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PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2008 4:18 pm 
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Location: Arlington Heights,ILLINOIS
The troublesome, weed-diverse lawn on the side of my house:

Full-sun, south-facing, adjacent to blacktop driveway in Chicago's suburbs.

Original site had large evergreen.

Evergreen removed in 2004, stump ground to below surface, majority of debris removed.

Entire area destroyed by dumpster on property while hauling away concrete for new brick patio in back and brick walkway on side.

Neighbor kindly applied random handfuls of lime to raise the pH thinking the area to be acidic (he also had a similar pine removed on his property very close to the boundary).

Patio crew removed dumpster, only raked the soil (no other amendments), and re-sodded entire area.

This was all in the summer of 2004. Since then, very stunted growth for grass. Serious weed infestations (dandelions, purslane, clover, etc.).

My watering strategy, admittedly, has been spotty over the years. I've stood outside with hose in hand for 30 minutes soaking the area down, left a sprinkler on the area for hours, or simply have let it get too hot or dried out -- something wrong.

I have never applied chemical herbicides in this area -- always hand-dug dandelions, pulled out the purslane, clover, etc. by hand as my patience/determination warrants.

Hasn't been aerated or de-thatched in at least 8 years since we bought the house (didn't do anything mechanical since having the patio/walkway put in, either). I have applied Scotts products for the last 6 years, but have applied nothing to date.

Starting this spring:

I removed my bag and started mulching my clippings directly back into the ground -- that's the only fertilizer it's received this year (I applied Scotts Winterizer last fall -- the end of my synthetic fertilizer use).

I mow high once a week to stay ahead of growth due to the amount of rain we've had.

There has been no need to water given the torrential downpours northern Illinois has experienced recently.

I had a soil test performed on this section (among others). The pH came back at 7.2 with high levels of magnesium and 3.7% organic matter, and "medium" calcium, and "very high" phosphorous content according to the Master Gardener for the U. of Illinois Extension office here for Cook County, IL. She suggests a fertilizer application of 3-4 N, 0 P, and 2 K -- of course, I am trying to translate that into an appropriate application of organic/compost-based fertilizer. I was surprised that the pH was neutral given the prior presence of the two large evergreens - but maybe my neighbor applied just the right amount of lime four years ago.

Before I get into fertilizing solutions, I wonder if simply aerating would open it up more to give the grass an advantage.

Once I do get around to fertilizing, I am really attracted to using one of those drum-rollers to dispense dried compost as a top-dressing. That won't burn the grass, although I can't help think that it will also feed the weeds.

What do folks suggest?

Aeration first? Fertilize second? Re-sod?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:30 am 
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Location: Dallas,TEXAS
Have you read the information on this website about an organic program for your lawn?

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 7:51 am 
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Location: Arlington Heights,ILLINOIS
which article/post/library article would you recommend?


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 10, 2008 11:19 am 
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http://www.dirtdoctor.com/view_question.php?id=1822

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PostPosted: Sun Aug 24, 2008 9:36 am 
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I find that article to be unhelpful for grass. First of all you need to have the right grass. In the north your grass type is much more important than it is in the south. There is a growing group of norther homeowners who swear by this mix of Kentucky bluegrasses: Midnight II, Bedazzled and Bewitched (or Moonlight). If you overseed THIS FALL with this mix of seed you will be on your way to a full bluegrass lawn. I've seen lots of pictures and the lawns look amazing when mowed at 3-4 inches.

I like to use ordinary corn meal or alfalfa pellets as a fertilizer. COMPOST IS NOT FERTILIZER. Yes I was shouting. In fact I'm almost tired of shouting that statement. Compost is a source of microbes but the fertilizer value is nil compared to real organic fertilizer. Any ground up grain, for example corn, soy, coffee (used grounds are free at any Starbucks), flax, cottonseed, milo, or any other ground up nut, bean, or seed makes an excellent fertilizer. The application rate is 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. I apply by hand using a 1-pound coffee can scoop to gauge how much to apply. Compost is about 1,000 times too expensive to use as a fertilizer.

The cost of fertilizer has gone up with the demand for corn as a source of ethanol. Still the cost of chemical fertilizers has gone up more with the price of oil. If you buy generic, 50-pound bags of ground grains at your local feed store, the cost should be well under $20 per bag. This year the cost has doubled in my neighborhood for corn. I am paying $10 per bag, up from $5 last year.

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