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Starting Over - Again!

Posted by robyn_tx 8 DFW ( on
Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 1:58

I'm starting over - again - establishing an organic environment for my lawn and perennial beds. My home is leased and seemingly generations of previous renters didn't do a darn thing to take care of the lawn. So I inherited endemic weeds, terribly weak sod and brown patch on SA turf grass. Without a doubt, the worst leased home lawn I've ever inherited. Niiiiice.

I'm up for the challenge! Fortunately, the native soil is decent and my home is over 80 years old, so I don't have the problems of crud thrown into the topsoil during new home construction. Plus I've got a good number of earthworms per sq ft to start with ... not bad for a neglected city lot, but the sod still looks like ... well, I should be respectful of this site and not say what I really think. :)

Wish me luck! My neighbor, who is a chemical and watering addict (God love him but it's the truth), took some interest in my alfalfa tossing this past weekend. Maybe I can be persuasive to bring him along for the ride and we can create a 2-lawn organic mecca! Grin

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Starting Over - Again!

Since the basis for a good, healthy lawn is a good, healthy soil what are you doing besides apply some Alfalfa?
Have you had a good, reliable soil test done so you know the soils pH as well as the levels of P, K, Ca, and Mg?
Perhaps these simple soil tests might also be of some help.
1) Soil test for organic matter. 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.

RE: Starting Over - Again!

Hi Kimmsr - thanks for your message.

I've been successfully converting crummy chemical lawns to organic health for about 15 years, so I'm pretty well versed on the to-do's. Just wanted to post to some kindred souls my new project! :)

RE: Starting Over - Again!

One problem I see with older homes is over application of top dressing. If it has been rented all that time, then maybe not. We have homes in San Antonio with soil up to 8 inches above the surrounding sidewalks.

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