natural lawn care

Discussion in 'Soils, Fertilizers and Composting' started by Yolanda, May 26, 2003.

  1. Yolanda

    Yolanda Member

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    Hello,

    I purchased a home in Pitt Meadows in which the garden was poorly kept for over 11 years. This summer I declared that I would focus on reviving our lawn. I do not want to resort to any chemicals to rid the lawn of the weeds; rather, I want to incorporate natural solutions.
    So far, I have been applying limestone and fertilizer during spring/fall and I must say that the lawn looks healthier, however, it still has a great deal of weeds and what looks like clovers.
    Any suggestions to create a healthy lawn?

    Yolanda
     
  2. Douglas Justice

    Douglas Justice Well-Known Member UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society 10 Years

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    Lawn grasses are happiest in this climate when the soil in which they are growing is slightly acidic. This necessitates the application of lime to counteract the natural acidification that will occur if left un-limed. Most horticulturists suggest split applications (spring and fall), as lime moves only very slowly down the soil profile, and if you were to apply the required amount in one application, it would be too much all at once.

    Nitrogen containing fertilizers are also normally applied to turf; however, they are frequently over-applied. If the soil supporting the turf is relatively fertile and clippings are left in-situ, there is little need for extra nitrogen. On the other hand, if clover is a significant proportion of the turf, nitrogen may be less than optimal (for the growth of grasses). Consider that clovers are supplying nitrogen free from the atmosphere, however. While most people want turf that is made up of only grasses (or even one kind of grass), this is essentially unsustainable. In general, the greater the diversity of species in the turf, the more pest and disease resistent and more resilient it will be.

    In our climate, besides regular liming, the best lawn maintenance you can undertake is periodic aeration. This will help to keep the turf drought tolerant and healthy.
     
  3. davidleith

    davidleith Member

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    have you had the lawn soil pH tested?

    Any remedial long term natural solution should be based on exact existing data. A professional soil test would be a good starting point.
     
  4. Asher68

    Asher68 Member

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    Grass is a nitrogen pig. Legumes (such as clover and black medic) can get their nitrogen from the air (remember that the air we breathe is 80% nitrogen!). So, when you see legumes taking over your lawn (clover, medic, etc.), you know that your soil is nitrogen poor.

    White and pink clover is often desired in a lawn. It contributes nitrogen to the soil and doesn't compete strongly with the grass.
     
  5. Hi Yolanda ... I'm responding to your request for some natural weed killers suggestions.

    Here are a few suggestions since I have looked into this very question myself for a Weeds Mgmt. course in College, aswell I am an avid organic home gardener.

    Mature Weeds;
    1. Dandelion Killer Garden Tool, an effective hand tool that looks like an extra long Robertsons screwdriver, its long and narrow and is slighly toothed at the base to cut all tap rooted weeds at a 6 - 8 " soil depth.
    2. Hot water, Steam, and/ or propane torches. Some grass in the surrounding area will die off as well, but creeping rooted grasses will take over that dead space again quite readily.
    3. Spot spray with Safer's Topgun, Eco-clear, President's Choice Weed Control. These sprays will also have an effect on the surroudning turf but as long as the damage is small and you have a healthy lawn, recovery of the turf will be relatively quick once the pesky weed is no more.

    Last but not least ... Corn Gluten Meal. It won't kill your existing weeds but it will inhibit other weed seeds to germinate in the years to come. It doubles as an organic source of N fertilizer once the corn meal has broken down which I'm sure is quite a lengthy process but would be a good future N source for your grass. I have yet to find a Canadian supplier but the product is on hundreds of American websites. I have yet to try this miracle seed germination suppressant but like all miracles ... it's probably a fake..... regardless I plan on ordering some up this year to see it or not see it for my own eyes.

    As well ... I'm pretty good at weed identification if you every need a second opinion.

    Yours truly,
    First timer... Mrs. Sanfeng
    Thank-you ... it's been a relatively painful experience.
     
  6. I actually used Corn Gluten meal this year for the first time and was VERY surprised and impressed with the results. However, DON'T buy it online, particularly if you have a large yard (mine is ~2500 square meters, so large enough that CGM would have cost a bundle). Instead, find a local feed supplier. Make sure to ask for the high protein variety (which is pure CGM, and exactly matches the online stuff). I used a little over 150kg for my yard, which only cost $60 (the same amount would have cost close to $1000 online). My grass is SO GREEN, and the only weeds I have are clovers (probably because I didn't apply any other fertilizer).
     
  7. fourd

    fourd Active Member 10 Years

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  8. IsabellaGlenwood

    IsabellaGlenwood Member

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    In our climate, besides regular liming, the best lawn maintenance you can undertake is periodic aeration. This will help to keep the turf drought tolerant and healthy.
     
  9. franflower

    franflower Member

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    I had turf laid about 4 years ago, spent alot of money on it, did EVERYTHING that was suggested for lawncare, aeriation, seeding, watering, and some fertilizer, and it's awful. I do not think the landscaper put very good soil in and I also think that the variety of turf is probably not great...but I don't know much about these things.

    This is definitely the thread I was looking for.

    Based on the information above, I would guess that my soil is nitrogen poor. The grass does not maintain its green, is prickly instead of soft, and it is ridden with clover and will not fend off the dandylions.

    It is June now in Vancouver, should I apply lime or nitrogen fertilizer first? Are both safe for children or do I have to keep them off it after I apply it? The corn meal sounds like an interesting option, how do you apply it, and does it look awful for a while or is it relatively invisible? Should I be aerating now or should I wait until the fall for that ?

    Thanks for any details you can offer.

    Francine
     
  10. canadiyank

    canadiyank Active Member

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    Location:
    Central WA, USA, Zone 6B
    I use WOW! Supreme, which is a corn-gluten meal product. I've used it for years. Be careful if you have dogs, they will eat it and have really stinky farts but it won't hurt them, just a waste of the product, so water it in well. For dandelions I have a special tool and dig them out after I've watered so the ground it moist and I get the whole tap root. I like a little clover in my lawn so personally I'd leave that - good for the bees and the roots break up hard soil. Also, make sure to use a mulching blade, it makes a big difference in the health of the lawn.
     
  11. franflower

    franflower Member

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    Thanks so much ! I don't have dogs but the neighbours do...they will have to put up with the smell ... I believe I have a mulching tool, I also have the dandylion tool, I love it, I used it the other day and got dozens up. I will go and look for the wow supreme, not sure if they have it here in Canada.
     
  12. canadiyank

    canadiyank Active Member

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    Sure, if they don't have the WOW they should have some sort of similar corn gluten meal product. I've had very good luck with mine. I've seen different brands for sale at the store.
     
  13. Freyja

    Freyja Active Member

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    Franflower, if you find such a product in the Lower Mainland, can you please post where you find it? I know lots of people interested in it, since more and more municipalities are banning the use of lawn chemicals.

    Thanks.
     
  14. eldumas

    eldumas Member

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    Just in case Millet does check back, the trouble with lawn chemicals is that they slowly leach into the water table and affect the water systems that we ALL drink. Fertilizers do the same thing, but not nearly so rapidly or dangerously.

    We actually have some areas of the Lower Mainland now that are showing up with increased levels of nitrates (fertilizer) in the drinking water because some farmers have been using excessive amounts of chicken manure in their farms (mushrooms?) and allowing it to leach off. Nitrates are food for plants but poison to animals, and deadly to fish.

    Weed chemicals are an even worse problem, because they often do not get "used up" by plants on the way down the water table, and they usually do not decompose into inert molecules either. I don't mind swearing off the chemicals, especially when with a little bit of knowledge, a fair looking weed free lawn seems possible. How did our granparents do it before chemicals came along? We just need to re-think our way of doing things.
     
  15. eldumas

    eldumas Member

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    I am looking for a good organic material in the Lower Mainland to put on my lawn twice per year. I want something that will be small enough particles that will sink between the blades of grass and slowly decompose to feed the grass as well. Kind of a top-dress idea without the addition of sand, which over the years will add too much height to the soil.

    I have checked the internet for composted mushroom manure, and have found mixed reviews. One very logical response suggested that mushroom manure had little nutritional value left in it after the mushrooms were done doing their thing. It also kind of begs the question of supporting the mushroom industry considering what I said in the last response about water.

    Has anyone had any good success in the Lower Mainland with composted mushroom manure on a lawn, or any other material additions to a lawn? Maybe straight peat moss?

    By the way, I have converted to a mulching mower, and it is awesome!

    Ed
     
  16. Millet

    Millet Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Ed, modern synthetic pesticides break down so rapidly that consumers are rarely exposed to any at all. The vast majority of all fruits and vegetables tested as they leave the farm in the U.S. have no detectable pesticide residues what so ever - despite our being able to detect chemicals at parts per trillion levels. (That’s equivalent to 1 second in 31,000 years. One thing that we can certainly agree on, and that is the excellence of a mulching lawn mower. The best.
    Millet (1,287-) Susan B Anthony List - Washington DC
     
  17. Freyja

    Freyja Active Member

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    Ed, after reading up on organic lawn care practices, I have recently decided to go with alfalfa pellets/meal and/or soybean meal three to four times a year (applied at between 10 - 20lb per 1000 sq ft). From what I understand, grains such as these break down to feed the microorganisms in the soil, which in turn feed the grass. It is the philosophy of feeding your soil (and all the fungi, bacteria, microorganisms, etc in your soil), rather than feeding the grass.

    In terms of compost or organic material, I am also looking for some good organic compost to help build up the soil, but from what I have read, compost is not in itself a good fertilizer. It helps to introduce the good microbes to your soil, and helps with soil structure, but you still need to feed those microbes with something. This fall, if I can find it, I would like to add organic compost (about 1 sq yard per 1000 sq feet) and I'll continue to feed with grains, and see how it goes.

    If anyone has first hand experience of a good source of organic compost in the Lower Mainland, I'd love to hear about it. Thanks.
     
  18. eldumas

    eldumas Member

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    That sounds like a great idea. We have a Buckerfields nearby, and I am going to go see if they carry those products and what the cost would be. By the quantities that you suggested, I cannot imagine it would cost very much at all, since my entire yard in grasss amounts to about 1500 square feet!

    Would you think there is a possibility of animal problems with putting these additives on your lawn? Rodents?

    Thanks
    Ed
     
  19. Freyja

    Freyja Active Member

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    I wondered the same thing, but from what I've heard, there shouldn't be an animal problem once it is placed on the grass; although as a previous poster mentioned, dogs might like corn gluten meal. Some people use cracked corn, which can attract birds. However, I would imagine that rodents might be a problem if the grains are stored for any length of time (depending where you have it). I have put my alfalfa in 5 gallon pails with very tight lids. The other thing I've heard is that if you keep the grain for a period of time, it might get "buggy", but that won't hurt the lawn at all (just extra protein). It just might be kind of "icky" distributing it!

    I purchased alfalfa meal at $11 per 50lb bag from Westway Feed & Seed. The soybean was a bit more, I think. Maybe $15?? for the same size bag. I would not recommend alfalfa meal, though -- next time I will buy pellets. The meal was very difficult to apply -- any tiny bit of wind blew it all around and up my nose. Pellets can be distributed via spreader (opened wide) or by hand, tossed around. The great thing about this kind of fertilizer is it doesn't really matter how much you apply (as long as you don't smother the grass) or when you do it or if you have rain afterwards.

    Soybean meal apparently has more protein in it (so is a better all round fertilizer), while alfalfa is good for root development (hence when overseeding, some people recommend going with alfalfa). I've also heard that soybean meal can be very stinky for a few days if overapplied (while it breaks down). I've seen recommendations for 5 - 10lb per 1000 sf for soybean, which is what I'll do when I finish up my alfalfa. I don't want to stink up my neighbourhood!

    I'll let you know if I have any animal problems (although the alfalfa meal I used is almost powder-like, so it has already disappeared down through the grass blades).
     

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