on the right track?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by jtsnewo44, May 27, 2010.

  1. jtsnewo44

    jtsnewo44 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    So this may be a long post, but I want to make sure I get all the needed information in to it. :)

    I am a new home owner as of last May. KGB sod was installed in mid June due to the wet spring, and did well at first. Nothing was done to the soil for prep work other than to grade, level, and drag it prior to installing the sod. I kept it watered and it rooted well with one exception. I was out of town for a week on business in late July and my wife failed to water the yard at all for 7 days when temps were 85+ for the whole period. When I got back the grass was dry, brittle, and grayed. I kept the water on it for a week after that and it mostly came back.

    My lot is .21 acres, and the gass area is ~6,000 sq ft. I always mow high, usually 3", and try to mow every 4-5 days when possible so that I am not taking off too much of the blade at any one time. I always mulch the grass back in to the lawn. I try to water deeply once a week to promote deep roots, keep my mower blade as sharp as possible, etc.

    As far as treatments go I aerated, overseeded, top dressed with 1/4" compost, and applied ironite in the fall. And used a spectracide crab grass killer treatment last summer as well. I put down Milorganite mid-April once the soil temps started to come up this spring, and have been trying to read as much as possible. I didn't realize the importance of a soil test previously and just sent on out this week to see what I have. I want to try and use as little synthetic fert/herbicide as possible(preferably none). I do not consider myself a tree hugger, I just feel that I can do my part to help out, ya know? I try to pull any weeds I see when mowing, and have done well keeping the yard as weed free as possible.

    I do have a few questions/concerns though.

    It seems that the grass set seed quite a bit this spring. Would that have been a result of being overstressed from the hard week with no water? I love my wife, so I didn't make it a big issue with her, but I thought I was going to lose the yard. Or is it inidicative of a lower quality sod?

    Prior to this week, it rained almost every day for what seemed like two weeks. I started noticing some browning on leaves in the yard. Is this due to the ground being saturated for almost two weeks? Is it the stalks of the seed heads turning brown Just worried that it could be something that I would want to get out in front of.

    Towards the end of the wet period I had what seemed like 4-5 different types of mushrooms popping up around the yard? Good/bad? It would seem to indicate lots of soil microbes, yes? Also, I have noticed a vast increase in worms over last year also.

    Because I have a corner lot about 75% of the yard was sodded. I plan on renovating the non-sod area this fall and placing in sod. I will be renting a till, till in compost and topsoil, etc so that the sod back there doesn't have as much of a fight as the front and sid yards do. What would be the best time frame for this? I am thinking mid-September to put it down so that it is after the heat of summer, but still has enough time to acheive some good root growth prior to the first freeze/cold snap.

    Also, this fall when I aerate and top dress with compost I want to overseed with some quality KBG seed. I was thinking a 1-1-1 blend of Midnight, Boutique, and Bewitched.

    Am I out in left field? I want to have one of the nicest lawns around, and I am willing to put in the work to get it done. Just wanted to see from the professionals that I am not doing anything compeltely stupid. Thanks for taking the time to read my novel. :dancing:
  2. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    1) Bluegrass, or any type of turf grass going to seed has nothing to do with the level of care you give your lawn. It is a natural occurrence.
    However, any given piece of turf that's allowed to go to seed is symptomatic of turf that's not mown frequently enough to prevent the (unsightly) occurrence from happening in the first place. Seed head establishment in turf is equivalent to the formation of flowers in your garden: It drains a tremendous amount of energy from the plant! As far as bluegrass is concerned this energy is better served being routed towards root growth, which of course ultimately triggers rhizome activity. And if/when bluegrass spreads in your lawn NATURALLY, it won't be because of self-seeding, but rather because of aggressive rhizomial activity.
    You say you try to mow every 4-5 days in order to prevent mowing too much off? That's good. Maybe in the future, keep a closer eye out for this seeding stage so that you can nip the heads off before they mature all the way.

    2) That sounds a lot like classic leaf spot.
    But of course I or no one else on lawnsite wouldn't know for sure unless you uploaded a digital pic or two of a close-up of a leaf blade, and another landscape shot of the affected area of the lawn.

    3) This could be a result of areas of decomposing compost letting off nitrogen. This happens all the time in areas where old tree stumps & their root systems were not completely removed.
    If I were you, I wouldn't worry about it! Go out there with your 5 iron & pretend they're golf balls! :)
    The earthworms are a sign you're bringing your lawn back to life.
    When we take over new accounts from TGCL or whoever there's generally little sign of biological life left in those lawns.
    After 2 to 3 years of programs consisting of compost topdressings alternating with grain-based meals like soybean, alfalfa, cottonseed, corn & corn gluten, earthworms & night crawlers are to be seen everywhere. And of course, in turn, the birds come back, too! :)

    4) Sodding can be done somewhat later than seeding in the fall with good results. I like your mid-Sept target date. The 1st of October wouldn't be too late, either. Roll with what's going on with the late summer weather so you don't lay sod prematurely & then be forced to water it in drought conditions.

    5) Well, again, without seeing pics of your lawn, I don't know how dense it is now. Bluegrass turf, by nature, is aggressive laterally with rhizomes (see answer #1).
    A lot of times folks will seed bluegrass lawns or sports fields with all of the best intentions, not realizing that the overall density of established turf itself may be too much for seed to have enough room to set root & grow.
    But hey, jts, if you want a Chia Pet of a lawn for Joe Neighbors all around you to envy...go for it! :waving:

    If you haven't already, I suggest you study-up on topics specific to owners of bluegrass lawns, a few of which are:
    - turf disease prevention (mowing, irrigation, corn meal as preventive)
    - surface-feeding insect ID (especially chinch bug, sod webworm, armyworm)
    - grubworm prevention
    - thatch-prevention techniques, including aggressive bi-annual core aeration

    And I also suggest you get a legitimate soil test done before you throw any more $$$$ at Ironite.
  3. jtsnewo44

    jtsnewo44 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    Awesome response, thanks. :)

    I have added two pictures, they may not be close enough though for you to tell. It seems from looking closely that the leaves that are turning brown may have been the seed stalks. As far as allowing it to go to seed, should I set the mower deck height lower when I see the seed heads forming to prevent them from going to seed? I kept my deck at the 3" height and it seemed that for the most part the seed heads were under that height until they were almost fully developed.

    I am waiting to get the results of the soil smaple and will post them here when I get it back.

    I have been looking for a local source of CGM, but the two closest feed barns don't carry it. They do have alfalfa and SBM, and I was considering using the latter. I would *really* like to put down CGM as I have been reading on the positive benefits of using it, just not sure where to find it in the Indianapolis area.


  4. jtsnewo44

    jtsnewo44 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

  5. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    Purdue is of course correct in not lowering the blades in order to nip seed heads.
    But in my humble opinion 3" is about 1/2" too high for a springtime Ky bluegrass mowing height.

    If my lawn was Ky Bluegrass here north of Cincy, I would start off mowing it at about 2 1/4" to 2 1/2" in March & April, gradually raising the blades to 3" as the temps rose & the rainfall totals (generally) drop toward summertime, constantly changing mowing directions & keeping then sharp, of course.
    Then as temps drop later in early fall, I would do the opposite...gradually lowering the blades to about 2 1/2" before the mower's finally put away.

    We have t.t.t. fescue in our yard.
    I do all of the above except I start about 1/2" higher in the spring and top out 1/2" higher in the hottest part of the summer.
    This is important because it provides a natural 'canopy' of grass that helps reduce dessication by sun of the soil below it.

    If you're worried about thatch, keep in mind that you've pretty much already 'raised the bar of expectations' having such a nice looking, vigorously growing lawn such as what you have.
    Thatch accumulation is inevitable in Ky bluegrass, period.
    This is why you must perform quality core aeration at least once annually, only after the soil's well irrigated in some way either naturally or artificially.
  6. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    For a meal-newbie, SBM is the easiest meal by far to spread out of a broadcast spreader.
    Alfalfa meal tends to be a lot more powdery.
    I recommend you try that later, maybe in the fall.
    If you've been reading about the pre-emergent benefits of CGM, remember the pre-emergent is 2X the fertilizer rate, or about 20 # / 1000 sq ft.
    That's pretty expensive.
    And from the looks of your pictures, you probably have enough competition in the form of dense turf, that crabgrass & other viney weeds aren't much of an issue anyway, right?
    If you have crabgrass etc along your sidewalk edges, CGM can be spread linearly in these areas to help this problem.
    Plus, I've found in many cases edging practices can be improved dramatically in terms of timing, and restricting as much as possible any physical contact with the soil itself by edger blades / trimmer string after "X" pre-emergent's applied.

    It's VERY important to have a spreader with decent physical agitation at the bottom of the hopper.
    Spray the the inside of the hopper lightly with Pam spray, then buff it dry with a paper towel. This will help meals flow downward better.

    If you really have to have CGM try looking under the headings... 'grain elevators', 'agricultural feed'.
    I'll bet that'll lead you to more rural zip codes!:waving:

    If that doesn't work, try this...
    It isn't organized very well so it'll take some time to page thru, but it's a nat'l resourse:


    Good luck!
    Keep in touch! :waving:
  7. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Sounds good to me. Keep doing this every year.
    Soil test and adjust only if absolutely needed.
    Observe growth and color and fertilize based on those observations + soil test results. If your lawn looks good .... no need to fertilize.
    Keep an eye out for weeds and hand pull or spot treat as needed.
  8. jtsnewo44

    jtsnewo44 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    There have been some viney weeds/crabgrass/dandelions in some of the areas aroudn the sidewalks and drieway, but I have have handpulled or spot treated those.

    I called around this morning and found a local nursery that stock granulated CGM from Bradfield organics. Not sure how this will stack up to true CGM, it should be easier to spread I would assume. I only have ~6000 sq ft in the yard by my count, so the cost(while more than synthetics obviously) isn't unbearable when I look at it in the vein of building the soil for long term.

    I am using a Scotts accugreen 2000 drop spreader. I know most of the pro's prefer broadcast spreaders for speed/etc, but it works for me. I don't mind taking the extra time.

    I really appreciate the advice, the amount of information aroudn this forum is amazing in both the depth/breadth, and it is obvious that there are some truly knowledgeable folks here.
  9. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Use compost to build a soil, not CGM. Not only will it be way more cost effective, but you will get results far quicker.
  10. jtsnewo44

    jtsnewo44 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    Totally. I was just thinking out loud that it would be better for the lawn/soil health than blasting it with spectracide in those same areas. :)

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