advice on lawn renovation

biketamcolNovember 14, 2010

I have a small lawn in the front bordered on three sides by flower beds an on the fourth by a sidewalk. I recently bought the house and must assume the has not been fed in a while. The lawn itself is on very slight but noticeable slope. Here is the problem close inspection of the lawn reveals there is no grass to speak of in the lawn just various weeds and weed-like grasses. I attempted to dig out some of the larger weeds and was left with holes throughout.

Here is my plan rototill the entire lawn, rake out the the weeds,cover the lawn with composted manure and compost, then wait until early spring to throw down new seed. During the interim I can keep a wary eye out for any weeds that migh want to invade. I will be able to feed the area and get the soil tested so I can get a better handle on what I am working with.

What do you guys think of this (very) preliminary plan

thank you

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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Start, before rototilling, with a soil test which can help you build up the health of the soil as you rototill. Your local office of the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service can be a good resource for that. You can also dig in with these simple soil tests for more help in making that soil better,

  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 drainsâ 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.

Here is a link that might be useful: University of Maryland CES

    Bookmark   November 15, 2010 at 6:57AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Yes do what kimmsr suggests regarding soil testing.

I'm going to suggest you resign yourself now to one more season of weeds. You missed the golden opportunity of fall seeding. If you seed in the spring, you will match the crabgrass seed sprouting season perfectly. Whereas had you seeded in the fall (two months ago), by next summer you would have had grass with sturdy roots that could face the summer heat. You can go ahead and seed in the fall but do not be too surprised in August when you don't have much real grass left. Just plan to do it right in September.

Please do not rototill your lawn. Whoever first printed that advice had never really tried it. Somehow it has caught on to the point where all the big time books recommend it. While it does a great job of fluffing up the soil and preparing it for planting, after 3 years you will find the surface has settled unevenly.

For your area a lot of people are very happy with a mix of fescue (for year round green and shade tolerance) and Kentucky bluegrass (for grass density and weed prevention).

The best way to keep weeds out, whether you are organic or synthetic, is to water and mow properly. Water deeply and infrequently rather than watering lightly every day or two. And mow the grass relatively high...at least 3 inches. That will keep the weed seed from sprouting and taking root.

Look at the Organic Lawn Care FAQ in the Organic Gardening forum. That will help you get started feeding the soil and grass.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 11:12PM
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