I have made the switch to organic and I think I am working harder now than when I was dumping chemicals on my lawn. I do however feel better about it. Using chemicals made me feel guilty. I am trying to be patient but I have so many issues to resolve with my lawn. I mistakenly put lime on my lawn before I started the organic path. I think my pH is too high now. My front lawn has more weeds than before and the grass is not as healthy looking either. The ground is dirt, not soil. Moles are having their day in the sun too. I am in tight spot financially and feeling frustrated. I bought a small bag of gardeners sulfur but I am a little gun shy about using it. I bought a cheap pH tester and it registered neutral. That would explain the weed growth and the grass faltering. Paul Wheaton you have given me great advice in the past and I was hoping you might help me again. I am off to pull some more weeds. Thanks for the great website.
Thanks Paul. One other question. How do I top dress soil and what do I use ? I read where you said to use compost. What exactly is it and Can I buy it? ( Is it Peat moss or lawn soil in bags at store ?) Or do I not really have to do this ? Will mulching the grass eventually take care of this ?
Compost is where leaves, twigs, manures, certain kitchen scraps, etc. have decomposed into excellent soil food.
You can buy it, but all commercial composts come from industrial waste. Usually it isn't so bad: cattle manure and wood chips. Nearly all commercial composts will contain traces of herbicides (the cows eat the herbicide treated grasses and the herbicide is still viable in the end product).
So it's one of those tricky things. On the one hand, compost is typically magic stuff! It adds loads of excellent organic matter to the soil. You can top dress your lawn up to an inch and the grass will grow up through it. Earthworms will thrive and work it into the soil (provided that manures were not used where the animals were treated with long term worming medication). On the other hand, it is nearly impossible these days to get a compost that doesn't have some downsides to it.
Let's assume that you are going to move forward with purchasing compost. It will probably contain wood chips. If it does, your lawn will green up for the first week and then suffer from nitrogen deficiency. The deficiency is caused by the wood chips. As the wood chips break down, they suck up nitrogen. Months or years later they will release that nitrogen again. If you are savvy about this, all you have to do is know it is going to happen and sprinkle a little organic lawn fertilizer a week or two down the road. The wood chips will take up some of that too, but some of it will find it's way to the grass.
I think the best thing to do for improving lawn soil is to fertilize, mow often, water infrequently and optimize your pH.
I visited a friend last week who this year started following my advice. Last year his lawn was miserably pathetic. This year, he has the best looking lawn on the block. For him, the big difference was mowing high and fertilizing.
Thanks Paul. I was hoping you would say that. Funds are really tight. Hope all is well out west. We were just there ( Laconner ,WA ) in July. We will be moving there in a couple years after I get out of Nursing school. I will be sending your son a sample here shortly. What is the "ne" in his address , NE (northeast) ? I was reading that to take a sample you can take samples from different areas in the yard and mix the dirt up and take the one sample to be tested from that. Is that correct and how much of the soil is needed ? Thanks again. Paul