My lawn, the big project I need to tackle

Discussion in 'Lawn Care' started by fish_4_all, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    Okay, first, I have not done a jar test, I will soon to determine soil content.

    My lawn is horrid although not as bad as it could be. I had been weeding and killing weeds over the last 2 months. I have bald bare spots that simply seen not to grow anything, not even weeds grow there. The rest of it is some sort of grass and some sort of thick blade other that could be crabgrass but all the images I google do not match. It grows in clumps but more like a grass than crabgrass. Could be a rye or johnson grass but I going to do all I can to get rid of it.

    Now here are the details on what I have for soil.
    2 inches of soil that is somewhat workable, content not know yet.
    Below that is a layer of the fill that everyone uses here. It is HORRID! hard compacting soil that has small, medium and up to golf ball sized rocks. A guess is clay and rock but the jar test will determine the content.

    I have started 3 patches of grass in the yard.
    #1, simply dug up top 2-3 inches, mixed in some peat, bone meal and fertilizer and planted. It did alright and is still noticeable as a separate patch although it is getting mixed in some. I think it is spreading a little.
    #2 I grew a patch in a container, dug up the ground down 1 foot, filled with garden soil, soil amendment, peat, Coconut coir and some of the soil. Placed grass on top and let it be. It is growing really well even though have not watered it as much it probably should have been. I expect that this is the best option but even though my yard is smaller it would take me a couple months to do this by hand. Not to mention growing the patches in my limited space to try and fix the whole yard.
    #3 I did this today and have high hopes. I dug down about 6 inches and sifted the soil through a screen to remove the grass, roots and rocks. I then added coconut coir and mixed it in. I added bone meal and fertilizer mixed in the top inch or so and the planted it. I hope this works well because I could theoretically do this fairly quickly.

    The summer has been cool and mild but dry. The soil here is acidic as it rains a ton even though this summer has been dry.

    Here is the grass seed list I have been planting. I have been using 2 different bags of seed to try and cover the bases to try and get one or more to grow and spread.

    Bag 1) Pennington Ultimate seed
    brochtin tall fescue 34.3%
    rebel 4 tall fescue 34.3%
    shadow II chewing fescue 19.6%
    blue angel Kentucky bluegrass .69%

    Bag 2) Soctts Grass Seed Commercial Mix
    Tar Heel Tall Fescue 34.18%
    Siverstar Tall Fescue 29.29%
    Innovator Tall fescue 19.53%
    Dynamic II Tall fescue 14.65%

    I will post jar test results as soon as I have them to try and get content of my soil hashed out. My guess is a lot of clay. I do know that I have very few eathworms. I have done multiple tests to find them in my soil and they simply are not in my yard.

    Also, has anyone tried the baby shampoo treatment to fix a compacted yard that I read about on a couple forums and in a google search?

    I know I have to loosen the soil but I am open to all the help i can get. I like a soft green lawn that is easy to care for even if I have to mow it with the push rotary mower when it is wet in fall and winter and most other times in my area.

    Jar test photos to come, pictures of yard not likely due to ruining my image of having a descent green thumb. :p
     
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  2. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    I wanted to add I use both bags every time I have seeded anything. I figure that the variety will allow mother nature to decide what is going to survive and what isn't.
     
  3. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    [​IMG]

    Well I don't know what it means for sure but the soil jar test definitely doesn't look right to me. No layers at all, only 1 layers that has very little deviation in texture or color. Does this mean my yard is solid sand and needs a lot of work?

    I am going to try another test and mark the jar right away, at 1 hour and then tomorrow morning to see if the news gets any better.

    Anyone have any good home made plug aerator ideas?
     
  4. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    Well the second test has confirmed it for me that my soil really sucks for supporting grass or any other plant life.

    [​IMG]

    Started with 3.25 inches of soil.
    Soak soil and shook in jar.
    Took measurement after 2 minutes.
    Sand level is 3 inches so 92% sand.

    According to my findings this is bad not to mention it has also compacted and is rock hard. I can't get a shovel more than an inch deep without really jumping on it and wiggling it around while pushing.

    So, anyone have any ideas how to improve the soil to support grass better without having to dig it up to a depth of 1-2 feet and amend the whole thing?
     



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  5. cherylad

    cherylad Countess of Cute-ification Plants Contributor

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    I don't have any answers for you, just wanted to wish you luck.
     
  6. Frank

    Frank Happy Gardening Staff Member Administrator

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    What's the area of your lawn f4a? It sounds like a lot of work to amend the entire thing if indeed it is semi-large.
    I really admire your scientific approach to fixing your lawn!
     
  7. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    Not huge, maybe 20x80 so 1600 sq. ft. maybe 2000.
     
  8. marlingardener

    marlingardener Strong Ash

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    This is not an instant fix, and will probably take two growing seasons, possibly more.
    First, get a set of golf shoes with the metal cleats. I am not kidding. Walking around, especially after a rain when the soil is more easily penetrated, acts as a aerator.
    Next, get as much compost as you can, and spread it evenly over the lawn--grass, bare spots and all. As soon as the compost disappears (it will work its way down into the soil) you can apply more compost. Over a matter of time, the compost will loosen the soil and allow root penetration of good grasses. I wouldn't try to plant any grasses until you see some improvement in what you already have. The existing grass will get greener and start to spread.
    That coarse, thick bladed grass sure sounds like Johnson grass. It has to be dug out. I also recommend burning the dug-out clumps and then burying them with a stake through their hearts. That stuff is evil!
     
  9. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    I think I have figured out that it is either Crab Grass or Kentucky Bluegrass. It could be either from the pictures I find and because it is right beside where I planted everything. Could be the grass seed or could a crabgrass seed taking hold in a new healthy area.

    Johnson grass is horrid as my wife has an allergy to it. Thankfully it isn't that, has way too many branches and is staying fairly low but more upright that most crabgrass I have seen.

    Oh well, either way it coming out. Get out the war drums and stoke the bonfire.
     
  10. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    Well with exhaustive research, numerous hours trying to find the right information and help from here and a couple people at Home Depot I think I have the answer.

    My lawn soil is almost completely sand, but....
    There is a thin layer of clay about 1.5 inches down from the surface and nothing grows past it and water doesn't penetrate it. So aeration is going to be the key I think to break the stranglehold that the clay has. I hope that a tine aerator will allow for compost, lime and other additives to get to the clay and start to build it up so it will loosen up and it will hold water.

    I also found out that although fescue is good for here, Kentucky Rye grass is recommended. I don't know enough about the different grasses yet but I will. I would rather stay with the 7 varieties of Fescue only if it will grow a lush thick lawn.
     
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  11. Cayuga Morning

    Cayuga Morning Hardy Maple Plants Contributor

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    Hi fish,
    I just discovered this thread & I find it interesting. I have been trying to rehab my lawn for several years. Some areas I have had great success with, others, not so much. The most recalcitrant area is where the children's swing set used to be. The soil was very compacted and only plantains were growing there.

    I read with interest your mention of applying baby shampoo to the area. I think I might try it.

    I also read with interest your jar test. If I understand, I take 3" of soil in a jar & add water, then observe how the soil separates out? Can you tell me more about this?

    BTW I applaud your lawn rehab efforts!
     
  12. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    I really can't explain the jar test very well because I had to follow what I found on the web. It still doesn't make perfect sense to me but it did help me find a possible solution I guess. The real breakthrough came when I dug the hole and simply examined the soil closely. Roots were less than 2 inches deep even though I cut grass at about 2.5 inches. Dirt was dry at 1.5-2 inches even after a couple soakings in a week.

    If you can take a plug of your lawn 6-12 inches deep I think it would be a lot more useful than the jar test. A 1-2 inch diameter plug that you can examine the different layers of your lawn should give you all the information you need to figure out how to fix any problems. I couldn't do this because I can't get a shovel more than 3 inches deep without hitting lots and lots of rocks. Anything I would have tried to use to get a plug would have been either ruined or only went 2 inches deep and not given me any usable results. So I did the jar test.

    Once you can examine the plug to see how deep your roots are, the soil makeup and any dead layers then a jar test might be more useful to determine soil composition rather than by itself.
     
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  13. fish_4_all

    fish_4_all In Flower

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    for the jar test, I would use as big a jar as possible. Fill it 1/3 to 1/4 full of soil from surface to 8-12 inches deep, add water to within 1 inch of top, shake, let it soak and then shake it really well again.

    Record soil height before adding water.
    Record height after 2 minutes
    Record height after 6 hours
    Record height after 2 days

    I wish I could be more help but every site I found said to do it differently and no 2 really confirmed anything as far as what the real problem was. Less than 2% clay from a 8 inch hole should mean my soil would drain like a sieve but it puddled like concrete.
     
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  14. KK Ng

    KK Ng Hardy Maple

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    This is very interesting and informative. I guess I'll be in this predicament too when I moved into our new place. At the moment only couch grass is growing and I think it is because of the very infertile ground.
     
  15. Cayuga Morning

    Cayuga Morning Hardy Maple Plants Contributor

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    Ah KK! So we will be having some of the same struggles!
     
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