else start over like YardPro says or spend a lot of money and time to slowly amend it from the topside.
  8. TurfGuyTX

    TurfGuyTX LawnSite Senior Member
    from DFW
    Messages: 648

    I'd try and get some of the business from the builders and do it right.
  9. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,570

    good luck on getting te business from the builders. they want it done cheap.
    we are doing the landscape on a $750K new home next month. the builder wanted to do the initial landscaping. He had figured $1500.00 into the landscape budget. it's a large property for the area (30Ksqft.). how far does he think $1500 will go?

    when i was starting out i did alot of work for builders. i got out of that as soon as i could. I had a few try and hide budget overruns in the landscape budget. Had a guy tell me that he needed a landscape for $1500.00 that would look like $5K. he had gone over budget too far and could not get any more money from the owners, and had to recoup the cost in the landscape budget.

    i told him to call a magician.
  10. Precision

    Precision LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,995

    Thanks guys for the input.

    I am not so sure about killing off the St agustine with topdressing. I see guys add up to 1" of top soil and or yellowsand with no effect other than the grass yellowing a little before it pokes out of the new soil.

    I have never done this, so I will defer to greater experience.

    What I am trying to avoid is having to sod cut the lawn, then box grade out 2-3 inches of the "soil" so I can add in 2-3 inches of top soil then re-lay sod.

    If I just apply topsoil I need to add at least 2 inches to do any good. Just resodding won't really fix the underlying problem on lame soil and the lawn level will be too high. I will have to raise all the irrigation heads, deal with drainage, deal with a lawn way higher than the sidewalk/driveway.

    My idea for using finished compost is that the soil will slowly be amended and the OM will gradually mix itself into the shell mix. I forgot about core aerating, but that is a good idea, unfortunately not a big business here. I am not even sure if I can rent an aerator in FL.

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