Doing it right - new sod for organic lawn

GWlolo(9b/ Sunset 15)April 9, 2013

I garden in CA bay area. We just finished a long remodel during which time, the lawn had not been watered, been trampled upon and is totally compacted with bald patches and dry scrawny grass. We are planning to install new sod and I want to ensure that I do it right to prepare for success with organic practices. I would really appreciate some guidance here.

Soil preparation - from what I have read here, it looks like amending with some protein like alfalfa meal two weeks prior is a good idea. I am also considering using something like root growth enhancer which is an all purpose combination of beneficial fungi like Endomycorrhizae, Ectomycorrhizae and Trichoderma that my local soil place (Lyngso) recommended to help establish the roots. I am confused about removing old sod and tilling and leveling. My landscaper recommends cutting out old sod, tilling the top few inches, adding soil and leveling before sodding to ensure a level lawn. This sounds right but I am not sure if this will cause issues with soil microbes. I do NOT want to end up with a level lawn. When do I add the alfalfa? Ay thoughts on the fungi root enhancer?

Type of Sod My front lawn has a lot of shade especially in summer once the trees leaf out. The back lawn is in Sun. The main sod company here is Delta and I am considering their shade blend for the front lawn and the Bolero plus. Any feedback on the sod choice?

post installation of sod I was planning to feed with "BioTurf" from Down to Earth that is a 8-3-5 fertilizer with ingredients including Alfalfa Meal, Feather Meal, Fish Bone Meal, Hydrolyzed Fish, Acadian Kelp Meal, Sulfate of Potash and Dolomitic Lime. I thought this might be useful until I start the compost, alfalfa regimen.

Please share your thoughts and advice.

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Whether to remove the old sod or not is always a good question. When the old sod is taken up and removed a good portion of topsoil is taken with that sod because that is where the grass grew. Tilling the old sod in will conserve that topsoil as well as add organic matter to the soil.
How much Alfalfa will be added? Will it be enough to get the level of organic matter towhere it should be?
What is your soils pH?
How well does that soil drain?
How well does that soil retain moisture?
What kind of life is in that soil?
What does that soil smell like?

    Bookmark   April 11, 2013 at 7:30AM
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The first thing I'd do is soak the soil to flood stage if the rain hasn't done that for a while. This will answer kimmsr's question about drainage and help you to determine if the soil needs to be tilled or not. Then as it dries you can see how the existing turf is responding.
A soil test showing pH and SOM will let you know if ammendments should be tilled in. I am uncomfortable with applying raw materials under the sod for fear of the decaying alfalfa may also rot the roots to some extent.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2013 at 5:17AM
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