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Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Posted by cramerica NW Florida (My Page) on
Tue, Dec 2, 08 at 14:35

Hello all,

I've been reading quite a bit on organic lawn care the past few months but apparently not enough. I live in Panama City Beach, FL and have St. Augustine grass. I switched from applying chemical fertilizers/weed killers/bug control to organic. It is now December 3 and I started going organic in July - so no chemicals at all since then. The only thing I've applied so far has been Milorganite.

What prompted me to go organic is that I felt I fried my lawn with chemicals in the summer when we were getting so much heat combined with a good bit of water. The first thing that happened was little gray spots on the grass blades that looked like someone took a paintbrush with gray paint and performed splatter paint. After that, the grass seemed to consistently turn brown and widdle away and allow itself to be replaced by weeds. This is the point where I went organic.

I've been keeping the lawn heavily watered - usually 3 - 4 times a week with each sprinkler section running 15-20 minutes. However, things are getting progressively worse. I'm trying to attach some pictures of the front lawn so you can take a look. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also, I'm not seeing any bugs other than the good guys around.

TO VIEW PICS, PLEASE COPY & PASTE LINKS TO YOUR BROWSER IF THEY DO NOT HYPERLINK

This is a pic of good St. Augustine in the lower right corner and the bad lawn to the left:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3289/3078162550_bb1f03b724.jpg?v=0

More badness:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3251/3078161656_0e9c88b924.jpg?v=0

More:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3181/3078160860_0543658719.jpg?v=0

Front Lawn:
http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3213/3077329231_e47dca6cca.jpg?v=0


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

I would overseed with annual ryegrass. Then cut back the water to 1 or 2 times a week when it is established. You want to water a 1/2 inch per watering once the ryegrass is established. You are watering too much now. Here is what I recommend.

1. rake back the dead stuff before spreading seed.
2. water first with 1/2 after first spreading seed.
3. water 3 times a day for about 7-10 minutes a zone until rye is established.
4. Once rye is established cut back to the regular watering about 1/2 inch to 1 inch per week, or twice a week.

In the spring apply alfalfa pellets.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Thanks, amkeer.

Would you recommend overseeding the annual ryegrass now or wait until a later date?


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Do it now


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

amkeer- Im confused, why are you recommending annual ryegrass?

cramerica- First off you are watering way to often. Overwatering is the most common mistake; it can damage or even kill the lawn. Overwatering leads to a shallow root system; increases a lawn's vulnerability to weeds, insects, and diseases; reduces drought tolerance; increases thatch; encourages excessive growth; and reduces tolerance for environmental stress.

Let your lawn "tell you when to water". Turn your irrigation system to "off" and operating it only when your lawn shows signs of drought stress. Drought-stressed lawns will curl up their leaf blades lengthwise(wilt) in an attempt to minimize leaf area. To encourage deep rooting, irrigate your lawn deeply and infrequently with 3/4-1" of water no more than once a week. Mulch Mow your lawn at the highest setting your mower will go 3-4".

To determine how long to run your sprinkler system to apply the correct amount of water, set out small, straight-sided cans (such as coffee, tuna fish, or cat food cans) randomly within an irrigation zone and see how long it takes to fill them to the desired depth of 3/4 - 1 inch.

Fertilize your lawn 4x per year with 1lb of nitrogen per 1000sqft from spring green up to early fall. You could use Soybean meal, Alfalfa Pellets, Cornmeal, Cotton seed meal, or any organic bagged fertilizer. For best results alternate the type of fertilizers you apply throughout the year. Do not fertilize/winterize in late fall/winter months.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Ok, skoot cat. I'll water it less and measure. I didn't really realize you could over-water, but it makes sense. As for the fertilizer 4x a year...I'll implement that plan as well but wait until it warms up. One more thing. Will any of this help regrow the St. Augustine or is there nothing I can do other than replanting and tearing up the old stuff?

I also would like to know why annual ryegrass is recommended after reading about it.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Yes, all of these things will help restore your current St.Augustine. The gray spots are a common disease known surprisingly enough as Gray Leaf Spot. Its occur during prolonged periods of rainfall, or in your case overwatering. Once you switch to deep and infrequent watering the disease should clear up dramatically. Once you have Gray Leaf Spot the disease is chronic but not severe. During the summer months, individual St. Augustinegrass plants will always have a few spots on the leaf blades, but the overall health of the turfgrass is not affected unless the grass is placed under severe stress.

St.Augustine(S.A.) responds very well to regular fertilizing. S.A. spreads by above ground runners and will quickly fill in any bare spots in the lawn. (when properly fertlized) You might have to hand pull weeds in the mean time. Dont expect anything dramatic until spring/summer.

A few more things. Come spring I suggest applying 2lbs of Sulfate of Potash(0-0-50) per 1000sqft, along with your fertilizer. Sulfate of potash aids in developing plant vigor and disease resistance. You could also spray Unsulfured molasses monthly @ 4oz per gallon to cover 1000sqft. Its filled with trace nutrients, amino acids, sugars, etc. Also never bag your clippings or leafs, mulch mow everything.


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RE: Going Organic Grass is Dying!

One more thing, I cannot see your photos, also unable to view fliker. Can you try again. There should be a another code you can copy and paste into the message body. The http code will not place photos directly into the body of the message. Use the preview message button to see if it worked.

thanks


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Here's another attempt at the photos. I cannot get them to embed.

These are the links to a Photobucket account. I don't ever use it so here is the the Login if the links don't work:
user: Cramerica
password: C1eveland
Site: http://photobucket.com/

Links (copy to browser)to photos:
http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr352/Cramerica/101_0377.jpg
http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr352/Cramerica/101_0378.jpg
http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr352/Cramerica/101_0379.jpg
http://i499.photobucket.com/albums/rr352/Cramerica/101_0380.jpg

You can also view embedded photos here (another site): http://forum.bodybuilding.com/showthread.php?t=112395131

Most of the green spots left are indeed weeds. Let me know if one of those avenues works or not for the photos.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

The overseeding with the ryegrass will help until late spring when the st. augustine will start to grow again. Works great!


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Hi Cramerica. I used to live in Destin, not too far to the west of you. There I had Centipede grass, not St. Augustine, though most of my neighbors had St. Augustine. I can't argue with the advice given you here so far, because it makes good sense, but at the same time, I'll say that I personally found it impossible to overwater my lawn in the Summer down there. The land is so sandy there, and the sun is so oppressive, it was impossible to keep the soil moist, and I often had brown patches in the areas of lawn not best hit by the sprinklers. Have you folks had a wetter Summer than usual? Also, is this the first year you lived there? If not, did you have any similar problem at all last Summer?

I can't tell that much from the photos, but it looks as though you lost essentially all of the St. Augustine. Is that true?


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Here are your pictures.

I don't see any St Aug in the pictures. If you don't get rid of the fungus you might lose any new grass you bring in. My first approach would be to use ordinary corn meal on the entire lawn at 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. I'd do that once and apply at 10 pounds per 1,000 every other month until it comes back in the spring. If you resod, look for a variety called Floratam.

If you resod you'll need to water like it was new seed for 2 weeks. First roll or step on the sod to get good sod-to-sand contact. After the 2 weeks, start to cut back on the frequency but move up on the time. Eventually you want to get to once every 2 weeks in the off season and once per week during the hottest part of the year. Also reset your mower to the highest setting. This helps in many ways.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Cramerica--can you post a close-up of any remaining St. A blades? Certainly a fungus like Gray Leaf is a possibility, but I really don't see what proof there is at this point. I've never had to fight Gray Leaf myself, but from all I've heard/read, it tends to start as brown spots that coalesce into areas that look scorched. But other problems can certainly do that, too.

Do your neighbors have St. A, too? And do you have this same problem in your back yard?

If I were you, I'd be sure to nail down the cause exactly before investing in new sod.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Dave,

I have lived in the Panama City area for a quite some time now but I just recently purchased my first home, so I am somewhat new to taking care of lawns. This past summer was usual in heat but we did have more than usual amounts of rain, particularly in August - which is when I fist spotted the Gray Leaf Spot.

Dchall,

Thanks for posting the pics. The only picture in there that shows St. Augustine left is the last one - the bottom right has St. Augustine whereas the left portion is dead. There is only about a 5x5 area in the front side yard with a good patch of St. Augustine left in either the front and back yard. Since it is this bad, do you recommend trying the corn meal and other suggestions so far to see if I can revive the St. Augustine or do you think there is just nothing to revive and that I should get rid of the fungus and then go towards a St. Augustine plug/resod program?


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

I think you absolutely can retain what St Aug you have and it will eventually retake the yard. If that's your St Aug, your mower is set about 2 inches too low. Raise it all the way to the highest setting and weld it in place so nobody can change it. There is never any reason to mow St Augustine lower than the highest setting on your mower.

Never let it dry out.
Before we remodeled I used to play around with our back area. We had one area that got enough sunlight to support bermuda. One year I would water weekly and the St Aug would fill in. Another year I would not water and let the St Aug fend for itself. During the really dry years the St Aug nearly disappeared except up next to the beds my wife watered. But then I would water again and it would snake back out in among the bermuda areas and really dominate. Just don't let your St Aug get dry and it will perform for you.

I live in pretty deep shade (check out my member page background picture - three trees have been removed from the front yard for accessibility over the years). My area has about 100 live oak trees per acre and that also includes four houses. My soil is pulverized limestone rubble that I have covered with sand. This is not the most hospitable situation for any grass but St Aug does okay. I water my lawn weekly for from 1-3 hours per zone and my zones overlap by 50%. The idea is to water very deeply and then let the surface dry out. This forces the roots to look deep for water. It also prevents weed seeds from germinating since they need constant moisture in the top 1/4 inch of soil for days at a time. By not watering for a week, the surface dries out enough to keep the weeds out. My yard is rectangular like yours, and we have good water pressure. Last year I changed back to an oscillator type sprinkler and all my watering issues have gone away. I've tried all types of sprinklers, twice, and the oscillator is the only one that waters the entire area evenly in one pass. I'll never have another RainBird ka-chunker style. They're the worst for uneven watering. That forces you to keep an eye on every corner of the lawn waiting for the dry spot to appear so you can spot water. I couldn't keep up with the spot watering. The oscillator doesn't miss anything.

I use ordinary corn meal and alfalfa pellets exclusively as fertilizer on my lawn. The rate is 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The first reason for corn meal is to keep fungus away. My wife and kids use the yard for many things. My particular environment seems to make the grass easily susceptible to fungal disease. So far corn meal has worked every time where the old chemical treatments never worked. I'm absolutely sold on ORDINARY corn meal. This confidence allows me to not gripe at the kids for not taking down the bamboo fort they built or my wife for piling up yard trimmings on the lawn. I just make sure I have some corn meal because it's going to need it. When I don't have corn meal or any disease I like to use alfalfa pellets as a fertilizer. They are relatively cheap as bulk rabbit food and the greening effect is very good (similar to corn). I could get soy bean meal if I drive to a different state, but for some reason it just isn't available in my region.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Thanks for the detailed post, dchall.

I'll adjust my watering times and hand-pull the weeds in the meantime. I'll also visit a local nursery for corn or soy bean meal and alfalfa pellets to see if they have any this weekend. It seems a lot of this started with fungus and the overwatering didn't help any. Also going to adjust and sharpen the mower blade this weekend.

I'm glad to hear about corn meal for fungus/disease. I've heard about it before but I've been reading about more and more people swearing by it. I really wanted to go organic but when I started having so many problems with diseases, I was worried I'd have to go back to chemicals.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Feed store for alfalfa pellets, etc. I would overseed before you do anything.

Spring time plug the areas before the rye dies back.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

I'll also visit a local nursery for corn or soy bean meal and alfalfa pellets to see if they have any this weekend.

You could use the corn meal now if you want to treat for disease/fungus. As for the SBM and Alfalfa you should wait until spring regrowth to apply these. They act as fertilizer and should only be applied when the grass is actively growing.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Corn meal is fertilizer, too. I use it in the winter because it feeds the soil microbes. In the winter there is not nearly as much biological activity in the soil, but there is some. Then in the spring the plants and the soil microbes work together. When the plants need food in the spring, they will signal the microbes by sending sugar to the soil through the roots. The microbes respond by sending plant food to the roots.

Texas-Weed has some good thoughts about overseeding southern lawns. Hope he comes by. Basically we don't do it, but he can explain why.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Here is an article from the University of Florida which goes over some benefits of overseeding.

http://hort.ufl.edu/gt/winterlawn/winterlawn.html

When I lived in Pinellas County for 25 years you really do not get that cold so St. Augustine continues to grow a little. Up here in the Northern part of Florida we have had about 7 days of frost so far this year. Much colder climate. St. Augustine will brown a bit in the winter if you are organic. If you are chemically treating your lawn it will brown out much more. When I look at your pictures I see alot of brown. You want grass there now for obvious reasons. Ryegrass will grow now.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rygrass


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

I wouldn't overseed. I did a small area of my Bermuda last year. It was very, very slow to green up. It never quite came back as healthy as the other areas that were not overseeded. The article doesn't say how the rye grass competes for the nutrients, making the transition slow and difficult.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Not only that but rye grass grows taller than bermuda and provides too much shade for the sun-loving bermuda in the spring.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

If the Ryegrass was a detriment I would not use it or recommend it. The University of Florida is pretty knowledgeable. I have studied, and used what they recommend with very good results, in the Florida climate. Furthermore, the Ryegrass will need to be cut since the lawn will continue to grow. The Ryegrass will die off in the spring.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Let us know how it works for you. Florida and Texas certainly are different places. We don't have that kind of success.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

I would only recommend rye grass for bare ground as a protection over the winter. They tend to linger late into spring or early summer depending on the weather. If the weather stay mild and wet, they will still linger around longer like in 2007 when it rained a lot and rarely ever got very hot. Texas Weed is always against it if anyone is not willing to put in work to getting rid of rye grass before bermuda starts growing usually in April otherwise bermuda lawn would look bad for most of growing season. Not worth the trouble on well established summer lawn...


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

If your weather is mild and rarely going below freezing you should be able to grow St Augustine now. I have some good growth still this time of year in Central Texas with very little rain. This has a lot to do with the products I use. Your heavy rains should allow your grass to really take off. You just have had a real problem with using too many high nitrogen chemical products that have killed the life in your soil. These products should be illegal. They just make things worse and most of them wash off polluting our water. Get control of the brown patch and improve your soil and you will be fine. The easiest and fastest way to better growth and soil improvement is by spraying liquid organic fertilizers, biostimulants and humates. You need to increase the carbon in the soil and liquid is the fastest because the particles are smaller and used immediately. Any solid product is good but most of it will sit there and may even wash away before the plant can use it. And the cost is more monetarily and physically. And off course mulch you clippings.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

greenstay -

I've had 18 nights of 32*F or colder this month alone and my st augustine is somewhat green so I don't know what you mean by "rarely below freezing". The lowest so far is back to back nights of 22 and 23*F last week. I've seen 14*F a few years ago and my st augustine came out fine in the spring.

Everything else, I agree you with except for "high nitrogen chemical products". it doesn't mean anything to me. If done properly such as half pound to 1 pound of slow release urea per 1000 sqft 2 or 3 times a year, it's no big deal. The real damage comes from weed n feed products, pesticide, herbicide and fungicide. I consider slow release fertilizer the least harmful of all and that's probably the only synthetic product if organic fertilizers becomes too expensive.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Any chemical fertilizer is poor investment at any price.

Especially since we can all use renewable recycled materials that are organic and require using less petroleum to manufacture.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Good info Green. Boy my St. Augustine is really looking like a gem now since we have been having some unusual warm temperatures. If you plant the rye you will get a good start for the spring.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

Why do people come to organic forums and then talk about using synthetic fertilizers? If you once were addicted to synthetic fertilizers and are transitioning away from them and no longer use them that is what this is for, but this should not be a place where someone should be suggesting that synthetic fertilizers be used.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

I don't think anybody suggested using synthetic fertilizers, Kimmsr.


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

The information you have received has been good but I have to tell you a bit more. Going from a chemical dependent lawn to a healthy organic lawn takes time and work. But it is worth it. The chemicals and pesticides have killed the microbile life in the soil. It takes time to fix this. After looking at your lawn, I see your excess watering has created mold. Use a hard rake and rake everything off the dirt.Before you seed or sod go to a Organic shop and get some products and apply as directed. I would use some liquid seaweed, alfalfa and OM Booster. Don't use corn gluten if you are using seed as it stops seed germination. If using sod, don't let it dry out for the first week. But don't drown it either. Then water once a week, in the early morning for about 1 hour. Fertilize every 5 to 6 weeks with a quality fertilizer. Make sure NO urea or sewage or manure in fertilizer.I have a friend doing Organic in TN. If you need to know which products to use in the USA I can find out for you. Mow the lawn on a routine. Once every 7 days in the early morning or evening, never during the hot part of the day. Don't cut it short, never less than a 1.5 inches for the type of grass you are using. We use Kentucky bluegrass up here and it should be 2.5 inches long. Never cut more than 1/3 of the lenghth when you cut or the lawn may go into shock. When going from a chemical lawn to Organic, you won't see the best results until the 3rd year. The 1st year can look bad and the 2nd will be ok. But the 3rd should look great.Check out my web site www.globalorganicsolutions.ca and email me about anything and I will be glad to help you. If you use sod and after its been down for a couple days take a light roller and roll it to get the roots in contact with the soil.If you can do a soil test, its good to know the Ph. But you need to rake out all the moss and loose grass.I would take it back to bare soil.Good Luck


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RE: Going Organic but Grass is Dying!

I'll see if I can strike through all the information in that last message that might apply in Canada but does not pertain to Florida turf.

The information you have received has been good but I have to tell you a bit more. Going from a chemical dependent lawn to a healthy organic lawn takes time and work. But it is worth it. The chemicals and pesticides have killed the microbile life in the soil. It takes time to fix this. After looking at your lawn, I see your excess watering has created mold. Use a hard rake and rake everything off the dirt.Before you seed or sod go to a Organic shop and get some products and apply as directed. I would use some liquid seaweed, alfalfa and OM Booster. Don't use corn gluten if you are using seed as it stops seed germination. If using sod, don't let it dry out for the first week. But don't drown it either. Then water once a week, in the early morning for about 1 hour. Fertilize every 5 to 6 weeks with a quality fertilizer. Make sure NO urea or sewage or manure in fertilizer.I have a friend doing Organic in TN. If you need to know which products to use in the USA I can find out for you. Mow the lawn on a routine. Once every 7 days in the early morning or evening, never during the hot part of the day. Don't cut it short,
never less than a 1.5 inches for the type of grass you are using. We use Kentucky bluegrass up here and it should be 2.5 inches long. Never cut more than 1/3 of the lenghth when you cut or the lawn may go into shock. When going from a chemical lawn to Organic, you won't see the best results until the 3rd year. The 1st year can look bad and the 2nd will be ok. But the 3rd should look great.Check out my web site www.globalorganicsolutions.ca and email me about anything and I will be glad to help you. If you use sod and after its been down for a couple days take a light roller and roll it to get the roots in contact with the soil.If you can do a soil test, its good to know the Ph. But you need to rake out all the moss and loose grass.I would take it back to bare soil.Good Luck

Most of it does not apply because you won't be seeding. Most of the rest does not apply because you don't have mold. He almost got the part about the roller correct. Rolling needs to be done no later than immediately when you apply the sod, if you are going to apply sod. With St Aug you really don't have to unless you want to change the variety.

When I converted from chemical to organic, it looked incredibly good in 3 weeks. It has never looked poorly since. My soil is mostly sand fill that I had brought in, so it is a lot like what you will encounter. I suppose it is possible it might take longer to see great results but I would start looking immediately.


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