Disasterous lawn....mushy, moles, help!

venividibitchySeptember 12, 2010

My parents' organic lawn is getting unbearable, so any help would be greatly appreciated.

It's a 23-year-old lawn, started from sod, on Northern/Central Long Island.

It was beautiful and healthy whilst chemicals were used on it, while the trees in the yard were smaller, and while professionals cared for it, but once they switched to an organic lawn care service (and the trees grew taller/fuller), the grass began to degrade rapidly. The first few years after the switch, it was patchy but bearable. They tried to fight back by re-seeding (possibly tilling, too) before a rain with all different varieties of seed, but some areas took and others didn't.

Years later, the lawn is now soggy and graveyard-like in many places. The rabbits and squirrels have largely vacated, and moles/voles have taken over -- leaving huge trails of dug-up grass and tons of eaten roses and hostas that had been there for years, and some, even decades. They even ate through metal-netting-wrapped bulbs, and stuck around when they tried to use castor oil to deter them. In some areas, a weird moss-like substance has grown over the mushy grass, and it looks like tiny, tiny little ferns. Mushrooms have also increased (they were always present, though), especially more red and orange varieties. Dandelions still grow in the grass, as does clover, if that is any indication.

Do any of you have ANY suggestions or ideas? They are getting hopeless.

I believe they had the soil checked once, but I think they were told it was fine....

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Oh, and they have tons more earthworms than ever, but that should be a good thing....

    Bookmark   September 12, 2010 at 4:08PM
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Soggy soils indicate a drainage problem so that needs to be looked at. You need to know what the soils pH is as well as what the soil nutrient levels are, not a general "it was fine", as well as what the humus level of the soil is. Contact your local office of the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service and inquire about have a good, reliable soil test done and then dig in with these simple soil tests,
1) Structure. From that soil sample put enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level in a clear 1 quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24 hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight. For example, a good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the bottom. about 1 inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about 1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1 foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your soil drains� too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of organic matter to speed it up.

3) Tilth. Take a handful of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a finger that clump should fall apart.

4) Smell. What does your soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria will be and the nicer your soil will smell.

5) Life. How many earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that is not healthy.
to see what the condition of the soil is and what may need be done to make it into a good, healthy lawn.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 9:12AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Soggy could also mean they are watering too much or too frequently (more likely). I just ran into someone (here?) who waters for 45 minutes, 3x per week. That's too much.
How often do they water? and for how long? should be once a week max in the hottest part of summer.
How much fertilizer do they use, what kind, and when? Should be a real fertilizer and not compost. Once in the summer and twice in the fall minimum.
What kind of grass (should be fescue in the shade)?
How low do they mow? should be at least 3 inches high and left unmowed in the hottest/driest part of summer.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2010 at 9:32AM
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