Just started the organic program

chavezApril 28, 2009

So I have read most of the post on this forum. I am going to give this a try.

Lawn - St Agustine Floratam, Sapphire, weed mixture

Mow on highest setting on cheapo Bolens walk behind

Water - none but have started to run the system to get things started. Will take suggestions on watering from this forum

1/4 acre lot with a 2500sqft house - maybe 7000-8000sqft of lawn?

We bought the house about a year ago. It was a foreclosure so the lawn was neglected. It was neglected another year as I travelled most of last year. This is the year I plan on getting things going.

So here is what I have done:

Week 1 - Applied 32oz Molasses (Grandmas and Publix's brand) 50/50 mix with Apple cider vinegar- used 2oz setting on hose end sprayer and sprayed utnil liquid was gone

Week 2 -

100lbs of Cracked Corn (Never Again)

100lbs Alfalfa

100lbs SBM

32oz of Molasses as above

Waterd in for 1hr with irrigation system

Some questions -

The corn is attracting lots of birds, thus, I will never do this again. The freakin Sand Hill Cranes are bigger than my son and scare the heck out of him. Do I really need corn? I plan on resodding about 2000-2500 sqft of sod in the front yard this weekend. I know I will be watering the heck out of for a few weeks. Will also be plugging some bare areas with sapphire/floratam at the same time. Anyone need 100# of cracked corn?

Is there a brand of rotary spreader that is good to use for Alfalfa pellets and cracked corn (in case I need to apply)? I used a lesco brand wide open and nothing came out. The SBM was fine.

Any suggestions on a sprayer (hand or backpack) for compost tea? Brewing some ACT this weekend for spraying on the sod. Or can I use the hose end sprayer?

Comments suggestions are welcome.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

What else have you been reading? We hardly ever talk about vinegar, molasses, and compost tea as a general spray. Nor do we talk about using 300 pounds of fertilizer for a 80 pound job.

How do you know the corn is attracting the cranes and not the molasses, soy, or alfalfa?

What weeds do you have? With Floratam and sapphire you can probably do nothing but water and mow to have full coverage in a few months. I would not add any sod just yet.

The problem with spraying compost tea is getting every piece of compost out of the tea before you spray it. Compost clogs sprayers. If you can get the compost out, then any sprayer will do.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 12:09AM
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First thanks for responding!

I probably need to take a picture of the lawn for everyone to see as there is maybe 50% weeds, 25% bare spots, and 25% Grass. The grass that is there is beautiful, just not spreading into the bare areas. The lawn was very neglected for years. From what you guys describe on this site the previous owner mowed low, watered everyday, and used lots of chems on the lawn. I have done nothing to the lawn in a year so it got worse.

Molasses was used first to get some microbes going. There were lots of dead grass and weeds from the years of neglect. I wanted them to break down the dead stuff, it was matted in the grass. It was so thick in some places it was preventing grass from growing. Then I started feeding them with the rest of the grains and added more molasses for extra measure. The vinegar was added to cut the molasses as it would not go through the hose end sprayer. Am I wrong here?

I know lots of grains but I do not have the money for a top dressing. My thought was to add more grains to get some organic matter in the soil. In places it is just sand, mostly the bare spots.

No birds came to my yard prior to adding the grains. Now it is like the movie 'The Birds'. They are all eating the corn as the alfalfa and soy were watered in leaving the corn on top. I watch them pick each kernel up and eat it. I do not mind, but my son loves to play in the back yard and the sand hill cranes are fearless.

What weeds? You name it I have it. I have been doing manual removal for a few weeks. Spot spraying with vinegar/soap mixture. I have pretty much beat the weeds down. After all the work was done, I decided to start feeding the soil.

Not sodding is not an option = HOA. I have already got 2 notices for bare spots in the lawn. This was after weeding and raking up lots of thatch. Which resulted in 50% of the front yard becoming bare. I am only doing the worst of the areas that are 100% weeds and bare. The backyard will be left alone to heal.

I have a 1 gallon sprayer. This would be a heck of a job to walk and spray the entire yard with compost tea. My arm would fall off not to mention refilling this thing. YIKES! Thus, if anyone has a suggestion on a better way to make this more efficient method I am taking suggestions.

Also, still taking spreader guidance. The one I have is useless with some of the grains.

dc thanks for your response. Hope I have explianed myself better. Maybe give me some guidance if I have done something wrong??

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 9:31AM
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What kind of soil do you have? What is that soils pH? How well does that soil drain? How well does that soil retain mosture? What kind of life is in that soil? How much oganic matter is in that soil?

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 1:04PM
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What kind of soil do you have?

Sand, typical of most of Fl

What is that soils pH??

Do not know pH

How well does that soil drain??

Drains very well

How well does that soil retain mosture??

Not very well in the bare spot. Can water one time a week and the spots with dense growth and soil stays moist until next watering.

What kind of life is in that soil??

Probably not much in the bare areas. It is pure sand.

How much oganic matter is in that soil??

Not much in most of the lawn.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 8:41PM
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Since you know a lot about your soil you then already know much of what needs to be done to make it into a good healthy soil that will grow good, healthy grass, add lots of organic matter and correct any soil pH problems. To know what your soils pH is, and why it is where it is, contact your counties office to the University of Florida USDA Cooperative Extension Service about having a good, reliable soil test done. Until sufficient levels of organic matter are worked into that sand grass will continue to have a problem growing.

Here is a link that might be useful: UF CES

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 8:39AM
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Thanks for the link!

So am I on the right path? Did not go and get a soil test as I knew they were going to tell me that my soil has no organic matter, low in N (other macros maybe), and needs a pH shift. My thoughts were that the organic method would bring those things back in order.

Previous poster has suggested I added way to much? Molasses and Vinegar was not a right choice?

Pulled up 2400sqft of sod by hand yesterday. Not too bad of a job with the sandy soil. The roots of the weeds and existing St Agustine were only in the top 2"-4". This is with no supplemental watering for at least 2yrs if not more. The house sat vacant for at least 1-2yrs before bank repossed it from the snow bird. Then we bought the house a year later. Maybe a total 2-3yr of no 'extra' water. Soil was a dusty sand with no organics what so ever. It was like a gray sugar consistency. What to do now? They will lay sod this afternoon.

Want to do this right this time, my soil and lawn will thank you.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:38AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Before you develop a poor(er) reputation with your HOA, I would suggest you personally visit with a couple of the officers individually and privately. Remind them of the history of the property (the foreclosure part) and explain to them what your situation was last year that prevented you from fixing the appearance. Tell them the current bare spots resulted from the dense infestation of weeds and you are as concerned as they are over the appearance. Finally tell them that you are now working hard to make your lawn the lawn of the month. You might even tell them you are working with lawn consultants (us, heh, heh) to help you perfect the lawn.

St Augustine grows perfectly well in salty sand. In fact I've seen it escape into the wild in the dunes along the Texas coast. In the tropics I've seen it growing down from the dunes, across the beach toward the surf. Whatever your soil is, St Aug is up to the challenge. The soil test is going to tell you that you have sand and to add organic matter and fertilize. You already know that so let's get going. Actually you are already going so all you have to do is keep after it. I have not tried this but it is my belief (only) that if you use any one of the grains you have already used at a rate of 10 pounds per 1,000 square feet on a monthly basis, you should be able to keep the HOA off your back. Even if you have bare spots, your grass will be darker green than ANY of theirs is.

Florida's sand can be a bugger. Watering once every week or two might not be enough, especially if you are in full sun. St Aug does not like to spread into really dry areas. If you have a mulch budget, use it in the bare spots. It needs to be very fine mulch. Grass clippings are pretty good. If your neighbors put them out on the sidewalk, pick them up. Once your grass grows up to 4 inches high, you will probably be able to back off on watering toward that once per week rate.

There are a couple of other sandy minerals that you can supplement your current sand with and you should see some benefit. Greensand is one. It is chock full of a variety of minerals. Another is anything with granite in it. Look for deals on those types of materials and get some when you can. Now that I think about it I remember reading that there are different kinds of clay, and one of them was compatible with Florida sand. I remember Bentonite clay was mentioned in the article, but I don't remember if it was the good one or one of the bad ones. Sorry but maybe someone else will remember reading that.

Finally I'm getting around to organic matter in the soil. The best there is is the microbes. They need food and one of the best is dead grass roots. Grass sheds its roots continually to the point where the roots you have now will be gone in a year or two. Microbes will decompose those as they are sloughed off. Feeding from the surface has to continue with the grains and that should be enough. In a year your white sand will appear to be black (gray) when you dig into it. Don't be fooled into thinking it has changed into a better soil, it has not. It is still sand but the black stuff you see is the organic matter they are looking for in the soil test. If you put a cup of that stuff into a jar of water, the white sand falls to the bottom immediately and the black stuff floats on top. The idea of spraying a lawn, even a small lawn, with compost tea quickly leads you to the sprayer problem. I ended up using a wide open watering can and finally gave up on tea as being too much hassle for my lazy approach to lawns. In your sand, compost is what you want. Anything that forms a layer on top of your soil is good. Mulch mowing the grass is by far the easiest thing you can do towards that.

The weeds that are going to be a problem are the broadleaf weeds. They will shade out St Aug. Sea grape is one you've probably seen. If you have that it has to come out. Clover, henbit, oxalis, and dichondra are others that have to come out. Grassy weeds will get choked out by the tall St Augustine so don't worry about those. Same with dandelions.

I wanna see the before pictures so when you come back in August we can see the Lawn of the Month results.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 11:59AM
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St Aug does not like to spread into really dry areas

Ahh so that is why it has not been spreading well. Time for a few bags of compost this weekend. Great tip.

If I were to get some of those minerals what is the application rate? or is it kind of like the grains?

I used this link to find some of those weeds:

Weed Pictures

Could not find the Sea Grape but all the others are in my lawn. Is sea grape like a vine? If so then I do have it. It chokes the heck out the grass.

I will post pics of the grass before and after.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 3:17PM
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