Hypothetical lawn install

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by dan deutekom, Sep 10, 2003.

  1. dan deutekom

    dan deutekom LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 424

    For all of you organic guys. Going to install a new seeded lawn. Bring in good top soil ammended with all the right organic stuff. Seed the grass. Seed germinates no problem. What are you going to do with all the weeds that germinated from the topsoil you brought in? I usually just give an inorganic spray at the 3 month mark to kill the weeds and then the grass just fills in no problem. All of the organics seem to be preemergent so that would kill the grass. Also lets not make it that you apply organics to kill the emerging weeds and then seed 3 weeks later because the season is just to short for that sort of nonsense.
  2. Popsicle

    Popsicle LawnSite Member
    Messages: 189

    Pull them by hand or tolerate them.
  3. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    Hypothetical top soil doesn't have weed seeds in it :D :D

    Actually, we have a product called landscaper's mix that has a mix of sterilized soil, peat (presterilized by nature) and sand (sterile). Is that not available everywhere? Nothing grows in it except your seeds.

    Or are you talking about preexisting seeds under the "top soil?"

    In any case, weeds are a problem in a new lawn. The plan is to do the following:

    1. After the grass is tall enough to mow, water heavily and infrequently to grow long grass roots and to discourage the naturally short rooted weeds. If the top inch of the soil dries out completely between waterings, the short rooted weeds have a lot of trouble with that.

    2. Mow as tall as the grass will allow to shade weeds and their seeds. Bermuda, bent, and centipede are exceptions to this since they like to be mowed at 1/2 inch.

    3. Fertilize with something regularly. Since this is the organic forum, fertilize with alfalfa meal/pellets when seeding and again with corn meal after all the seed is established.

    Then after three months (if you can wait) you look to see if there are any perennial weeds. Pluck the taprooted weeds with a weed hound along the way.
  4. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 341

    Excellent question. Perhaps I will face that in "real life" soon.

    The reply "pull them or tolerate them" gives two options. In many cases the customer does not want to tolerate them. This is one of the great challenges in organic lawn care. Many organic books counsel that people should tolerate some weeds. But many customers don't want to hear about it. Perhaps many who are going to pursue organic lawn care will wind up working for those who can tolerate some weeds, as many people will increasingly be willing to do, if that is the price for forgoing the poisons. But I tend to think that we can do better.

    Pulling weeds by hand is another interesting topic. Many people don't want to pay for that, and many LCOs would never be caught dead on their knees puling weeds. I think people have become very lazy and no longer even have any experience with such things. In many cases, it may be quicker and cheaper to pull weeds or pay to have them pulled, than to pay for chemicals to be applied. Sometimes it is a matter of educating the customer. I once pulled about 3000 cudweeds from a lawn in about an hour. I maintain several lawns where I keep weeds under control by handweeding weekly. In some of these the grass is good and thick and there aren't many weeds, in others things aren't as nice, and some may become more challenging as time goes by.

    The solarization technique I have described before is very interesting but there is much more to learn about it and it may not always be appropriate. This may be a good way to kill weeds and maybe weed seeds before seeding the grass. Should not take long to kill new weed sprouts.

    Back to tolerating weeds. That doesn't have to mean tolerate unlimited weeds forever. It can mean, OK there's weeds, we'll work on them. Maybe some regular handweeding. Maybe we mainly just work on improving the soil, improving the turfgrass and get the weeds under control over time. Some people can be patient.

    The argument here is probably that to be successful with organic lawn care you have to make some exceptions. Maybe so or maybe not. That is something each person decides. And what is success? Or maybe just to point out that there is a lot of ground between the extremes. And it may be appropriate to use a chemical from time to time. I saw an amazing change in a really bad lawn after a visit or two from Chemlawn. From mainly weeds and dirt to mainly grass and no weeds. From that point it may have been really easy to maintain that lawn organically, but it may have taken forever to get it to where Chemlawn took it quick. A lot depends on the customer - do they want a certain quality of lawn, do they want it now or can they gve it time, do they want chemicals or not? And of course any of us can decide what we are willing or not to do. Some may define themselves as "chemical-free" and some may use different methods depending on circumstances.
  5. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 341

    I don't know about bent or cent but bermuda can be kept as high as 3". I keep a lot at 2.5". Looks a little better maybe at 2". There have been many discussions here about bermuda height. I may reread some - there were some very interesting threads, there are arguments on both sides of it - lower is better, higher is better. 1/2" is pretty low though. Probably most books say 1" - 1.5" for bermuda, or 1/2" for hybrids. The local extension office says 1.5" - 2.5". I think in the organic approach, it can be good to keep most grasses on high side, maybe higher than "by the book".

    Anyway, I like your plan.

    And I put a 50lb bag of alfalfa pellets on a yard last week. Maybe a little late in the season, but seemed like the thing to do. First time I bought any. It was horse food. I would like to find a "purer" source.

    Was thinking of using alfalfa pellets on a new seeding of fescue soon. Why do you say alfalfa for seeds and corn later?
  6. Enjoy Life Ronnie

    Enjoy Life Ronnie LawnSite Member
    Messages: 18

    I've never understood why some people try to produce grass as if it were a cash crop. I prefer the low maintance... low cost of never using any fertilizer, weed control, and only watering if necessary to keep grass and trees from dying. That is natural... real natural.
    After reading this website I just put 50# of cornmeal on my yard. Hopefully it will make my yard look better without working me to death. Mowing grass is not that high on my list of ways to enjoy life.
  7. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    Why alfalfa for seeds and corn later?

    I watch a couple of amateur gardening boards, too. There are some very sharp folks on some of those. Some of them have time and money to do their own experiments. While they will never be accepted in academic journals, I take some of them seriously. One recent post had to do with using corn meal at the same time as seeding. That had always been my suggestion as a "starter" fertilizer. So he tried several plots of new seeds using various amounts of corn meal. He found that the plots with the most corn meal had the least germination. The link between low germination and corn GLUTEN meal has been well established at the University of Iowa. It is not a far stretch of the imagination to link corn meal and corn GLUTEN meal. The difference is corn meal is the entire corn kernel that has been crushed. Corn GLUTEN meal is the center of the corn kernel after the outside has been milled off. So, it could be that corn meal has a preemergent quality to it also, but not as pronounced as corn GLUTEN meal.

    So to be on the safe side, and since there are cheap alternatives to corn meal, I have changed my plan for new seeding to include alfalfa pellets as the starter fertilizer with corn meal to follow. I like corn meal because of the anti-fungal properties it had. I'm personally prone to getting fungal diseases in my lawn, so I project that onto everyone else, too :)

    As an aside, I think I have discovered my fungus problem so I can try to control the situation from now on. My neighbor has bamboo that leans over my side of the fence. I clip it off but I don't always get it out of the lawn and on the street for pickup right away. It is those places where I have left the bamboo where I have my fungus problems. Plus my daughters like to pile up the bamboo and use it as their fort. So my lawn will always suffer a little from "bamboo poisoning" at least until they grow out of the fort stage. Next spring I will put down corn meal right before the bamboo party starts.
  8. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    Thanks for trying it. I hope you have 5,000 square feet of turf or less for the 50 pounds.

    Please give it 3 weeks and write back with your preliminary results.
  9. yardmonkey

    yardmonkey LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 341

    "So, it could be that corn meal has a preemergent quality to it also, but not as pronounced as corn GLUTEN meal. "

    OK - I figured that could be the reason. Makes sense to me.

    Yesterday I removed a couple of piles of old dead bamboo from a yard. I can see how that could be the source of some kind of fungus.
  10. Dchall_San_Antonio

    Dchall_San_Antonio LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 327

    And notice that I'm not passing judgement against bamboo. It is just a characterisitic I need to be aware of in my yard. If others are finding the same thing, about fungus starting under the bamboo piles, then that should be talked about so the others can learn from it.

    But I need to moderate myself a little. Let's get back to Dan's question about starting a new lawn in an organic program.

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