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In Michigan, very hard to find lawn experts!! Maybe you gurus have suggestions?

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Staffy, Jun 23, 2009.

  1. Staffy

    Staffy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    So I moved to Oakland County, Michigan over 10 years ago and purchased a corner lot home with one of the best lawns on the block ..

    9 years of paying national and local "lawn experts" later and having my lawn slowly degrade to one of the worst on the block, I fired the last one as I happened to be home and watched what they did. I will not go into all of the details, but I do not think 2 laps around my house with a spreader, 5 cigarette butts on my driveway, and 10 minutes of yelling at his wife/GF over the cell phone with his windows down at 9 AM in the morning constitutes a "professional". No spot weed treatment (Even though I had 12" tall thistles he could see out of his truck window), no killing of grass in driveway cracks, nothing... I just had enough.

    On a positive note, the very first company I hired had the ONLY person who cared about my lawn, if he found an issue, he always would knock on the door and if I was home, show me the issue, then tell me how he was going to fix it. After a year, he left the company and I put up with inexperienced hacks for 3 years before ditching them after numerous calls and supervisor visits.

    Last year, my lawn was the very last lawn to turn green compared to my adjacent neighbors, I had some sort of field grass infestation, clover, and like 4-5 different types of grass that shows up in 1 ft diameter patches across the lawn. I asked both neighbors who have decent lawns what they did, I then replicated their treatment and it seemed to get worse.

    This year after reading a few books to try and educate myself, I got a soil sample done and am starting my search for a true expert. I am even willing to do all of the labor, I just cannot find anyone with knowledge like I find on this forum.

    From what I have learned so far. I learned my sub is build on basically a sand pile. I also learned that my neighbor thinks the builder sprayed on my lawn instead of laying sod/topsoil like they had done to theirs. I think the most important thing is that it seems like no matter what I do through mulching, fertilizing, watering 1" per week, etc is that there seems to be very little organic matter in the soil. I tried to solve this by spreading 10+ yards of topsoil/compost mixture myself. Over a year later and it all seems to have disappeared and the field grass went crazy.

    So I am not asking for free advice in order to not pay you professionals, I am asking for help in finding a true lawn expert who can either make magic happen remotely or locally who will charge a fair price for their knowledge. If I cannot find anyone, then it is actually cheaper to replace 7000 sq ft of sod every 3 years than it is to throw money to the wind... but I am stubborn and want to have help to create a smart lawn maintenance program that will shut my teasing neighbor up who now cracks jokes about my lawn!

    My goal is to find "my yard guru", kind of like my previous quest to find a good old fashiond barber. I am willing to also negotiate free cups of coffee, lunches, and the occasional Starbucks card to sweeten the deal! I of course intend to document the progress of this overhaul with lots of glorious pictures :)

    All thoughts, comments, recommendations , or referrals are welcomed!

    Last edited: Jun 23, 2009
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Field grass may have come in with your topsoil. Add compost and till it all under, in mid August and reseed b4 Labor Day. Tilling it, 2 weeks apart will kill any germinating weed seeds b4 planting.
    If you till in Milorganite then you will have a nice bit of slow release fertilizer down in the soil profile. This will encourage deep root growth.
  3. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Do you have full sun? Turf needs full sun to be healthy/vigorous it will live in part shade but not thrive.

    Is your soil compact or does it easily absorb the water? If it is very hard your water may not be penetrating. If this is the case aeration and remove cores and fill the core space with "Turface". If it is sandy you may need to water more than the 1" per week. Several shorter water cycles close together per day when you do water.

    Was your house/lawn'irrigation system brand new when you purchased it? Your irrigation system may be tied into a water softener line or a gray water system either of which will slowly cause your turf to decline over the years.

    These are just a few of the things I would consider before I moved foreword.
  4. Staffy

    Staffy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    In response to your questions:
    -Full sun

    -Since mostly sand, it absorbs the water (too much IMO).

    -I aerated last year (I did not fill with "turface"), but am willing to do it again this year. I am kind of hesitant to buy topsoil/compost again until I can figure out a way to make sure it has no weeds in it that will make the problem even worse :)

    -Sprinkler system came with the house, but I have gone through it time and time again, so I know 100% it is NOT tied to the water softener.
  5. Staffy

    Staffy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    While on my search for an expert, I think I will do another soil test to speed up the process.

    If I can't locate anyone locally, then I will just have to experiment myself.. probably with a good layer of compost over the sandy soil and keep it moist.
  6. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    If the water is sinking in rather than running off you don't need to aerate. Sand does not hold moisture and it does not hold nutrients. I would go to syringe water cycles like several short run times throughout the day and water daily.

    I would also consider putting on an inexpensive fertilizer injector like a Fertile Earth so it is getting micro doses of the fertilizer. Unless you like walking the spreader weekly.

    Your fertilizer is just leaching through the soil, err I mean sand. You can add compost top dressing as frequently as you are compelled to do so and eventually it will improve but it will take a few years.

    I have been top dressing some drain lines in a lawn that were filled with sand. I have done this about every other month for over a year on a clients home and the improvement is barely noticeable. If we back off the water those damn lines show up and it looks like hell.

    Don't worry about the weeds at this point, healthy turf will choke out most weeds. I would also re-seed with a good perennial rye. It will come up quick and look nice fast. We use it here for the winter lawn, it is so easy to keep looking good. When/if it gets hot just switch to a Iron fertilizer rather than the Nitrogen so it wont burn.
  7. Staffy

    Staffy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    TY for your response AZ, I will start watering daily and reduce times from 45 minutes to 15 minutes a zone.

    I don't mind the multi year battle to build good soil and figured a compost topper was a good starting point. The only problem is I have had crap luck finding a good compost source here and am hoping a local expert might recommend a source.

    I will start researching Fertile Earth, thanks very much for your recommendations, too bad you didn't live closer! Question: Do water based fertilizer systems like this require you to only use their solution, or do you mix up your own (I think they call it tea).
    Last edited: Jun 25, 2009
  8. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Fertile Earth has a lubricant they add to their product. Without it the gaskets will fail. Even if you just run water through it. You can buy replacement motors for about 70 bucks. Teas are very chunky on a microscopic level and damage most injectors.

    I'm guessing your sprinkler heads are rotors? I would go to 6 starts of 8 minutes each. 9-11-12:30-2:00-3:30-5:00 as a jumping off point see what it looks like and adjust as needed.
  9. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    The right question is... How did the previous owner maintain the best lawn on the block and how did I cause the decline.
    Sandy soil is NOT an issue... many people have to deal with sand.
  10. Staffy

    Staffy LawnSite Member
    Messages: 12

    Excellent question, I happened to ask a nosey neighbor the same thing when I moved in as the original owners were already out of state. The told me the name of the company, and I called them a month later to continue the service as they had come by and left a flier on the door as well...

    This ended up being the one decent guy who knew what he was doing...after he left the company, it has been downhill ever since.

    So if you say sandy soil is not a huge issue, then I might as well sit tight and wait 2 weeks for the results to get in from the soil test.

    Thanks Smallaxe,

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