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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 10:12 am 
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Location: Eau Claire, WI
I have a new kentucky bluegrass/ryegrass/fescue lawn planted late last year in zone 4a. The soil in the front is extremely sandy as I decided not to pay for the 6 inches of topsoil beforehand. The grass came in very thin and didn't grow to mowing height before the season ended. I only applied Scott's starter during planting and Scott's winterizer as fall set in. My backyard was untouched during contruction and was formerly a corn field, so I'm not as concerned about the nutrient content there. I am still going to give it the same feeding as the front however.

I'm sure the soil is severely lacking in nutrients. I'm getting a soil test performed once the snow is gone to check pH and mineral levels, this area is naturally acidic anyway.

This year my wife and I decided to try organic feeding of the lawn. I have done much reading on cornmeal, alfalfa and compost. Once the area stores start stocking garden materials, I'll check into adding some compost as a top dressing.

My question concerns cornmeal and alfalfa. Is this an either/or option or can I put both on? Everything I've read says to apply each one at a 10-20 pound rate, but doesn't say if I can use both, or if there is a benefit to doing so.

My second question is how to apply alfalfa pellets. I found references to the drop rate of cornmeal using my spreader, but nothing on how to apply alfalfa. Can I use a drop spreader for this or is there another method?

Thanks.


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 2:10 pm 
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Welcome to the group and welcome to organic gardening!! You've made a good decision.

You should be fine with the sand. I like sand and use it whenever I need to fill any area.

Before I can help with any detailed answers, I kind of need to know where you live. You should have had a place to fill in that info when you registered. It is most valuable and should be a mandatory item to fill in.

Basically I can say that you can mix up corn, alfalfa, cottonseed, feather meal, soy, linseed, and/or coffee grounds and use the mix at 10-20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. The more different materials you start with, the better off you will be. The reason more is better is that you activate more different kinds of microbes when you use different feedstuffs. The microbes that digest soy will be different from those that digest cottonseed.

Compost is different. Compost is not a fertilizer. Compost is a source of beneficial microbes for your soil. It gets applied at a rate of 1 cubic yard per 1,000 square feet. So if you wanted to put it all down together, you would mix 10-20 pounds of fertilizer to 1 cubic yard and spread it all on 1,000 square feet.

I apply both corn meal and alfalfa by hand like I'm feeding chickens.

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PostPosted: Sun Mar 14, 2004 6:19 pm 
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Location: Eau Claire, WI
Thanks for the reply. I forgot to mention that I am located in central Wisconsin.

Yes, I have made the distinction between compost and fertilizer. I was afraid my soil was relatively dead since it reacted so poorly to fertilizer last fall, hence why I am looking to add a least some compost as a topdressing, even if I don't add much.

The reason I was hoping for a mechanical way to spread alfalfa pellets is because I have nearly a half-acre to cover. I may experiment using my spreader set full open, even if I have to make multiple passes it will be faster than spreading my hand.

And in summary, I can use any combination of fertilizer so long as the total quantity is 10-20 lbs/1000 ft?


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 9:03 am 
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Given your soil acidity and location, I would exclude cottonseed meal and use soybean meal, corn gluten meal, a combination of both, or some other locally available higher protein organic-based product as the primary nitrogen source(s). The alfalfa and ground corn do not supply much nitrogen, and whatever nitrogen the synthetic Scotts supplied may have long since leached from that sandy soil (unless the ground was frozen when you applied it). It may be that nitrogen is a secondary concern and that organic matter and/or trace minerals are the main issue, depending on the soil composition. That sandy soil may be very lacking in organic matter, depending on how sandy it is (is it sand, sandy loam, loamy sand, sandy clay, or something else?), and the cornmeal, alfalfa, and compost will help with that. Initially, I probably would add molasses to the mix as well, probably in dry form depending on how sandy the soil is. I would not be surprised if the former cornfield has fewer nutrients (unless possibly it was min/no-till) and more soil-borne pest issues than does the front area, so you might find that it needs even more attention. Dealing with trace minerals beyond what the basic organic inputs provide probably will depend on what your soil test reveals, provided that your soil test is an "effective" one. If the snow cover is not deep and the ground is not frozen very deep, you could try spreading some alfalfa/cornmeal/soybean meal/molasses on top of the snow as thaw time approaches to get a jump start on the feeding process. That might help you avoid having to wait for the ground to dry some after the thaw if the soil is such that you wouldn't want to work in it while it's wet from the thaw. The darker items, such as alfalfa and molasses, tend to melt into the snow in sunny conditons. If the snow is hard packed and if you spread the ingredients too long before thawing conditions or before another covering snow, you probably would be feeding the critters more than the soil, though. :wink:

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Last edited by Enzyme11 on Mon Mar 15, 2004 12:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:30 am 
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A whirly type spreader with a big (maybe enlarged) hole should work to spread small alfalfa pellets. Large ones are a bugger to do like that.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 6:38 pm 
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Ray78,
Welcome to the organic forum. I am a former Cheesehead, being born in Eau Claire many moons ago and transplanted to Texas. Remember to use only organic fertilizer and leave the nasty chemicals alone. Your soil will show improvement but not over night. As stated in a different post: Converting to organics is not a race but rather an adventure. It takes time to see the results, but it does work.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 15, 2004 6:43 pm 
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Interesting, I hadn't thought much about adding molasses. I will do some more reading about that as well. Once this snow melts off I will be able to grab a soil sample to mail off for testing. Then I will know for sure what I'm working with instead of just guessing.

I'll do some driving in the next few weeks and visit some feed stores to see what I can acquire easily. I'm pretty much sold on going fully organic, mainly because with my current soil situation it would be a losing battle to keep dumping chemicals on it.


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PostPosted: Tue Apr 13, 2004 6:55 am 
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Well I finally got the soil test back. I have both sand and loamy sand. PH is 6.3, organic matter is 1.1%, phosphorous is 130ppm, and potassium is 165ppm. The test recommends 1lb of nitrogen per 1000 sq feet.

I have already picked up a couple bags of humus and a bag of dried molasses to experiment spreading with before buying in bulk. I want to see how well they spread individually and mixed together through my drop spreader. I assume if I am shooting for 10lbs of molasses/1000 sq feet, I should mix the molasses and humus evenly and open my spreader all the way up (Scotts drop spreader #14.

I'm trying to determine the best way to get nitrogen. Parts of the yard that have dried out and warmed up are already yellowing. Is cornmeal or alfalfa at 20lbs/1000 sq feet still my best option?

Thanks.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2004 7:57 am 
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Another update

Humus doesn't spread so well with a drop spreader. :D

I applied molasses straight from the spreader at a setting of #12 and #14, and it seemed to go down at approximately 10-15 pounds /1000 ft. Some of my initial spots where a little thicker, but oh well. It smells nice at least. I'm going back over the molasses and manually spreading humus with a shovel and a broom to sweep it into the grass.

Hopefully I'll find cornmeal today and give that a whirl.


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 14, 2004 1:44 pm 
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I spread humas with a spreader, but first I mix it with cornmeal and molasses. Breakup the clumps and it should go thru your speader. Make sure it is mixed together real well.

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PostPosted: Sun Apr 18, 2004 11:37 pm 
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A gallon of molasses weighs 10 pounds. Are you really putting a gallon per 1,000??? The agricultural application rate is a gallon per acre which translates to 3 ounces per 1,000 square feet.

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PostPosted: Tue Apr 20, 2004 7:43 am 
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10 pounds of dried molasses, yes. I'm not working with liquids yet.

Some of the first bits of lawn I did got dumped on a little heavy while I worked out my spreader settings. I'm also estimating the size of my lawn area, so most of my measurements are greatly rounded off.


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