New to lawn care - general questions

nobunsMay 20, 2013

I understand all lawns are different, so I'm just looking for some general tips for natural lawn care.

I am a new home owner, inherited what appears to be a pretty healthy lawn. The prior owner told me he used organic fertilizer. The lawn has A LOT of clover, but is very green and generally looks good. We also have a sprinkler system.

At the beginning of the season, somebody talked me into buying Scott's 4 season fertilizer. So I put the 1st step down (the crab grass preventer I think), and in theory the next step is the weed and feed, but I am reconsidering now.

I've been cutting the grass high and often with a mulching mower and it appears to be working. Dandelions have all but gone away (there were a fair amount in april & early may that I had to pull out).

If I stop scott's and go the organic route, in general - what kind of fertilizer and weed control needs will my lawn have? Is mowing it high and mulching enough? What kind of treatment would it need, for example, just spring and fall?

Any tips would be greatly appreciated!

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To maintain a good healthy lawn you will need to work on maintianing a good healthy soil. Mulch mowing those clippings is on step because those clippings can put 1/2 of the Nitrogen needs of your grass back into the soil.
A general rule of thumb is that cool season grasses need about 2 pounds of Nitrogen per 1,000 square feet per year and your grass clippings can provide 1 pound per 1,000 square feet. However, that soil will need another source of organic matter so you can maintain a soil humus level between 6 and 8 percent. Compost, properly handled sewage (bio waste) fertilizers, shredded leaves, are sources that can be used. How much depends on what is needed.
Synthetic fertilizers will not add anything of value to your soil.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2013 at 7:58AM
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If you have been consistently fertilizing with synthetics then you will have to build up the soil, by that I mean the microbial life, worms, etc.
Remember, the trick to organics is to feed the soil, the soil feeds to plants. So as someone else has mentioned, get started adding organic matter to your lawn. Research using 'meal' types lawn foods such as soybean meal, etc.
A soil test will also put you in the direction you need to go, and give you an idea about how much organic matter you have and need. Organic does work, it takes time, work, and patience. But it pays off because your results and efforts will last longer than those of synthetics.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 3:13AM
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Perhaps this episode of Growing a Greener World might be of some help.

Here is a link that might be useful: GGW 305

    Bookmark   May 22, 2013 at 12:13PM
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Since you have an irrigation system you might also want to be sure to not overuse it. Soil and the microbes that live in it also need air, so be sure that there is adequate drying of the soil, not the surface of the grass, but an adequate drying of the soil before soaking it down again.
Waterlogged soils waste resources that the grass would otherwise use. :)

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 12:33PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)
  1. Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds.

  1. Mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. Bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses are the most dense when mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. Dense grass shades out weeds and uses less water when tall. Dense grass feeds the deep roots you're developing in 1 above.
  1. Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 4 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above.
    Bookmark   June 8, 2013 at 3:59PM
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Does that RI mean you are in Rhode Island?
How much and how often to water depends on the needs of the grass. Dave is right about watering deeply and infrequently, but most information you will see aboyut watering lawns in your area of the world is that the lawn needs 1 inch of water per week. That maybe correct, depending on your weather. If you have cool, although sunny days with low winds and your soil has adequate levels of organic matter you may not need to water that much. But if you have hot, dry, very windy days you may need to water a couple of times a week no matter what your soil is like.
Think less about "fertilizing" and more about feeding the soil. If you need to add organic matter to your soil applying compost, not more than 1/4 inch at a time, can be done weekly if necessary. 4 times a year may not be enough to make your soil into a good, healthy soil.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 7:44AM
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