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PostPosted: Tue Mar 29, 2011 5:22 am 
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Hello and welcome to organic lawn care. I think you'll like it more and more as you go along.

Sounds like you are well established in the regimen. You might need a quick primer on basic lawn care, so here it is.

  1. Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an hour in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds and prevent new (weed) seeds from germinating.
  2. Mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. Bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses are the most dense when mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. Dense grass shades out weeds and uses less water when tall. Dense grass feeds the deep roots you're developing in 1 above.
  3. Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 4 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above.

Everyone's sprinkler system is different. Mine puts out 1/8 inch of water per hour over a 900 square foot area. In the hottest part of summer it takes 7 hours (sometimes) to get enough water on the lawn. Usually I water for 3-4 hours. You can measure you water by putting out cans (like soup cans or tuna cans) and timing how long it takes to fill.

Watch your grass to see how long it takes to look wilty. St Augustine is a touchy grass when it comes to drought. Rather than going dormant when it gets dry, it dies. When you see it wilting, water it right away. If it has not been a full week since you watered last, then water it longer this time. If you have runoff issues we can address that.

Regarding plant wash under the various names: they have the same ingredients as soap. They are similar to baby shampoo. I have been very happy with generic baby shampoo from any source. I used it last year to soften my soil. It is still extremely soft when wet.

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 30, 2011 1:47 pm 
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Location: Allen, TX
I've recently become a fan of Paul Wheaton's work. Here is his lawn care article:
http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp

not sure I can agree with cutting it tall if you have Burmuada, it seems to do better if cut short, like mentioned in the post above.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 12, 2011 6:47 pm 
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I have not read enough of Wheaton's stuff to know where he lives, but his advice is very specific to areas in the north.

You can dilute the soap 1:1 with water if you want. I think it will go through the sprayer fine without but have not tried it. I have sucked molasses up through the sprayer at full strength so soap should flow more easily.

You can't hurt anything with organic fertilizer. Your wallet is the limit as to how much or how often you want to apply. I apply a total of 50 pounds per 1,000 square feet per year. I know others who apply 800+ pounds per 1,000 per year. There is no argument as to whose lawn looks better, but I'm just not that interested in making mine that much better.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 17, 2011 9:12 pm 
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He lives in Missoula Montana. Besides cutting the grass high, what other advice in his article would you say is specific to the north?

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2011 12:15 am 
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The following comments in his page indicate he is both from the north and not all that tuned up on lawn care in general.

Mowing High
Mowing high is not the issue. The issue is that no other consideration was given. Bentgrass is a northern grass that must be mowed low.

Fertilize in the spring and fall.
That is a northern grass idea for chemical fertilizers. With organic you can fertilize any day of the year.

Tall Fescue
He recommends tall fescue seed as the best variety of grass to plant. Fescue is a cool season grass.

Milky spore
He recommends milky spore to kill grubs. That is a northern solution.

Several comments are just uninformed.
He says he applies an inch of compost. You should never apply an inch of compost unless you are trying to smother the lawn.
Another is to use "a little" or "one third of what the package recommends every three weeks in the spring and fall." That is a starvation diet. Organic fertilizer can be used at 10x the package recommendation and the results will be much better than what the package rate will give you.
"...if your pH is 7.5 or higher, your grass will probabaly never beat out the dandelion." My regional soil pH is 8.0 and I very seldom see dandelions.
Dropping a foot and a half of soil on your existing lawn could result in flooding your basement and house. Not recommended.

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:40 am 
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Just the thing I was looking for, just one question, should I aerate now or water for the autumn, a noob here. I was at Home Depot tool rental this weekend and there I saw a mechanical aerator, I fancied I would be able to use that?


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:42 am 
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Please don't be afraid to start a new topic when your question is not just exactly on target with the original poster's topic. Why? Because other people curious about aeration will read the topic titles and never come here looking for that specific advice.

The answer is you never need to aerate. At least I don't think so. Aeration is something that works on golf courses because they have a very special situation. They have people walking and driving on their turf even when the soil is too wet to be walking on. That is what compacts the soil. Normal day to day life on a normal lawn should never become compacted. It might become hard, but hard and compacted are very different - despite what you see on TV.

Several years ago I came up with a way to soften the soil using soaker hoses. It worked like a charm and lasted a full season or longer, but it took at least 3 weeks to do even on a small lawn. More recently some of the gurus on another forum tried the bottled soil softeners and found that they worked. Then through some diligent research, in which I participated, we discovered that the ingredients of those surfactant soil softeners came in two varieties. One (the most expensive one) is soap. The other one is yucca juice along with some molasses and enzymes. If I remember right the soap was $50 per gallon. Obviously you can make your own. One of the guys on the other forum is a soap hobbiest and found all the ingredients online to duplicate the soap formula for very little. The only problem I have with that is that the quantities you have to buy result in more than a lifetime supply of the stuff and you have to store it.

My solution was to buy generic baby shampoo at Wal-Mart. It works great! Put the baby shampoo into a hose end sprayer, set the dial for 3 ounces per gallon, and spray. You should measure your lawn first. If you have 3,000 square feet, put 9 ounces of soap into the sprayer. Spray until it is all gone trying to apply evenly. After you finished with the soap, then irrigate a full inch to take the soap down deep into the soil. Next time you water (which should be a couple weeks this time of year) do not use the soap. The next time after that, repeat the soap and irrigation described. That should be it for the rest of the season. Try not to let your soil dry completely. It can dry on the surface in a week but do not let it go several weeks in the middle of summer without a deep watering.

The reason your soil is hard is you have lost the population of beneficial fungi that soften the soil. Your soil should act like a sponge. When it is dry it should be hard and just a little resistant to absorbing water. But once it starts to absorb water, it should go fast and become soft again.

You'll never consider mechanical aeration again once you spray with soap. Do not use any soap with antibacterial stuff in it. That's why I like generic baby shampoo.

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