Brown, brown, brown

kimberlykubApril 16, 2008

Hi, I'm a lurker. Switched to organic last year. It was the second summer for a new build/new lawn on what was previously a young (20 years) woods. Before that I understand the area was farmland. Having said that part of our property is old growth so I'm not sure what I believe. Our landscaper put down a few (2-3) inches of topsoil/compost then seeded with mix of fescue/kbg/rye. We have clay here too. Unfortunately our builder got us hay instead of straw so there's that in the mix too. We started out with Milorganite, then used SBM ttwice. A couple rounds of sugar. Watered once a week deeply. Used the containers to be sure and everything. Thought we were in really good shape till the snow melted. What a lot of brown. I don't mind the stuff that has grass around too, it's the patches of what last year was just beautiful green, lush areas and now brown. No green in it. I was feeling better because I saw someone else had posted similarly. Well it's mid-April and I'm getting worried.

I understand if it's dead it's dead but any clues what I did wrong? Should I have introduced Alfalfa for better root development? I may have way underfed also unfortunately I don't know. We used 250 pounds of soybean meal for about 11k sq. ft. of lawn. Of course that is rough measurement w/o taking out garden beds, barn/wood shed. We are figuring about 20/lbs per 1k sq.ft. is the application rate.

I have read and read here but I guess I would appreciate hearing what you think specific to us. You know how it is when you think you know something and you don't know what you don't know...

This year we have the soybean ready to go. It's a bit late but we really just warmed up and had late snows. Also I had to rake all this brown stuff so it wasn't matted and the SBM could get through.

Hubby got some compost and we tossed it out there too. Not the recommended rate we just can't accommodate that magnitude of a job right now. But we were putting in some garden beds and he bought an extra truck load so we could toss that around a bit.

I would appreciate any instruction, tips, ideas, etc... The optimistic part of me is hoping a don't worry yet will still apply but I'm skeptical of that. The glass is half empty right now.

Thanks so much for all the info here.

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You should be seeing *some* green up right now but its hard to say for certain what your issue is based on what you've wrote thus far. If your yard is waayyy behind everyone else in your area then I'd get a soil test just to be sure. Do you still have several trees left in your yard??

Either way don't fret too much. Im zone 5 too and there are lots of lawns that are still showing signs of winter stress and a cool wet spring.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 6:08PM
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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

You may still be allright. Put the soybean meal down ASAP. Overseed the worst of the brown areas. I hope you realize that you should put 200 pounds of soybean meal down five times a growing season. Many like to alternate soy with corn meal or cracked corn, alfalfa pellets (rabbit food) milorganite and a few other organic fertilizers. No doubt you builder used the cheapest in the world grass seed. You may wish to do a total renovation of your lawn. Consider doing that in small areas at a time, realizing that new seeds must be kept moist for several week. Do you have a irrigation system ?

Bill Hill

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 6:15PM
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We don't have any trees in our yard, we are basically a house and lawn in the middle of the trees. Well I can't compare to any other organic lawn. My nearest neighbors lawn looks emerald green already and last year it was tragic. I don't think he's organic although I can't swear to it. I really wasn't unhappy with our lawn coming in for year two last year or through the summer that's why this is such a shock. A few are heavy snow spots. Snow side of the snow fence is one example. I am putting SBM down tomorrow. I have one more area to loosen up the flat grass still. We may have rain Sat or Sun so it will be decent timing and a warm spell, very warm for my area.

So is 250 lbs too heavy a feeding? I notice you mentioned 200 lbs. Again, thanks for the start I do appreciate it.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 6:32PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

From what you have said so far I must assume you have not read the FAQ in the Organic Gardening forum. Some of your questions are answered in that FAQ.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 6:37PM
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250 lbs per 11 K ft is 22.7 lbs per k foot, or 1.6 lbs of available nitrogen per k foot.

That's a bit high, but not absurdly so. 200 lbs would probably be better, though (18.2 per k ft, or 1.3 lbs of N). This wouldn't have killed your lawn over the winter as any issues from that would be extremely obvious in fall.

I'm still waiting for a fair clip of my lawn to green up. It will, it's just been a really weird spring so far, and this is the first batch of consistent warm weather we've had here.

    Bookmark   April 16, 2008 at 6:42PM
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This could be considered the pot calling the kettle black, as I've yet to post a picture myself - but do you have a photo of the lawn you can post? Perhaps it could be grub damage, but I don't think they would appear over winter. Are the brown spots along the road / driveway? Perhaps large amounts of road salt from the winter was shoveled onto the lawn - I defer to other forum members with more experience as to whether this would totatlly kill any grass it was piled on.

And just to clarify Morpheus - are you suggesting 1.3 lbs of N for each feeding or the entire year?



    Bookmark   April 17, 2008 at 11:16AM
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No, no road salt we are 500 ft from road. This is not along drive it is on sloped section of yard mostly. I will try to post picture but our den is packed right now and somewhere in the boxes is the camera. I'm wondering if I have more than one thing going on. Hmmm grubs..I'll dig and look but as you said would it occur overwinter?
Thanks for all the constructive input.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 9:07PM
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And just to clarify Morpheus - are you suggesting 1.3 lbs of N for each feeding or the entire year?

Per feeding, and that would really be kind of high, so four per year tops for 5.2 lbs. That would be fine for young bluegrass. It's high for rye or fescue, which doesn't require nearly as much N. It's also high if you've been organic for a while as the nutrient cycling in the lawn is in full swing and you don't need to hit it that hard.

I tend to divide feedings to 0.5 to an absolute maximum of 1.0 lbs N at a shot, six to twelve times a year during the season...but I get antsy if I don't have something to do outside and have already managed a good suntan in April. My lawn is first year (replacement), so high resource levels are a must.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2008 at 10:29PM
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