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Wish I could do it all over again but...

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by coachgrd, Sep 29, 2007.

  1. coachgrd

    coachgrd LawnSite Member
    Messages: 33

    ...I can't.

    We bought 4 acres of thick brush 8 years ago, cleared the lot and built our house. (The actual area I cleared is only about 2 acres.) Being strapped for cash, I did nothing more than hand-rake what soil I had (I know I took 10 years off my life doing so) and seeded it. The soil is nothing more that bank gravel, which was wonderful for drainage and the perk test. However, I wish my lawn were done right. With no top soil to speak of, the grass "browns" out very early in the summer despite the relativly mild conditions here in zone 5. The grass near the trees is even worse...the root system steals the moisture from the grass and I have lost much of the grass around some trees.

    I'd like to do something about the problem. I am really only concerned about the one acre that surrounds the house. Short of top-coating with sifted top soil, is there anything else I can do?

  2. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Sounds to me like you just need to get out there and do something more than playing around, no offense intended, but procrastination and trying to save a dollar won't work, that much I have learned and I preach it day after day, some learn...
    Most look at me with that look in their eyes that tells me, it ain't happening. That odd blank stare like, are you for real?
    I usually tell them, well if you're just going to kinda do it then you're as well off doing nothing, just let it go.
    Oh nono can't do that...
    Well why not, what's the difference, save yourself 100% and just let it go.

    Because I tell you if you want to win the Formula 1 race then you don't try and build your own little go-kart with a 15hp used motor, what you do is go out and spend 2 million dollars on a 5 year old Lola and run 200 real races for practice, then you spend 4-5 million dollars on a nice McLaren and you're set, you might not win every last race but that's how it's done because half measures and putzing around won't get you but halfway down the first stretch before disappointment sets in again.

    And exactly how many times do we do these things before we figure it out, took me close to 40 years before it dawned on me, the hard way is the only way, everything else is just a big waste of time... Worse still is we waste more time and money in the half-assed process than had we just done it right in the first place.

    To get started you need a PLAN, then you need to execute it, consistent maintenance is the key and half measures avail us nothing.

    So, throw down 400 pounds of 90% seed, core aerate, another 400 pounds of 30% phosphorus starter fertilizer, 1,000 pounds of lime AND a 1,000 pounds of gypsum, now we're cooking with FIRE and thats for 2 acres.

    Oh yeah and it needs to RAIN before you do it, and do it again next year, and don't be afraid to throw down more seed or lime or gypsum in between, a weed treatment might be in order as well, and do all of the scheduled maintenance on the mower.

    That's it, there you go, now go on and do it.
  3. BostonBull

    BostonBull LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 520

    I would get a soil test done. Then report the results back here and see what we have to say. OR if you pay a little extra the whoever does the test will usually write a lime, fertilizer, and other nutrient, plan out for you.

    Do you have irrigation, or the desire to water a newly planted lawn a couple times a day for the first week or two? Then you should water the lawn DEEP at least once a week, i.e. 1"or so.

    It is extremely hard to give prescriptions without knowing what kind of soil you have. Bank soil unfortunately is NOT a type of soil that is in the soil triangle. Is it prominently clay, silt or sand? what is the mix in it? Sandy clay? silty sand? etc etc. Then we need to know you Ph. BEFORE recommending lime. Maybe you live on a completely silty soil and your PH is 8. Lime would only compound this problem and kill all your grass. This is unlikely the case but you could have an alkaline soil and need NO lime at all.

    Then the big decision. Go organic and have a lawn that will PRODUCE 1-2 lbs of N a year and need less water, but is a little more costly to build up front. Or do you want a synthetically derived lawn that ill need 4-5 fert applications a year and need LOTS of water, and will have little to no organisms/bacteria/fungi?

    In essence we need more info from you before a REAL plan is drawn up.
  4. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 641

    Amendments are necessary, but the most necessary soil amendment for any lawn is water. The lawn in your mind starts with irrigation (tm). Any time you see a lawn that makes your heart flutter you can be sure that the site has irrigation or a retired guy who has nothing better to do than move sprinklers -- one or the other.

    In your shoes, I would:

    1) Install irrigation.
    2) Core aerate aggressively.
    3) Topdress with compost -- the more the better, but not more than 1/2 inch where grass has been established.
    4) Overseed with the best quality seed you can find, from a regional source.

    Do the above right now. In the Spring:

    1) Soil test early (February)
    2) Given test results, supplement the soil -- use organic based fert if you desire.
    3) Get some Preemergent on early to keep the crabgrass at bay.
    4) When the grass is actively growing, aerate and topdress again.
    5) Establish a water program of deep watering for an average of 1 inch per week -- a little less when it is cool, and a little more when it is blistering.

    Sharpen your mower -- you're going to give it a workout.
  5. coachgrd

    coachgrd LawnSite Member
    Messages: 33

    I will stop over at our county extension office and pick up a soil test kit and report back with the findings. This may take a few weeks though as I do think it has to go to Penn State for analysis.

    As for make-up of the soil, I'm no turf grass scientist but I can tell you that there is no clay what-so-ever in my soil. I have a good amount gravel and there is no sand. I also can tell you that there are several gravel pits in the immediate vicinity of my property. If this is of no help, I apologize.

    I will get on the soil kit. Thanks for you assistance so far...
  6. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 641

    One more thing.

    I am going to go out on a limb here and guess that your loss of grass under the trees isn't from "moisture robbing" but from shading. My grass gets all the water it could ever want, and it still won't grow under the trees. You need shade tolerant species under the trees.
  7. coachgrd

    coachgrd LawnSite Member
    Messages: 33

    Thanks for your thoughtful response. This certainly gives me a game plan. Now, by aggressively aerating, are you suggesting i go over the lawn several times?

  8. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 641

    Yes, at least twice, with the second at a right angle to the first pass. In other words, if you run your aerator North and South predominantly on your first run, go predominantly East and West on your second run.
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Long before you even pick up that stupid soil test kit I would've been done doing what I suggested, at the very least I would've already had all the supplies around... Do you see what I'm getting at is nothing is ever going to get done farting around... I already knew this was coming when I left the first answer, this is just more bs along the lines of some 400 lb. guy talking up a serious storm about losing weight, while he's holding a fast-food burger in one hand and a diet soda in the other.

    Talk about wish we'd have done or not, regrets and the fear of work here are obvious.
    So since it ain't gonna happen might as well quit wasting time and let it go, why make up all this ado about nothing?
  10. Americal Vet

    Americal Vet LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 250

    Wow - that comes close to a real alpha-charlie :laugh:

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