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Aerating Grass

                            


Joined: Jun 14, 2009
Posts: 4
This site is great.  I saw you said not to overseed.  Is aerating good for the lawn?  We are all organic now for last couple of years, but our soil is not great, lots of clay, will aerating help get more oxygen to the roots?
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
Aerating may help a bit, but not much. Aerating is what chemically enhanced lawns need to replace the functions killed off by the chemicals. In order to give a better answer, it'd help to know a bit more about your lawn. What do you fertilize with? How much? How often? Watering: how much, how often? Mowing: how high, how often? Do you mulch, leave lay, or bag the clippings? What kind of lawn? What part of the country? I presume a recent house in a subdivision by your having lots of clay. If you dig into the turf, do you see many earthworms? You should be able to see multiple worms in each shovelful within the top foot.


"Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller
--
Jeremiah Bailey
Central Indiana
                            


Joined: Jun 14, 2009
Posts: 4
thanks for reply!

we live in Westchester outside NYC.  our house was built 1929 but soil is just on heavy side with clay.  we bought it 6 years ago knowing nothing about gardening, it was our first time living in a house.  We started with a garden service and had them put down sod as yard was in bad shape.  What they put down has this horrible plastic netting underneath it.  Anyway we got rid of the lawn service several years ago.  We do our own manual mowing, have had it on medium height and then longer in July Aug when it gets hot and humid.  we just mow and leave the clippings on top, which is what we were told to do.  try to make sure there is no clumping left behind. 

we have an organic gardener come a few times a year and he seems to good stuff, not sure exactly what he is putting down but can find out.  the issue is there are quite a few small bare patches and areas where weeds have taken over on edges of the lawn. 

i will try the looking down for earth worms but it will not be easy to go down 12 inches, the earth is tough.

any suggestions would be great.

thanks!
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Did you read the lawn care article? 

How high do you mow?

Dig a foot down and attach a pic of your soil here.  How long did it take you to dig a foot down?


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jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
Do you have pets that spend any time outside? Small bare spots may be where they go. You said you use a manual mower. Try setting it on the highest setting instead of medium. On most manual mowers, the highest setting is about 2 1/2 - 3 inches. 3 inches is ideal, 2 1/2 is okay. I'd leave it on that highest setting spring, summer, and autumn. Find out how high yours can mow. The simplest way is the manufacturer's specs. The next is just measure the height of the freshly mowed grass.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Why no overseeding?
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
Perhaps a better question would be: why plant grass when you already have grass? Overseeding is just planting the same thing as is already there. Grass, once established, spreads by rhizomes. If you already have grass, and want more of it, make the soil such that the grass will want to grow there. The existing grass will do the rest. If you have a bare patch that nothing is growing in, find out why nothing is growing there and fix that issue in the favor of what you want to grow there. The surrounding grass will move in, via its rhizomes, about as fast as seeds will sprout, without all the expense and effort. If you're trying to get rid of something that you don't want in your lawn, then find out why that thing is preferring that spot. Then find a way to make what you want to grow there grow while discouraging that which you don't want. Read Paul's article if you have not yet. -> http://www.richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp The stuff he says really works.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Certain grasses like tall fescues don't spread through rhizones. Most others do, but I remember Paul recommending a tall fesue.
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
That's sort of true. TF does produce rhizomes, albeit short ones. It spreads rather slowly via its rhizomes. Although I'm only on my first season (planted this spring,) with TF, I imagine that proper establishment of the lawn and incorporating other covers into the mix, as well as proper maintenance should alleviate the need to over seed. As Paul wrote the book, or rather article so to speak, he'd know more about how it works. I imagine that thinning in TF is less prevalent than the seed companies wish to be known. I could be wrong there. Paul's article touts the cheap and the lazy ways of doing things. No need to waste time and money to fix a problem that hasn't actually happened. I'd imagine that if 100% TF doesn't work for you, then maybe blend it with something that helps maintain cover. Or use something else entirely. I have patches of white clover that do extremely well, without me doing anything to help them along. There is no such thing as a universal solution. Be observant and find a solution that works.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
My lawns is well established. It's a smorgasbord of fescue's, blues ryes etc. Not what I would have planted had I known better at the time. I was just curious why you would want to overseed, but my information comes from years of chemical mentality  ops:

Cheap and ringers lawn restore don't belong in the same sentence really. That stuff is expensive. I'm looking into some cheaper alternatives from feed stores.

Right now I'm fighting several fungus in my lawn and gardens. Lately with all the rain we've had her in NY I've developed a bad red thread problem. I had it last year too, but it's far worse this year. I plan to top dress my lawn with compost for a few years to try and improve the poor soil. I'm hoping that will help to fight these diseases.     
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I guess I mistook you. I thought you were asking why not to overseed.  Have you had your soil analyzed? If not, have your local extension test it for you. If so, what is the pH? You may want to address that if it is off kilter. I'd make sure you know the pH of your soil and your amendments before doing much amending. Otherwise you may be fighting on the wrong side of an uphill battle. Also look into your watering, as this can help with fungus problems. You are right in wanting to improve the soil to help combat the problems.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
I was but not because I want to, although I sort of do  , but because I did so for three years to get the grass where it is.
My PH is about 6.8 so it's fine. As for a soil test I'm debating on which to use. Cornell does a test based on a chemical criteria. I was considering this test http://www.soilfoodwebnewyork.com/services.html

What do you think
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
That latter one might be interesting. It sounds like they better speak the language of natural soil health, but that is just my opinion. Just out of curiosity, where did you get your pH reading?
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
haha, from a conell test kit 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Cheap and ringers lawn restore don't belong in the same sentence really.


Hey man, don't make me kick you in the nuts! 

Ringers is usually $15 for a 25 pound sack!  That's damn cheap in my book!  And for most lawns, that will last for years!  Most lawns just need some high mowing and a pinch of fertilizer and all is well.  So we're talking about less than five bucks a year.  Damn cheap!

Right now I'm fighting several fungus in my lawn and gardens.


And maybe you are going about the fight all wrong.  Maybe the thing to do is encourage fungus.  And rich soil.

Overseed:  Here is what folks do:  they have a patch of dirt where nothing is growing, so they throw seed on it and watch the seed die.  So you still have the patch of dirt and you have wasted seed and probably watered the hell out of the spot making it much worse.  The key is that the soil right there sucks.  Fix the soil and the grass around the bare spot will move in.  If you are in a rush and you already have seed and too much time on your hands (not the lazy way) you could do the overseed thing - but patience is usually a better solution. 

Howzabout the crazy idea of the holes?





                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Holes are waaaaaayy to much work. I have 2 acres remember? Not saying it wouldn't work, I'll bet it would, but this homey ain't a gonna do dat!

I overseeded two years in a row. Not because I had bare spots rather because I wanted to put more of the desired seen in my lawn. I have no shade and rye and CRF suck balls in direct sun. Plus I wanted to fill in fast so to crowd out weeds. In this case I OS with rebel jr tall fescue and blue. I have no intentions of overseeding any further..well maybe just a little

Where do yet get Ringers for 15.00?? Link please, I can't find it that cheap.  I'm going to use that on the front lawn first which seems to have the biggest issue. I'll bet your perspective on the poor "dirt" is spot on. Comparing $15.00 a bag, which covers 2,500 sq ft vs the dreaded chemical at $19.00 per bag covering 15,000 sq ft is where the comparison came from. I know, I know it's a chemical and it's bad. Not to worry, I'm done with them, just coming from that perspective

What do you think of my top dressing with compost idea?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Home made compost is excellent stuff.

Commercial compost is something I don't want to mess with. 

The last time I bought ringers it was at the home depot.  But it seems they don't carry it anymore.  The "scott's organic" stuff sounds okay, but it makes me a bit nervous.  It's as if there is a big article in the newspaper "ChemCorp stock drops on reports of a pile-up of 57 tons of toxic waste that they can't seem to get rid of." followed the next day by "CandyYumCorp announces a 57 ton overstock of super yummy candy - really cheap! (CandyYumCorp is a subsidiary of ChemCorp)"

At least the ringer propaganda is singing my song.  The scott's organic stuff feels like it is just trying to tell me what I want to hear. 



                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
I make my own compost and I have a source for known organic cow manure.

The cheapest I found Ringers is $29 per bag. That's expensive. I have 90,000 sq ft! That's 40 bags  . If anyone has a source to buy this cheaper please let me know!
                        


Joined: May 04, 2007
Posts: 33
buddy110 wrote:
I make my own compost and I have a source for known organic cow manure.

The cheapest I found Ringers is $29 per bag. That's expensive. I have 90,000 sq ft! That's 40 bags  . If anyone has a source to buy this cheaper please let me know!


Ask your local ACE Hardware how much a skid of SKU#75867 will run ya.    I found one internet ACE selling for $19.99 for a single bag.  Your local ACE means free shipping to the store, a big plus in the US Ton range of product. 
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
buddy110, also remember: fertilize at rate much slower than the recommended. I fertilize at 1/4 the rate and my lawn's looking fine.

Paul, by that logic, the parent company of Ringer also owns a companies that make rodent poison and weed killer. I think the Ringer propaganda may be just that. At least these companies, (if this is even the case,) are putting a byproduct to good use.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
jeremiah bailey wrote:
buddy110, also remember: fertilize at rate much slower than the recommended. I fertilize at 1/4 the rate and my lawn's looking fine.

Paul, by that logic, the parent company of Ringer also owns a companies that make rodent poison and weed killer. I think the Ringer propaganda may be just that. At least these companies, (if this is even the case,) are putting a byproduct to good use.


Are you saying that one bag covers 10,000 sq ft? If so that's not so bad
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
Yes, my lot is 1/4 acre. Roughly half that is house, garden and hardscape. I've fertilized I think twice times out of this bag and still have over half. My first time using the stuff I fertilized at full rate and used up almost all the bag. I've seen no difference in lawn quality with the reduction. I can't say for sure what results you'll get. You may need to tweek it. You may need to use more or less at different times. The "if some is good, then a whole lot is real good" mentality is what the retailers use to sell those bags. The best advice I can give here is observe your lawn, it'll tell you what its needs and wants are. Don't use more than you have to get the desired results.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99

  I found a local store that can get order it in, so I orderes 5 bags. I will let the board know how they work out.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
This is cool - I get busy and let things slide a bit and everybody gets everything worked out without me! 

Good job jeremiah!

With that much lawn, I recommend clovers in your lawn, mowing high and leaving the clippings.  After a few years you won't need fertilizers.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Yes, I'm mowing 3.5" leaving the clippings. Any higher and it falls over and looks funny.  I don't want the clover though,  I hate looking at seedheads.
jeremiah bailey


Joined: May 05, 2009
Posts: 343
I love the clover, but my wife is like you, she hates it. I win because she doesn't do yard work. I think of the clover as free fertilizer. I don't encourage it or discourage it. It just does its thing for me. The grass doesn't mind either. In some places the grass is starting to take back over the clover on its own. Its more that the clover and grass keep moving around each other.
                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Is it possible to replace fertilizing regularly with proper top dressing of composted materials, manure and compost  teas?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
buddy110 wrote:
Is it possible to replace fertilizing regularly with proper top dressing of composted materials, manure and compost  teas?


Yes.  Any of those will work. 

Home made compost is best.

Compost tea is a lot more work.  And there are ways of making the tea that are way WAY more work, but some folks insist it comes with a boatload of other bennies. 

Manure can be too hot - so be careful.

Some people use alfalfa meal as the fertilizer - but be careful that you don't lay it on too thick.

                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Thanks Paul. I make all my own compost and I can make enough to top coat the grass annually. I just need to find an inexpensive compost spreader and I'm set.

Does anyone have any experience with Agway organic lawn fertilizer? http://www.agway.com/catalog/home_and_garden/lawn_and_plant_food/organic/40lb_agway_organic_lawn_food

It's nitrogen is derived from the poultry manure, like  Ringers is and it's much less expensive.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
A compost spreader?  Why?  Because you have too much money and too much space in your garage?

                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
paul wheaton wrote:
A compost spreader?  Why?  Because you have too much money and too much space in your garage?




No, because I have 2.5 acres  . There's not a chance in hell I'm spreading that by hand.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
2.5 acres ....  is this some sort of school ground?

Are there some spots where the grass looks sad and pathetic, and other spots where the grass looks pretty good?

                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Yes, there are worse spots than others. Mostly on the steepest part of my grade where the water runs off fast, and in the front yard where the tops soil (assumably toxic top soil) was used.  But the entire yard would benefit from it.

Any experience with Agways organic fertlizers?
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 14950
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
No experience with agways.

To make enough compost for that much grass is HUGE. 

If you throw down some fertilizer, mow high and leave the clippings, you will slowly add organic matter to the soil.  And then just throw some compost in the worst spots. 

                                  


Joined: May 24, 2009
Posts: 99
Ok, that sounds like a good start.  I do have access to organic manure, as well as poultry manure and I have acres of woods behind me full of leaves and a Kubota with a bucket loader. So making a plentiful supply is relatively easy       
 
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