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Is this possible?

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by Venturewest, Mar 21, 2008.

  1. Venturewest

    Venturewest LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 516

    I have a yard I am going to prepare and seed under a large pin oak. The soil under the tree is partly shade, but not too shady for the tall fescue. The homeowners try every spring and every fall to plant this area. It looks great for months and then dies mid June or so. The surrounding fescue does fine. There is no differance in air circulation and the light is more ideal right here.

    So.....my question stems from the soil. The soil in this area gets green algae. Seems like it would be a low spot and holding water but it isn't. Also, the soil feels like a brillow pad. If you dug serveral inches it would hold together like a sponge, you would have to break it apart. I don't know if it is from tiny fibrous roots or if it is from a lichen that has established an inch or two down.

    Is it possible that this fibrous mat of soil is from the oak roots. They are tapping all nutrients that the fescue could use and leaving a prime enviroment for the lichen? Or do I need to do anything to treat or remove the lichen?

    Will a few inches of topsoil maybe be enough to give the fescue a fighting chance against the roots of the oak if that is the problem?

    Any ideas? Thanks
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    A few inches of topsoil may lead to the decline of the pin oak. I would only do something like that as a last resort.

    Also, I'm not sure what you mean by "hold together like a sponge". Perhaps explain this better or some pictures?

    Have you done any soil moisture monitoring of this area over the growing season?

    How about cultural practices and amendments/fertilizers?
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    This is common under many trees in that roots absorb water and nutrients through root hairs. These root hairs are microscopic and grow larger and more root hairs all the time. My guess is that is what you observe as a sponge. Your pin Oak is dominating that piece of ground and new grass seedlings can not compete.

    Is is going to kill the tree to root prune the surface a couple of inches deep and add a couple of inches of compost? I doubt it. Chance are the tree will be growing more roots into the compost before the end of summer, but at some point you have to get the grass established before that happens.

    Is the algae growth feeding on the dead or dieing root hairs or just stuff that has a lot of moisture? The algae growth should be studied to give you an idea of what you are dealing with. Good luck. :)
  4. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    Isn't moss an indication of acidic soil, or is that an old wives tale?

    I agree that the tree has and will outcompete the turf, in probably every instance, short or long term.

    Maybe you should be looking at a planting bed with plants that like this environment, natives that typically live under trees. or ground covers that can get down into the soil for nutrients

    As Kiril says GRASS KILLS! In this case the tree is killing the grass
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Is that what algae, moss and lichens do? What determines their proliferation?

    People like to mow and be done with it. Growing grass is our job. If that is what a client wants - make it happen.
  6. ICT Bill

    ICT Bill LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,115

    I am not following you

    HMMMMM.... maybe a little more interaction with the client can get you extra weeks of work in the fall.

    Excuse me Mr. Potatohead, I noticed that the grass isn't doing very well over undernieth the tree, IN THE FALL, we could change that up and put in some really cool plants that you would be very happy with, long term. THE FALL, is the best time to do that sort of thing. When the grass stops growing and before the ground freezes is when we should do it.
  7. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    nitrogen"thieving" is a common thing with oaks, even more in the summer, the best idea is to plant a fern that will be able to fix the N out of the air. thats what happens in nature. as far as cutting the roots, it is a bad idea and a poor practice to root prune and topdress the tree needs to breath from it roots. try some pine straw or acidic leaves.

    a native fern will never let you down.if it is a bad spot put a fern in it.

    also get you PHD and try some vertical mulching this will give the tree a stock and help drainage

    sounds like a bactirium playing algae = little light
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Bill, I am not sure I am following your thought here , but it sounds like potatoehead is making excuses for failure :(

    IMHO if you can't grow grass under an oak tree then perhaps one should look at a career in : (I don't know) sales? :)

    Give the client what he wants, even if, it is just for practice.
  9. treegal1

    treegal1 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,911

    bill is rite MR potato head does not have the info to do this, that's why he has reached out to a good service to give him the tools and info needed to have what he perceives he wants,green stuff growing in his "dirt"... most people today have little to any "environmental awareness"
  10. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    I have to disagree in part. In many to most cases, a healthy active turf will out-compete trees for water and nutrients. A weak or diseased turf will probably not be able to compete with a healthy tree.

    Quite possible, or it could be something as simple as not meeting the ET needs of both turf and tree.

    I also agree with treegal. Most oaks do not like root pruning.

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