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No idea where to start

Posted by smonc1 5 Chicago, IL (My Page) on
Thu, May 2, 13 at 11:25

I am in need of assistance. We have done no lawn care for the past couple of years, other than mowing the lawn. We haven't wanted to use chemicals, but are not familiar with how to care for a lawn without chemicals. Finally, this year, we are committed to learning how to organically care for our weeds and yard overall. Our yard looks awful. It is covered in dandelions, little blue weed flowers, and another type of weed. We also have many bare patches. Now that it is May, what approach should we start with? Do we seed bare patches? Do we aerate? Do we fertilize? We honestly have no idea and would appreciate some help. I don't have a picture at the moment, but I could maybe get one. Most of our lawn is pretty shaded by very large trees. Thank you very much! Also, if anyone knows of where in the Chicago area we can buy the organic supplies, that would be great.

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RE: No idea where to start

To decide the answers to those questions you need some information about your soil and what it needs. Start by contacting your nearest office of the university of Illinois Cooperative Extension Service and inquire at having a good, reliable soil test done. That should tell you what your soils pH is and why it is where it is as well as the major nutrients and the balance between them. Then dig in with these simple soil tests,
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.

which can help you even more.
Turf grasses do have a difficult time growing in shade, because most need a lot of light. However, there are some varieties of turf grass that have evolved as tolerating some shade and the UI CES people will be able to tell you about them too.

Here is a link that might be useful: UI CES

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