Homeowner questions

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Bob E, Sep 22, 2004.

  1. Bob E

    Bob E LawnSite Member
    Messages: 60

    I have approx 35,000 ft2 lawn that I am in the process of renovating.

    To make a long story short; I killed off the lawn with round up, had a contractor come in and remove most of the vegetation ( mainly weeds) and do a complete finish grade (with 15 tons of new topsoil) on front and back yard to resolve some drainage issues we had. We also installed an irrigation system in front yard.

    I seeded everything with Lesco transition blend seed (tall fescue). In the back yard I put down a "dusting" of peat moss to help keep the soil moist. The irrigation system in front yard is keeping the soil moist.

    3-1/2 weeks after seeding now and almost about ready to mow (the starter fert. from lesco must be powerful stuff).

    The new topsoil was mainly for front yard, the back was re-graded for better drainage. The back yard has a-lot of clay, so much so that it is already hard as a rock three weeks after it was tilled and graded.

    I know I need to get some organic mater in the clay soil. My question is how is best to do this? I've seen posts about using compost at 1 yard per 1k, but in may case that would be 20 yards worth of mulch ( back yard is approx 20,000 ft2). I hate to seem lazy, but I am not going to move that much compost with a shovel and wheel barrow.

    Will the use or organic fertilizers add organic matter to the soil? Obviously they will take time to get as much OM as 20 yards of compost, but a little easier on the back too.

    I'd like to have something that could go through my rotary spreader. What is the best product for me to use?
  2. get a complete soil test , om, p,k,ca, mg ,fe, na, ph and recommendations. Suggest you use a & l labs.

    Om will help loose up the soils if incorporated inti the soil! I would suggest 1 to 2 inches, or @ 3-4 yds/m of a composted leaf gro!

    If soil chemistry is right, and you have ph near 6.2 to 6.5, gypsum will help reduce the compacted soil!

    I know of nothing that will rteally help you know, after you have seed the lawn!

    Mayby eric will respond about humic acid, I read where 25lbs/m increased om in fla soils by 5%

    Hope this is some help
  3. Randy J

    Randy J LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,124

    It may cost you a little, but I'm sure there are people with mulch blowers in your area. They can blow compost on your yard for you. Putting about 1/2 inch of compost on top of your soil and tilling it in should do wonders for your back yard. As Tim said, I would certainly get a soil test done before getting carried away with gypsum or chemicals.
  4. Bob E

    Bob E LawnSite Member
    Messages: 60

    I had a soil test done this summer, when I got it back I just looked at the reccomendations only since the rest didn't make sense to me. maybe you can shed some light on these numbers:

    P: 122 (very high)
    K: 383 (high)
    pH: 6.5
    Buffer pH: 6.9
    Ca: 3515
    Mg: 680 (very high)
    Zn: 14.9

    Calculated CEC (meq/100g): 16
    %BS: 67
    %Ca: 48
    %Mg: 16
    %K: 3
    %H: 33

    N: 1.5 lbs/100 sq ft
    P205: none
    K20: 0 to 1 lbs/1000 sq ft
    Lime: none
    Zinc: none
    Mg: none

    This is all that was on the sheet of paper that was mailed to me.

    Is the OM hidden in here somewhere? Or did I get incomplete test results?
  5. Bob E

    Bob E LawnSite Member
    Messages: 60

    I just re-read my initial post.

    I'm not looking for a magic bag of fairy dust that can go through my spreader that will take the place of 20 yds of compost.

    I'm willing to take the next 2 or 3 years to build up the OM in the soil.

    Is this possible?

    Do the organic fertilizers (milorganite, etc) contain enough/any organic matter to make a difference in soil structure?

    Also note: prior to this year the only thing I ever put on the lawn was bug killer. We have dogs that spend alot of time outside and inside our house. I used dursban and diazaion (when it was available) twice a year to keep the fleas and ticks out of yard. By reading/learning on this site....did I kill off the worms too, could this be part of the reason the ground is so hard?
  6. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    There are two kinds of organic matter that matter. One is an abudunce of deep, living roots. You will get exactly what you need from the tall fescue if you water it deeply and infrequently. The fescue roots will go deep to loosen your soil. As the years go by, some roots will die and the plant will grow new ones. Last year's dead roots will become the organic matter in your soil. There is no better way to get this dead organic matter down there. Tilling offers false hopes of doing it but it can't work like the natural way. The second kind of organic matter that matters is living soil microbes. You can jump start your microbial population with compost at the 1:1000 rate you mentioned. You could also investigate brewing compost tea which cuts the cost down by a factor of 1,000 and gives similar results from a biological stand point. If you do not use compost or compost tea, you will eventually build up your microbial population with organic fertilizer and staying away from herbicide, insecticide, and fungicide. These living microbes protect and feed your grass plants. The plants will keep them fed with sugars but you have to keep them fed with protein. That's easy with the dry organic fertilizers out there. Or you can mix your own with corn meal, cottonseed meal, soy meal, coffee grounds, or whatever dry materials you can scarf up at the feed store.
  7. Bob E

    Bob E LawnSite Member
    Messages: 60

    If I understand you correctly, by utilizing an organic fertilization approach the microbial population will re-establish itself over time?

    I just put out approx 17#/K of Milorganite this weekend along with approx 20#/K of gypsum to try and break up the clay in the back yard. So I should be on my way.

    The Milorganite site says to put down a dormant feeding before the ground freezes this winter, it is a pretty sizable does (25#/K). Is this advisable since most of the N won't be available until spring (just in time for the crabgrass bloom)?

    How long does the smell from Milorganite last? I put it down Saturday and watered it in Sat and Sun, this morning it still has a pronounced aroma? If I do need the dormant feeding is there something better (that may smell better also)?

    As a side question, does having a septic system with lateral lines feed the same beneficial bugs I am trying to feed through the Milorganite?
  8. Not all labs do an om%, mine do , along with an estimated nitrogen release!

    Your base saturations are out of whack, and need adjustments! Ideal is
    68% ca
    12% mg
    5% k
    2% na
    3% trace nutrients
    10% h
    total is 100%

    If bs is 10% for h, your ph will be 6.3, perfect!

    I suspect something is wrong with your soil test! Why? base saturation for ca is low, while bs for h is too high to have a ph of 6.5. Appears you need to add calacitic lime to increase ca, not dolomitic or gypsum! I would retest the soil before doing anything. Your recommendations should have included additional ca, and maybe some k.Pm me
  9. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    I missed the part about the Milorganite the first time. Although it does seem to have some fertilization qualities, it really has no protein in it that I'm aware of. You really need to provide protein to the soil for your microbial population to start to regrow. Yes, in about 15 years of pure organic methods and materials you can regrow your population of microbes. Or you could apply compost and get the same repopulation effect in a year or so.

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