Hello, everyone! Like many others, Paul's lawn care
article brought me here, and until now, I've only lurked. I've learned so much already just reading these forums, but I would like to share my story and hopefully gain a little extra insight from you.
I hadn't mowed a lawn in 15 years until last June when my wife and I moved out of the city
and into the 'burbs. So I have one year experience
in organic and lazy, lawn care. Last year, my lawn went from looking pretty nice when we bought the house to looking extremely bad at the end of fall. I didn't do anything except cut and water
, that is, until late last year when I put down some Milorganite.
My front yard is established sod (1.5 years old) with an irrigation system. I probably watered too often last year, that's something I'm going to try and do a better job
of this year. I haven't had to water at all this year. These pics look pretty good actually, but it's spring. By the way, I live in Virginia which is Zone 7, I believe. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7764.jpg http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7743.jpg
I always mow high and leave the clippings. Where the grass is thick, it's actually a little more than 3". My issue is, in some places the grass is thin and just doesn't seem to grow high enough
to actually cut. I'd venture to say that I push the mower over a third of my lawn for no reason at all - the grass is not tall. Maybe it's not a tall growing grass? http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7741.jpg http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7744.jpg
As for the soil, it's clay.
From a decent area of grass in my front yard: http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7766.jpg
And from a particularly bad area in my back yard: http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7767.jpg http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7772.jpg http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7771.jpg
Notice, in the second picture above, the large rock I pulled out of the darker, top layer of clay. I'm sure that most of my yard is comprised of the same rock and clay mix.
I haven't had a proper soil test
done, but my neighbor with extremely thick grass said that lime helps a lot, of course
, this is purely anecdotal. My wife brought home a test kit she picked up on clearance from a local
home and garden
center and I tested the pH and N last October. The pH test was hard to read, so I dismissed the results. The test for N told me I had very low nitrogen, non-existent. Now, given the test was sold on clearance, maybe I should
dismiss the N results, but grass I've read is a nitrogen hog and I hadn't ever fertilized since moving here in June 2009. So I bought some Milorganite and spread that in my front yard in October 2009, per the instructions on the bag. Last month, I put down 15 bags of store bought compost
, I also put some lime down and more Milorganite. I suspect my lawn could use more N actually, since there is clover popping up in several spots and where my dogs pee
, the grass is extremely lush.
Dog spots, wish my whole lawn would look like this. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7740.jpg
Clover, which I don't dislike, just take it as a sign that I may need more N. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7745.jpg
Another thing to mention, I have some moss in my yard. Paul mentioned in another post that lime is likely needed. Ok, I'll have to collect a soil sample for testing tomorrow, this flying by the seat of my pants routine isn't working - haha.
Moss in the front yard. This area gets lots of sun and the only shade is from the grass surrounding it. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7747.jpg
Last year I watered on a schedule, three days per week, unless it rained. The builder helped me with the days and times and such, which is probably too often. My soil doesn't drain well, in the back yard I sometimes have standing water in the corners of my property. I had some mushrooms
sprout up last year, I suppose that's an indication of too much watering
I also notice the thatch, but it's not thicker than 1/4", so it shouldn't be a problem, although, where the grass is thin, the thatch looks like dead grass. It's just ugly and I'd rather the grass be thick enough to cover it. I spent a few hours one weekend raking some of it out, though that's probably unnecessary and definitely not lazy, but it did slightly improve the appearance, well for now, and until weeds start popping up in those thinner spots.
I'd like to thicken up the lawn to help prevent the summer weeds, eventually. Last summer the crab grass really bugged me, mainly because it's a different color than the rest of my lawn, so in time I hope to have thick enough grass to prevent it.
Last year, I didn't fertilize, didn't use lime or any other soil amendments and, like I said before, the lawn went downhill. I'd like to prevent that this year.
I plan to feed
regularly, most likely the Milorganite. Mow high, as always. Water sparingly, when really needed. I'll get the soil test done this month and report back.
I would like to add 1/4" to 1/2" of organic material twice a year, to increase my soil depth over time.
Is there anything that I'm missing here? Is there anything that you'd be doing to this lawn?
What can I do to thicken up my lawn? Fertilize more? Plant more?
My yard is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from the front to the back. See the pic below. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7750.jpg
You can probably offer me more advice on my back yard, which was grown from seed
and doesn't have an irrigation system. There are bare spots of cooked clay, moss, lots of weeds, standing water, etc. I would love to dig the whole thing up, throw in logs and compostables, and sow tall fescue per Paul's deep soil / tall fescue experiment, but just digging a 7' by 7' square would take forever back there, well, without heavy machinery, that is. I tried digging a two foot hole once, and I could not do it.
In the largest of the bare spots, I loosened the clay, which was rock hard, threw down down tall fescue seed and covered it with some compost. Here's the result. It's sad, but looks better than the bare spot. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7751.jpg
Here are the views, left and right, from the deck of the back yard. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7754.jpg http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7755.jpg
In the first of those two pictures, you'll notice my grass is much greener right next to my neighbor and along the back. His irrigation system runs off into my yard and his fertilizer does too. In the back of my yard, there's a ditch which carries a lot of water when it rains and when my neighbors water their lawns. Also, notice, both of my neighbors have sod. I only mention it because my wife does.
Here's the typical grass patch in the back. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7758.jpg
And the typical bare spot, this one includes moss. http://i975.photobucket.com/albums/ae236/tomsuerte/IMG_7753.jpg
I put Milorganite down last month in the back, but that's it. I probably need more N and lime. I should probably put down compost
and tall fescue seed. But I'm not sure how or where to start exactly. I've considered tilling the entire back and starting anew, but tilling clay might not be such a good idea. Maybe add a few inches of soil and planting tall fescue on that? Does anyone have any strong opinions?
Does anyone have any alternative ideas? Like planting clay loving plants? Clay loving / water loving plants for my low areas?
This is a very long post, but I hope some of you made it this far. I welcome any and all suggestions. Let me know if you need any further information or pictures. I'll get the soil sample test out this week and will definitely post the results.
I'm dedicated to improving both my front and back yards, I will heed your advice and post updates and pictures. Paul, do you, or anyone for that matter, have any projects or experiments they'd like to run in my back yard? I'd like to put a few post holes full of compost
or dig up a 7' by 7' by 2' plot and fill with compostables, but I'm afraid they'll just become wells
when it rains, since my drainage is so poor. Maybe that's ok. You tell me.
Ok, let those ideas fly!