Making the switch from Scott's to Organic

katefisher(Z7_NorthernCA)May 7, 2008

Well the time has come to start feeding our lawn. Normally this time of year I would break out the Scott's Weed n Feed and go to it. But I want to try something else this year.

I have been reading and believe that Corn Meal might be good to feed my lawn with and may also serve as a deterrent to weeds. Really at the moment we only have dandelions as far as weeds go in our yard.

As to the the kind of grass we have I really dont' know. I don't know much about lawns I fear. I know we have a great deal of thatch that is causing the lawn to come in very slowly this year. I want the lawn to be healthy but also want my cats to be able to play in it.

My question is is Corn Meal the appropriate thing to start out with? Where do I buy it and how do I spread it? Just rake it in?

Thank you. Transitioning from my usual routine to something greener feels good but I'm flying totally blind here.


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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

First of all, thank you for identifying your location as Northern California...and then actually living in NORTHERN CALIFORNIA. So many people here identify their location as NoCal and they live in the bay area. Sheesh! Arrogant central Californians. They just wish they lived where you live!

I am going to assume you are at an altitude of 5,000 feet. It makes a difference in watering for you.

There is a FAQ over on the Organic Gardening forum called Organic Lawn Care. That FAQ answers your first questions and will probably make you think of more to ask.

Dandelions = grass mowed too short. Raise you mower deck up to the highest setting and get used to that. The dandelions will disappear like magic without doing anything else.

Organic fertilizer takes about 3 full weeks to make a color difference in your grass. So if now is the time you would normally fertilize with Scott's, then mark your calendar for next April to start your organic fertilizer year. Just to make it easy to remember, use April Fool's Day.

What kind of grass you have is unimportant as long as you are happy. Thatch can be an issue. Usually we don't see thatch problems in organic lawns but not necessarily because of the organic care. I think the reason gets back to watering. Before I embarrass myself and suggest a watering program that you are already following, would you please write back and explain your normal watering routine? This is where your altitude comes in, so if you could verify that it would help. Also we need to know if your grass is in full sun, filtered sun, or more shade.

The organic program is not necessarily green in the sense that you are going to save the planet, but it is nice to know that you are not doing anything that might possibly hurt your children, pets, neighbors, etc. Plus you can get rid of the smell of chemicals in your garage.

You may notice a few things change in your yard when you stop using chemicals. You may see some insects you have not seen in awhile. But you will also see more birds, lizards, geckos, and toads. These guys are the insect predators that will keep the insect populations under control.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 7:41PM
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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Corn meal is but one of many natural products used to feed the soil which in turn feeds you lawn. It is a mild fertilizer and has some fungus fighting properties but is not considered a deterrent to weeds. It feeds them too. My suggestion is for you to move slowly into organic lawn care, starting by switching immediately to all organic fertilizers. Many use a so called "hybrid" approach in the beginning, keeping the can of Weed-be-gone handy, just in case.Bill Hill

Here is a link that might be useful: Organic Lawncare FAQ

    Bookmark   May 7, 2008 at 7:47PM
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Kate: This is "silly" rosarama from the rose forum. I can identify fully with you since I started going organic this spring. I have used cottonseed and soy meal on my (St. Augustine) grass in Florida and the green is truly spectacular. My reasons are environmental and besides when my grandkids come to visit I want them to feel free to play on the lawn without worrying about all those "cides".
I am still in the process - have also used cornmeal and just got back from outside where I mixed soy with milorganite. When it rains, I expect great results. By the way, I live in hot steamy Central Florida where the grass is truly a pain. Did I mention I used alfalfa too? It takeslonger to break down byt one good shower of rain will do it. Just make sure to sweep or rake it into the soil between the blades of grass so it doesn't smother the grass.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 11:35AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

rosarama, you really get after it, don't you!! If you are using enough alfalfa to even be slightly concerned about smothering the grass, you are using almost 10x too much. You've only started this spring and so far you've used


While this is an exuberant first attempt at organic lawn care, I think you need to slow down (did I just say that?). By this time of year, even in Florida, you could have easily gotten away with one application of any one of those in February and expect to do a second app at the end of this month. If money is no object, then go for it, but do be careful not to smother your lawn with organic fertilizer. 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet is puh-LENTY.

Yes the green is spectacular. You can't know how spectacular until you try it for yourself.

What is the pain involved with your grass? Color or weeds?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2008 at 9:13PM
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David: Thanks for responding. You are a big part of my reason to organic and I have read all your input to this forum with interest.
The pain has been in the past two years due to chinch bug problems which caused us to replace large portions of our 5000 sq.ft lawn. Of weeds we have had plenty, but believe I wrung most of them out by hand making sure to get all the roots, so the hardest part of that MIGHT be behind me. That, at least takes care of my exercise regimen for the remainder of the year!!! Green was so-so - I used Scott's. But I am hopeful for the future. Did I mention that I have already sorayed with molasses as well? Now you're really going to sanction me (LOL)
One serious question though: What will I do in the event of another chinch bug invation?

Thanks a million.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2008 at 5:28PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I'm laughing, too. There's really nothing wrong with everything you've done as long as you didn't smother it...and you can afford it. If you are on sand, for example, it is going to take a little extra work to get the microbes going. Sand is a fragile rooting medium. Once you get it full of microbes, you can undo all your progress quickly because sand just can't hold water like clay.

For chinch bugs you should look into beneficial nematodes. I know the root knot nematodes are a big pest in FL, but these guys are different. These are considered to be beneficial because they bring disease to the insect larvae in the soil. The University of Florida has done a lot of research on them. I might have to do some Googling to find their site on the topic. I don't know much about chinch bugs and it's too late for me to look into it, but I wanted to reply quickly before hitting the hay. I'll be back...

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 2:06AM
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David - You're a true gem.
I live in Apopka about five miles from the UCF Research Dept. I've been there before for grass analysis - they're the ones who identified the chinch bugs when my grass went brown at 100 sq. ft. to the minute.
I know just what the root knot nematodes look like. I dug up a tomato plant and could't bel;ieve the disfigurement of the roots - that was my first experience with nematodes.
I need a source for beneficial ones, though.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 12:10PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

We have root knot nematodes in Texas, too. The organic program seems to discourage them to the point of eradication.

Here's a source for the beneficial nematodes I use. These come on a sponge sealed in plastic. If you can't use them the day you get them, refrigerate them. They don't last very long even in the fridge so get them out. You dip the sponge into a gallon of water and rinse the nematodes out into the water, then spray. The best time to spray them is in the middle of a 4-day rainstorm.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2008 at 6:44PM
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Thanks, I'm placing an order today

    Bookmark   May 11, 2008 at 9:05PM
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Wow! Lots of helpful information. Thank you everyone.

Dchall: We are appr. 3500 feet. Pretty high up and definitely in the mountains. I see what you are saying about the timing on applying some organic food to my lawn. I may have missed a window to do anything right away because out temps are slated to rise to 94 degrees this weekend. Unheard of for May in our county. Really appreciate the good info in your post.

Bill, thank you. Can you give me the name of a preferred Organic Fertilizer?


You were indeed being silly on the Rose Forum. But very entertaining. Appreciate all the good suggestions on possible products. I just bought my first 50lb bag of Alfalfa Pellets for Alfalfa Tea for the roses. So at the moment I have plenty. I'll run that idea by the husband and see if he will go for putting some on the lawn. I'll be careful to work it in.

In the interim I have been pulling all the dandelions by hand. Weirdly we don't seem to have as many this year. Either that or since I pulled them all up daily it just never became a major issue.

Again thank you folks.


    Bookmark   May 13, 2008 at 6:50PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Okay, if you are above the 'cloud line,' then you're above the altitude where the "water once a week" rule works. I have never mentioned this because apparently your mountain people neighbors don't have computers to write in here ;-)

Your humidity is affected by the altitude and the dry wind you probably have plenty of. It dries out everything. With that in mind you might still be able to back off to the point of watering only once a week in the summer, but don't fret over anything if you cannot. Tall grass is your best defense against dry winds and weather.

For those interested in further reading on this subject of humidity at altitude, look up Chinook and Santa Anna winds or the 'adiabatic process.'

    Bookmark   May 15, 2008 at 6:38PM
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