newbie, help needed!

jtguitarApril 17, 2011

I recently fired my lawn care service and since spring is here i also hope for a nice lawn. I live in Abilene texas have and have an unknown type of st augustine grass which is thin and in need of help. The soil here is clay based and unknown if it would support organics? after reading a several posts i decided to apply soybean meal mixed with alfa alfa pellets. I applied 50lbs of each in hope of giving it a good boost. The yard has not been treated until now. My concern is, are there microbes in the soil that will benefit from the feeding or should i have first layed compost? all and any help is greatly appreciated!

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I have not yet seen a soil that was treated with synthetics so sterile that there was not some activity by the Soil Food Web, some had really low populaitons but they were still there. So while it may take some time, years, for your lawn to really start to look good, it will if you give it time to get there. Compost, which is teeming with those thingys, would have been a good start but is not all that necessary if other sources of organic plant foods are used. I have seen remarkable results simply by mulching leaves into the soil.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 6:40AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I agree with kimmsr. Yes you are good to go in Abilene.

Look at your local feed stores for cottonseed meal. With the cotton processing in your area, you should have an infinite supply of it for dang near free. You might have to go to Sweetwater to get a better deal. The fastest way to improve your soil is to get it absorbing water (see below) and to over apply organic fertilizers. When I say, over apply, I mean to apply as often as you can afford (budget and time). I only apply about 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet per season, but I know people who apply upwards of 800 pounds per 1,000 per season.

Have you read the Organic Lawn Care FAQ?

Proper watering is the most important thing you can do for St Aug. When you water, do it for a long time, but don't do it very often. I water once a month in the winter. I'm up to once every 10 days currently. During the heat of summer I water once a week. What makes this work is to ensure your soil will soak up water for at least an hour without runoff. If your soil will not do that now, then you have another project. Softening the soil. I suspect it will not so I'll go ahead and explain how to fix that.

The easy way is to spray shampoo on the soil with a hose end sprayer. I like generic baby shampoo. If you want to dilute it half way with water you can. It might make it easier to flow through the tube in the sprayer. Spray at a setting that allows the spray to look foamy coming out. Spray the entire area and then turn on your sprinkler. If the water starts to run off before an hour is up, stop immediately and let the lawn rest for 15 minutes. Then start watering again until you have gone a full hour. Repeat with the soap the next time you water. After that you can skip a week and repeat the soap every other time you water. Do that for 2 months and you should have significantly improved the soil's ability to absorb and hold moisture. That is what the microbes in the soil need is a continual moisture environment.

When your soil is converted you will notice that it is soft when you walk on it when the soil is moist. Then several days later you will notice the soil is hard again. Hard soil is not the automatic signal to water again. You want the soil to dry out at the surface between waterings. In Abilene your humidity is much lower than it is in San Antonio, so you may find you need to water longer than an hour to for the grass to live a full week in July and August. Whenever you see St Aug drying out, it is time to water immediately.

The other thing you can do to really improve your St Aug is to raise your mower to the highest setting. Tall St Aug uses less water and looks much nicer than low mowed grass. It also resists weeds very nicely when mowed high. My mower is set to 4 inches. It mow when it gets to 5 inches high. Sometimes that takes 2 weeks.

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 5:52PM
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I switched my lawn from synthetic to organic three years ago after 15 years of using a lawn service. The biggest difference was the response I got from spreading compost in a thin layer over my grass in the spring of two seasons. I believe this has increased the organic content of my soil and provided food along with other basics needed so the biology in my soil can produce what my grass needs. My grass is now stronger and healthier, able to find off pests and pathogens that I used to need pesticide and other chemicals to help my grass.

Of the three types of soil; sand, silt and clay, clay has the highest ability to bond chemically and hold nutrients but it is easiest to compact and stop moisture from passing through, so I would think you need a way to provide the spaces between the soil particles that soil microbiology needs to thrive.

So if I was in your position, I would try to find a cheap source of compost and make sure that it is stable, what I mean is completely finished the decomposition process. Compost that is not mature can actually TAKE nitrogen from your soil instead of helping. Also, it needs to reach a high enough temp in the composting process to kill any seeds or pathogens that may have been in the source material before composting.

Good Luck!

    Bookmark   April 18, 2011 at 9:17PM
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thanks for all the replies and thanks to garden web i can approach my yard with a new plan. I will keep everyone posted on the progress.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2011 at 5:32PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

In Abilene they should be giving away cotton burr compost. But it needs to be mature. That means it smells good. The app rate for compost is 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet. This amounts to a light dusting. Then sweep it into the turf with a push broom. You can use a rake if you really need the extra exercise. Every blade of grass you want to survive must be poking up through the compost. The rest will be buried and die. Compost is a full weekend project.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 4:58PM
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Since most all cotton grown today is Genetically Engineered to withstand glyphosate, at the least, and is heavily sprayed with pesticides an organic gardener may want to think about whether cotton burr compost is something to use in their garden or on their lawn.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 7:33AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Some people will not make compost out of anything that was not grown from organic seed and managed organically. I'm not that picky. I'd give it a shot. There are a few herbicides I know of that persist through the composting process but those are not used on cotton.

    Bookmark   May 2, 2011 at 7:49PM
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