Color of Soil

fescue_planterJune 21, 2007

Can I expect any change in the color of my clay soil? Can anyone give any personal account of how long a process it is to change the makeup of the soil? I am tired of messing around with Scotts chemicals and seeing substandard results and am all ready to go organic on my 2-year old lawn. Before discovering the logic presented on this forum I tried to take proper care of my tall fescue by watering deep and infrequently while adding "quality" chemical fertilizer at the recommended dates. All along I knew everything starts in the soil and I know now if I keep this up the soil will always look the same (dead). I put a batch of milorganite (20lbs/1K) on a couple weeks ago and plan to give the dirt some food (soy meal) in a couple days along with some tea from my newly crafted brewer (thanks Deuley!). I like knowing if I barrage it with organics it won't hurt anything and I like knowing what I'm doing might just help the soil. Anybody have any insight?

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Anybody have any insight?

Congratulations on going organic! Prepare to be assimilated.

I started two years ago with soil that was...I don't use that kind of language, so let's call it "awful" and leave it at that. Light tan, tapped out, used as a cornfield for at least 40 years, solid clay you could throw a pot from. Cracked like the dickens in July.

Last year I used Milorganite exclusively, not yet having found this forum. By the end of the year, the soil was darker. Midrange tan, more friable, still fairly tapped out, but it didn't crack quite as badly.

This year, I changed over to soybean alternating with Milorganite, application of one or the other every other month at reasonable rates.

So far, the soil surface is black (not tan, not That extends down about half an inch, lightening toward midrange brown. The soil is workable to six inches easily (I'm adding Hunter rotors to water it now so I have to work it a lot). I haven't seen it crack and May through early June were dry. Doubtless there are small cracks there I just don't see, but nothing obvious or damaging.

Later on this year I'm core aerating and reseeding with elite grass. I expect the core aeration to mix it up a little bit to 3 or 4 inches deep, and I'm adding alfalfa immediately afterward to inject some right into the holes (and for the new grass that'll sprout a month later).

I don't think you'll be disappointed.

I like knowing if I barrage it with organics it won't hurt anything

Er, well, too much of anything is not a good thing--runoff is bad.

Normal aerobic decay becomes anaerobic decay if it can't get enough oxygen (not really a problem, but it taps nitrogen to decay and smells very bad). That's not something you want near the soil surface. Underneath it's normal and you'll never notice.

In short, don't overdo too badly. 80 lbs of organics per thousand square feet a year is what my research indicates is optimal on average. I'm shooting closer to 100, which is still in range...barely.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 7:56AM
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Thanks for the reply, I hope I can get something similar to what you've already achieved. Sounds like your soil probably absorbs water a lot more readily which is one of my main concerns. One question though for you or anyone regarding compost tea applications: I am brewing up my first batch to apply this weekend and a lot of what I've read calls for the aeration of water before brewing if you are on a public water system (chlorine removal). I plan on using a pump sprayer to soil soak about 4.5 gallons to around 10K ft2 (might as well use it all). Is watering beforehand or afterwards with city water irrigation going to harm the applied tea due to its chlorine content? Or does the exposed sprinkler water readily expel itself of the chlorine by quick evaporation? I assume that I probably want to water it a little to get the topsoil moist so that the spray I apply doesn't dry up after 5 minutes and allow the living microbes to soak their way down beneath the surface a little. Or am I incorrect?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 11:41AM
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I like knowing if I barrage it with organics it won't hurt anything


Listen to morpheuspa on this one. The microbes in your soil are only able to process so much. Monthly, or every other month applications of grains are ok. Also, I think that the 100lbs of organics per year per 1000sqft sound perfect.

The organic approach takes time. Not to discurage you, but you may not notice much of a soil change in the first year. You will however notice your grass looks healthy and green.

About the compost tea/chlorine removal. I don't think you have much of a choice on this. I would however aerate the water before brewing to remove the chlorine and give the beneficial bacteria and fungi a better chance at multiplying in the concentrated brew. I would water before you spray and in the evening to let all the microbes settle before the sun/heat of the day. How about using a hose-end sprayer?

Also, if you haven't already, read the Organic Lawn Care FAQ.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 12:53PM
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Sounds like your soil probably absorbs water a lot more readily which is one of my main concerns.

Oh, yeah, I should have mentioned. The first year I could water for fifteen minutes at a time before I had to give it an hour to soak in. That wasn't fun. Thunderstorms especially weren't enjoyable.

Now it can take an hour of water at a time. It's still not running off at that point, but the soil's kind of squishy and I give it time to absorb before striking it again (if I have to).

Like Skoot_Cat says, it takes time. Your soil didn't tap out and exhaust in a day, and it isn't going to restore itself in a day.

Three months from now your lawn will look a whole lot better and you'll be seeing lots of positive changes.

Two years from now you'll never look back and have a healthy, verdant lawn.

Five years from now you can be cutting back sharply on the organics--your soil has built up lots of humates and only needs enough to replace them.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 3:14PM
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