frustrated lawncare newbie

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by stackz, Oct 3, 2012.

  1. stackz

    stackz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    ok, I live on james island in south carolina. inherited my property about 6 years ago and when I started I almost had nothing but bare ground. I've been fertilizing/watering/etc ever since.

    Finally got decent growth in the back and on the side of the house but cant get anything to grow in the very front...well sporadic weeds and various weed-type grasses...but mainly just desolate land.

    I have very sandy soil. Its also very nutrient depleted. I did a soil test and the pH is at 4.5ish, nothing shows up for nitrogen or phosphorus. I get a very very faint reading on the potassium.

    my one hydragea plant has deep blue flowers...

    I've been reading online and it seems I should use dolomitic lime (for the magnesium which helps binding, etc). My land is a50'x150' lot.

    what rate should I add the lime to the yard? I have a scotts handheld spreader and one of the push type. I've always just applied everything with the handheld (since I can control where it flies...not onto my concrete) at the max setting of 5.

    also, what would be the best to use for raising nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium? I've read dont use chemical fertilizers as they contain NH4 which will also raise acidity.

    I know it will probably take me some time/several applications before anything starts to grow or the soil recovers as well.

    what are the pro's thoughts on the REVIVE product as well?

    I have sooo many questions but I figure getting the pH to a more neutral state would be my best starting point.
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I can't comment too much about southern lawns, but your problem is soil... acidic sand that holds no nutrients is what you need to deal with... clay holds nutrients so you might add some top soil with a heavy clay base... compost is definately a real plus and you may even have other ammendments common to the area... I wouldn't bother with a soil test until your soil has been thoroughly ammended, first... :)
  3. stackz

    stackz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    ok, so basically nothing I can do at this point with the soil/dirt I have. nice.

    I have no mad money for ripping the top couple inches off my yard and tossing down topsoil, the finance' has made sure of that what with the wedding coming up in less than a month lol.

    clay would have to be brought in from the north area of the state. after you go down 5' in charleston, you dont hit hit sand so I cant even get fill dirt from the area.
  4. agrostis

    agrostis LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,545

    There's a lot you can do. You are in climactic zone 9a,

    Forget about stripping your topsoil off, the top 5-6 inch's is where all the good, organic stuff is. If you stick with plant's (and there is a lot of them) that can handle those condition's you can have something nice to look at. Nice landscaping is a long term thing, you need to get that attitude, it will make thing's a lot easier. Can you describe the property in more detail ? Can you post picture's ? I lived in Savannah for 8 year's, i can help you out if you want to do it right.
  5. avguy

    avguy LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 565

    Before I did my renovation I sent a soil sample to my extension office for analysis. My test came back at 4.9 but more importantly they told me exactly what to put down and at what rate.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Note the word 'ammend'... people successfully grow great lawns on sand all over the country... you don't have to haul away sand and haul back in topsoil... but you will have to stop and think about what is necessary to get the grass to survive, then thrive...

    Its not a lot of 'ammending', but it has to be done thoughtfully... if you can only do 'squirt&fert', then you are going to need a big investment to get it started... work with what you do have and optimize the environment in which you want your lawn to develop...

    I wonder how people grew lawns in the old days??? b4 squirt&fert people had to actually think...
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Ignore Axe. Do a proper audit of the soil and proceed from there.
  8. stackz

    stackz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    ok, you'll have to forgive me. when you say "ammend", what exactly does that entail?? is that like when you add lime/potash/super phosphate to get the pH and the fertility into spec before planting seed?

    or is it something else?

    also, as for a proper audit, I guess thats more entailed than my pH/N/phos/NH4 test I've done? where do you get this done and how much does it cost? I'll gladly get it done if I can afford it and post results. no problem with that.

    as for pics, here's some of the big trouble spots. sorry they are dark but I didnt remember to take them until before I left for work this morning at dawn.

    my front lawn is the worst is why I'm posting it. If I can get this to grow, I can get the back filled in lol.

    first pic, is the close left of my house. just bare and scraggly. though up against the house, really nice st. augustine but I cannot for the life of me get it to spread. fiance put the little citrus tree in while I was out of town.

    second pic, this is the other side of the sidewalk where I was standing in pic one. again, towards the top left where it is shaded, you can see nice st. augustine. the rest, a barren mindless field of crap. though annual rye grows nicely in the winter?

    Here's the other half of the front yard. I didnt take a pic down the side of the house since that grows just fine and is full sunlight like the barren areas. My neighbors each have a live oak on the border of their property that shades the corners of my yard in front where you actually see some growth. no clue if the oaks are just sapping nutrients or not but I dont see that as I have neighbors with trees and great growth...neighbors with no trees and great growth..

    this last pic is a close up of a weird area I've never been able to figure out. If you look in pic three, right close to the mulch area by the sidewalk, there's an area that has never gets thick I think because this stuff looks like mold or fungus of some sort. I've tried several fungus treatments and it never goes away? its hard to tell but its a dark green mossy like texture.

    Also, I do have a brand new tiller that I can use if I have to till up the whole yard to get this fixed. Its a nice big one I inherited before it ever got used. I think the total blade width is about 4' wide.

    Also, in the backyard...mainly due to the dogs running...ungrown areas are super sandy like beach sand so I know its not compacted back there but it seems the dead areas in the front are compacted. I've got a pole type aerator and aerator shoes and have tried to aerate several times with no luck...
  9. stackz

    stackz LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    how do I find out what 9a means? I can pull up the map showing charleston as 9a compared to the rest of the state but I cant find where it says what actually will grow good in a 9a zone?
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,335

    Determine current chemical and physical properties of the soil in the areas of interest, then take the appropriate action. That might (and probably will) mean amend with a minimum of lime and compost and till as deep as you can given what you have posted.

    Personally I would lose the turf in the front two small areas.

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