My 'new' organic lawn and comments
I have just started down the road to an organic lawn and wanted to post some of my thoughts so far for those like me that previously came from the synthetic camp. I've lived in my home for about 3 1/2 years now and have a zoysia lawn (yes in PA). I did the 2-3 times a year fertilizing with the Scott's product, and improperly watered (rarely long deep infrequent soakings). Only by pure luck of having such a tough grass does my lawn still look very good. Clover has begun to become more and more of a problem, but I'm hoping this year things will change. I now have a 9-month old and did not want the possibility of her becoming poisoned in the yard from synthetics, or not being allowed to play in the yard for a while waiting for them to become "less" toxic. Organic sounds right up my alley.
I had done quite a bit of research on here and other sites and come up with my plan to start off going organic. I have about 2000sq feet out front and probably about 1000 out back. The backyard is not a priority since it gets much less light than the front, we spend much less time there, and it needs quite a bit of work to get back to looking good (lots of weeds right now).
So for the front I bought a 50lb bag of CGM (~$23 from a local feed store), and a 50lb bag of soybean meal. The soybean meal will be stored until early-mid summer for a light feeding. Let's hope no animals get into it... I put down about 45lbs on the front which is slightly more than 20lbs/1000sq feet as recommended. For those (like me) new to the organic application of ferts let me just tell you, YOU will think you're crazy, and your neighbors will think you're trying to kill your lawn. I had to make about 5 extra passes, continuously upping my spreader setting because I'm just not used to applying that much fertilizer on a small area. The CGM has a bright yellow-orange color to it, and my lawn was visibly tinged that color. People walking by with their dogs pulled them into the street and gave me looks. I thought of mentioning its probably found in their dog food, but thought better, and allowed them to stay off the lawn (too many times when no one is there to supervise they leave the poo without cleaning it up....not cool). So for those thinking of going organic, set your spreader to at least twice its normal rate, and then turn it up another couple of clicks! :) You still probably will need to do more passes than you think!
I then deeply watered it in, and will now not be doing anything until the grass is long enough that I can cut it (I have my mower set on the highest level which is about 3 1/2 to 4". I wish it was higher, but that's all I can do without modifying the wheels (or getting a new deck).
I also am in need of some top soil since I find when I run the mower its cuttin much lower than I would suspect from looking at the ground. I can see quite a bit of exposed roots and would like to build up a layer of soil (probably from all the years of synthetics and improper watering). This should help the microbes, and prevent my grass from drying out I'm assuming. I am awaiting a shipment of 1-2yards of topsoil to put around the front and back.
I'll probably wait until the grass starts to grow well and then do a dethatching. I did it about a year or so ago and really removed a lot of built up thatch. I'm hoping going organic I won't have to do it quite as heavily after getting the soil properly setup (I've heard organic lawns do not suffer the level of thatch due to the breakdown of debris). I core aerated in the fall by hand with a small step tool that would pull plugs about 2" in diameter and about 2-3" deep. I went all over the yard with it, but might do it again this spring after the grass is growing in.
Ideally, I'd like to dethatch, core aerate, and THEN put down the topsoil, but it all depends on when I can get the topsoil delivered and when the grass starts to grow vigorously.
Thanks everyone in this forum (as a lurker) for helping me not only treat my lawn like a living thing, but more importantly, UNDERSTANDING why I should be treating it this way.