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Hypothetical lawn install

6623 Views 20 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Dchall_San_Antonio
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.
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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.
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Originally posted by Dchall_San_Antonio

Bermuda, bent, and centipede are exceptions to this since they like to be mowed at 1/2 inch.
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?
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"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.
"I used a coffee can and just flung it everywhere. Do the rest of you use a spreader? I don't even have one. "

That's one of the cool things about organic fertilizers - you can use your hands! I have applied lots of comost and other stuff by hand. I usually put it in a 5-gal bucket and walk around throwing out handfuls.

If you're just doing your own lawn and its not large, you don't need to buy a spreader. But for a larger lawn or lots of lawns or if time is an issue (like if you're getting paid) then it can be very useful to use a spreader. Also it is better to have an even distribution, which you can't easily achieve by hand. But this is not as important as it is with strong chemicals.

But most spreaders are made to apply standard fertilizer pellets which are granulated to fit the spreaders. Lots of organic materials will not work in most spreaders. Every garage has one or two Scott's spreaders - usually not working. I couldn't bring myself to buy that plastic garbage for $29.95 so I paid a little more ($45.00) and got one sold by Fertilome. Works fine with stuff like Milorganite (if you remove the agitator pin) or anything that's granulated. Did OK with alfalfa pellets. But compost - no way.

The A.M. Leonard catalog ( ) has lots of commercial spreaders. They range from $50 to maybe over a $1000. There is one that they claim will apply anything that can be used on turf - the Spyker Mulch-n-More. It costs $560!

There is some stuff sold around here called Humore, which is composted cattle manure and alfalfa. The company provides a special spreader to some of its dealers. It is a large metal cylinder with holes in it. You just pull it around and the stuff falls out the holes. I haven't used one.

Grass seed can be broadcast by hand, but this is an example of something that is best applied in a very even, controlled way.
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