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  1. #1
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    Default Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    As some folks may remember I posted a thread about redoing my lawn last spring. I basically spread 3 - 6" of loam over the lawn (~30 yards) after leveling and removing rocks. I then planted grass seed, which grew and then died. For some reason the loam doesn't seem to be holding the grass and seems to dry out and become sandy. I'm not sure where I went wrong, but think that I should have used organic loam, which would provide fertility and hold moisture better. The issue now is how can I add organic matter to the soil to help, without having to redo what I've already done.

    Some additional background - Soils are a mix of clay underneath the loam, the lawn is largely shaded, we're in Northern MA, I don't have a sprinkler system, but can water the lawn and did so when I planted the new lawn.

    Thoughts I've had so far are - Fertilize it, find some way to spread compost on it (not sure how or what), plant a fast growing annual variety of grass that will grow roots and biomass before dying next winter, respread with composted loam.

    Any ideas, thoughts or help would be most appreciated. Equipment I have available to me are a lawn tractor, kubota B2920 with FEL, BH, rear blade, woodchipper and a good rental yard nearby that has a variety of other 3pt equipment.

  2. #2
    Super Member dave1949's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    I would start by getting a soils test done. Check the local hardware or County Extension office for soil testing. Find out what you have to work with.

    New England soils are likely to be acidic and nitrogen poor.
    "Those were the days my friend, we thought they'd never end ..."

  3. #3
    Super Star Member murphy1244's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    What grass seed did you use?
    Murph ------------

  4. #4
    Veteran Member Carl_NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    Hi tractchores.

    Depends on several things - shade will usually result in thin grass, especially if you have pines which make soil acidic.

    Then the soil you used. I had the chance to get "composted loam" from the town dump by the guy that was screening it at a good price $8/Yd so got 48 yards. I even looked at it - nice and dark. Well, for some reason it was mixed wood ash in so it was tough to grow grass.

    So last year I got some basic loam, top dressed then spread my leaf compost/manure mix and reseeded and it came out fine.

    The type of seed as murph points out is key too. I have had good luck with Lesco playground and also their contractor mix.

    Last on soil, I have used Seacoast Farms compost - (we paid $525/20 yards del http://www.seacoastcompost.com/ so its not cheap, but it really holds the moisture even in drought conditions.

    So, I would probably top dress with an 1" or so of good stuff and reseed with a mix of grasses that tolerate shade.

    Carl
    Kubota B21TLB, Ferris IS2000, Cub Cadet 1811

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    Thanks for the quick replies so far. To answer some of the questions - The seed I used is the s6000 mix listed here: https://www.seedsuperstore.com/order...ecies=Mixtures basically its shade tolerant grass. I used it because the other half of this exact came lawn is seeded with it. I converted it from brush to lawn about 4 years ago by spraying round up, clearing and then rototilling and smoothing. That worked out great and that part of the lawn is like a golf course. That's why I think I've got a soil issue VS seed or shade (though the shade doesn't help I'm sure). The Forrest area around the lawn is mixed hardwood (mostly maple and oak).

    I'll look at getting the soil tested. The tough part is the top few inches are this new soil and below it is a clay like soil, which was supporting grass prior to me redoing it. Maybe the answer is to top dress with a good composted loam to get things started. I have seen others use hay over the seeded soil to hold moisture, which could be another easy way to add compost and get it going.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    Quote Originally Posted by Carl_NH View Post
    Hi tractchores.

    Last on soil, I have used Seacoast Farms compost - (we paid $525/20 yards del Welcome to Seacoast Farms Compost Products so its not cheap, but it really holds the moisture even in drought conditions.
    This looks like good stuff. That price isn't that different than what I'd pay from the local place here. Usually their products are excellent though. Do you know where Seacost is located? It's not on their website, but that might be a good option if I can get them to deliver here.

  7. #7
    Veteran Member Carl_NH's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    They are in Fremont NH - I have a guy that does trucking when I want dirt his triaxle holds around 20 yards if you want his name PM me. He lives in Fremont too so he charges $65 for the hour it takes to deliver and return. Depending on where you are in Ma it could be more so getting it locally may be most cost effective.
    Kubota B21TLB, Ferris IS2000, Cub Cadet 1811

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    Hard to say what the problem is. A soil test would be my first step. What do you know of the loam that you had hualed in. Could be that it was taken from a pesticide contaminated site. This could be a huge problem if it came from a crop land where huge doses of weed killer had been used in the past. Loam by nature should already have a good organic content. Another problem could this loam have been simply spread on top of the soil, creating a stratified soil layer where whatever moisture is present is simply draining out over the lower layer of pre-exsisting soil. The layer of loam could also be a area of high nutrient content where as an roots are simply spreading out and not going down into the lower layer of soil. This would result in poor root structure where as the plants cant get to the otherwise available moisture in the lower layer of the soil. I also would question mowing height. Short grass equals short roots. Short roots equal dead and thinning grass when things turn dry.

    I used to plant grass for a living and have seen a multitude of things that can go wrong. Most common mistakes are improper watering, to short of mowing height, and the biggie, thinking more fertilizer makes a healthier lawn. Fertilizing in the summer when the grass is dormant if using cool season type grasses, will provide a great environment for the weeds, but does nothing for growing grass. Watering lawns to get them established and then thinking that since the grass is up, they can discontinue watering is another big issue.

    I havent seen your lawn so I can only speculate what the problems might be, but right now I suspect that you quit watering before the grass had ample time to establish a proper root structure and/or, you probably applied to much fertilizer which produces a fast growing top structure, without growing the proper root structure to support it. just remember, if the plant roots can get all the nutrients and moisture they need from the very top layer of the soil, then the plant sees no reason to send the roots down deeper into the soil. If you watered and fertilized to get the grass established, and then stopped watering, it is a good possibility the grass never established a good root structure to support itself.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    Lots of good advice given, I would also add get the soil tested and wait until this fall to seed/reseed. Use this spring and summer to prepare for the real grass growning season. Most all grasses will germinate in the spring and will not make it thru the hot summer months. I have found that grass planted in the fall looks much better the following spring.

    Eddie
    08 Dodge (Cummins) 2500, 2007 Kioti CK20, FEL, Finish Mower, 4' Howse Bush Hog, Landscape Rake, 52" Woods Tiller, 5' Rear Blade, 4' Box Blade, 5 horses, 2 dogs, 1 fat cat, 1981 Iseki TU 1700 for grass mowing.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Fixing a Lawn Problem - Compost Maybe?

    Quote Originally Posted by muddstopper View Post
    Hard to say what the problem is. A soil test would be my first step. What do you know of the loam that you had hualed in. Could be that it was taken from a pesticide contaminated site. This could be a huge problem if it came from a crop land where huge doses of weed killer had been used in the past. Loam by nature should already have a good organic content. Another problem could this loam have been simply spread on top of the soil, creating a stratified soil layer where whatever moisture is present is simply draining out over the lower layer of pre-exsisting soil. The layer of loam could also be a area of high nutrient content where as an roots are simply spreading out and not going down into the lower layer of soil. This would result in poor root structure where as the plants cant get to the otherwise available moisture in the lower layer of the soil. I also would question mowing height. Short grass equals short roots. Short roots equal dead and thinning grass when things turn dry.

    I used to plant grass for a living and have seen a multitude of things that can go wrong. Most common mistakes are improper watering, to short of mowing height, and the biggie, thinking more fertilizer makes a healthier lawn. Fertilizing in the summer when the grass is dormant if using cool season type grasses, will provide a great environment for the weeds, but does nothing for growing grass. Watering lawns to get them established and then thinking that since the grass is up, they can discontinue watering is another big issue.

    I havent seen your lawn so I can only speculate what the problems might be, but right now I suspect that you quit watering before the grass had ample time to establish a proper root structure and/or, you probably applied to much fertilizer which produces a fast growing top structure, without growing the proper root structure to support it. just remember, if the plant roots can get all the nutrients and moisture they need from the very top layer of the soil, then the plant sees no reason to send the roots down deeper into the soil. If you watered and fertilized to get the grass established, and then stopped watering, it is a good possibility the grass never established a good root structure to support itself.
    Thanks some good points. I do in fact definitely have some stratification, notable by the top layer being soggy when it's wet out and sandy when dry. The soil below is mostly clay so packs pretty tight and holds water if it gets in there, but water runs off it if it doesn't get down into the soil. I've though of mixing the soils with a harley rake or other similar implement. The thing stopping me is that my phone company did a crappy job burying my cable and phone, which are only an inch or two down crossing the lawn, so I'd have to dig them up fully to avoid mangling with a rake (though maybe its worth it).

    I didn't fertilize (maybe part of the issue) and watered for several months, but we did have notably dry weather last spring, so that may have been part of my problem. When I planted the other half of the lawn, which turned out great I did it in the fall, so that may have let the roots get better established. The loam was from a reputable local company and seemed decent, though perhaps a little sandy. It did support some weeds that were mixed in with it for the summer and stuff grows, just not as well as I'd like. I'll try and get it tested this week.

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