Beginner - math for alfalfa application?

pbx2_gwApril 24, 2014

We have issues that I tried to show below in the link.
Our story is the usual cliche:
Builder put sod on compacted clay without properly prepping the soil.
Grass in it's second season is patchy & yellowy.
We spend about $700 last year to get lawn chemically fertilized, aerated, overseeded, even got tested showing soil was in fine shape.
We didn't get results.

Read from dchall's post & Organic Lawn FAQ about laying down alfalfa pellets about 3-4 times a year.

This would magically amend the soil without compost, topsoil, tilling, digging, resodding = a lush green no chem lawn that will be healthy & require less care.

So I'm planning to get Logan Labs in OH to do an soil test of a mix sampling around my lawn.

I have about 16K sqft of land & ~10k sqft (~1/4 acre) of that is lawn area.

1) Trying to do the cost vs. benefits analysis - is this the right math for alfalfa application?

20lbs/1000 sq ft Alfafa pellets/meal spread rate.
50lbs bag = 2.5k sq ft *4 bags = 10K sq ft coverage for my yard
@$18/ bag locally * 4 = $72/application.

2) If I do 4 application a year, is that enough?

3) Or should I do 1 application per month? For how many months then? Is that overkill?

Here is a link that might be useful: My current lawn conditions

This post was edited by pbx2 on Thu, Apr 24, 14 at 20:18

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

When placing organic matter, whether that is compost, Alfalfa meal, or something else, never spread it thicker then about 1/4 inch at any one time since more then that could smother the grass you are trying to grow.
Whether the Alfalfa will be of much benefit if the soil that is there does not have an active Soil Food Web is somewhat debatable.
Depending on where in the United States you are that lab may be an expensive alternative to your state university.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 7:11AM
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pbx2_gw

@kimmsr - thanks for the feedback. I've updated my header to show Zone 7 in Central VA.

What I am interpreting from you , that get a test first & then address the problems shown in the test. True?

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 8:40AM
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sc77

dchall and I have had this argument before. He feels that organic fertilizer is all you need, while I believe you need a combination of compost (to add microbes, worms, life) and organic fertilizer to feed microbes. Grains are very beneficial, but without soil that is teaming with life, it won't do much good.

The way to fix it is by adding a thin layer of compost (top-dressed) year after year. In addition, spraying your yard with compost tea will speed up that process even faster, as the microbes will get absorbed right down into the soil. Get a soil test, logan labs is good. Make sure you pay extra to have your organic matter levels tested. The most important things you will get from the test to start are Ph levels and Organic Matter. Compost is the great equalizer, so whether you have high ph or low ph, compost does an excellent job of getting it back in check, but if it's really low, you will need to add lyme and I think it's sulfer or something if it is too high (it's never high in new england)...

The soil test will give you a good benchmark for next year or the year after to retest. In the meantime, water 1 inch per week, mow high, get a weed hound to pop out weeds, and apply as much compost tea as you can. Also, starbux gives their used coffee ground away for free, this is a great source of OM... It can be a bit acidic, so it's best to throw it in a compost pile for a couple months to neutralize it.

Also, don't just go on cost per lb. Soybean meal for example is 7% nitrogen or about 3x as valuable as alfalfa... It's good to mix it up anyways, as each one has different benefits. If you want to go with a pre-mixed organic Ringer Brand is exception, although a bit expensive and hard to find.

Finally, that $700 you spent on synthetics would go a long way in organic lawn care. It's a little expensive up-front, but the difference is that you are improving the structure of your soil and lawn, so it only gets cheaper every year, as your lawn becomes an oasis for life. I think of synthetics like steroids... you look strong and healthy on the outside, but your insides are dying and the second you stop taking them, you body falls apart on the outside as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Fertilizer Comparisons

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 4:20PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Since Virginia Tech, through the Cooperative Extension Service, does soil testing and the horticultural agents would be more familiar with Virginia soils there is no reason to use Logan Labs in Ohio. Virginia Tech will most likely be less expensive as well.
Perhaps the above person recommending Logan Labs is a shill for that company since several posts made by that person has recommended them.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2014 at 5:37PM
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sc77

Are you referring to me? Ive never recommended logan labs, and only mentioned it because the poster specifically said thats where he is planning on getting soil test done. I Eeven posted my own soil test results from my local extension office Umass.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 12:28AM
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pbx2_gw

Thanks all for your recommendation & comments.

I know there are 2 schools of thought on here on how to amend soil for an organic lawn:

1) Feed/Grain organic fertilizer only (DCHALL)
2) Combo of organic ferts + compost+ soil (SC77 others)

For sure I want what is easiest,least expensive & works fastest.

I have not seen a decisive answer to that yet.

    Bookmark   April 26, 2014 at 3:27PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

What your soil needs is organic matter. Soil is, if it is any good at all, composed of 92 to 95 percent of the mineral component, the sand, silt, and clay particles that make up most of soil and with some luck maybe the 5 to 8 percent organic matter that good soil should have. Why some people recommend adding more soil to what you already have is beyond comprehension.
What you use for organic matter, be it compost, shredded leaves, grains, as long as it will feed the Soil Food Web that feed the plants that are trying to grow it is okay, providing the Soil Food Web is active and can convert what you put down into what the plants can use.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 7:21AM
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pbx2_gw

Posted by kimmsr 4a/5b-MI (My Page) on Sun, Apr 27, 14 at 7:21
What you use for organic matter, be it compost, shredded leaves, grains, as long as it will feed the Soil Food Web that feed the plants that are trying to grow it is okay, providing the Soil Food Web is active and can convert what you put down into what the plants can use.

Hmmm that sounds more in line with what I have read from DCHALL.

Question: Will putting down alfalfa - attract rabbits or other animals to my yard?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2014 at 11:21PM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

It could. But then a good healthy stand of grass will do the same thing.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 6:57AM
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pbx2_gw

@kimmsr - also thanks for your suggestion to use the local VA Tech Cooperative Extension Services in my area.

They have neat program that sends a volunteer master gardener out to take a look @ my lawn, run a test sample & work out a customized program to remediate it.

I'm very excited about the hand holding aspects & the additional resources that the Coop offers.

All for the same cost as the Logan Labs.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2014 at 12:34PM
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aacharley

The cost for the Logan Labs analysis is $25 per soil sample. That is really not much different in cost from the free VA program and you will get the results from a top notch service.

Alfalfa pellets are useful. They should not be the only component. Consider the soybean meal and also some Milorganite. The comment that the organics are only useful if there are microbes present is misleading, IMO. You have the microbes already, just not enough of them, possibly. If you feed them the population will increase within weeks. Over a couple of months (one growing season) you will observe a big difference in rate of decomposition of the organics. One thing for sure, if you don't feed them you won't have many. Increasing the population now will help with mulching the fall leaves and the currently generated clippings.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 8:32AM
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