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av-geek 11-12-2012 07:14 AM

Mulching leaves & restoring abandoned lawn
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I moved into a new home this summer that had sat empty for a long time. While the lawn was merely mowed every so often but was never given any care outside of that. There is grass growing in the lawn, but it is not very thick, and I am looking to thicken it up and make it look fuller.

At my old home, the lawn thrived by me just simply mulching the leaves in the winter, and applying lime about once a month or so. At that house, I had two maple trees in the yard, and the grass received plenty of sunlight. At this house, there are 8 trees in the 1/2 acre yard...mostly oaks and pines, but there's one maple. The yard is shaded for most of the day by these trees.

With the significantly higher amount of leaves that are falling, would it be too much leaf mulch than the yard could absorb? Also, Is it the pine tree droppings that turn the soil acidic? If so, that means I will need more lime, or I should just be more diligent in picking up the pine needles. How does the regular tree debris effect the fertilizer I should put down. Just looking for any thoughts on this topic. I'm not looking for putting green perfect lawn, but just want something that's a little thicker, greener and nicer looking than what's there.

This picture is from the Real estate ad taken early last spring. It's a little forward in the front yard, and doesn't show the two pines or the oak, but you can see the spots between the two bushes and under the picture window where the grass is a bit sparse

joecaption 11-12-2012 07:24 AM

I'd have the soild tested and let it tell you what it needs.
Both oak leaves and pine needles do not make good mulch.
A great web site to check out is the Scott's web site.

user1007 11-12-2012 08:25 AM

Definitely get a soil test before just tossing lime at your situation. The lab results will also indicate deficient nutrients. Tests are not expensive and in fact some states' ag or university extension offices do them for free.

Joe is right. Oak leaves and pine needles are slow to break down. And pines can really toss the Ph off so I think a pine needle rake is in your future. You could compost the leaves and needles but be sure to add appropriate green matter too. And check the Ph before returning it to the garden.

The process of decompisition---as in breaking down mulched leaves---does require nitrogen and it will take it from your regular feedings so in cases where you are mulching lots of leaves, you may have to beef up the nitrogen content in your lawn fertilizer.

There is not much for you to do this late in the year unless you can turn around the soil test in real time and add whatever to balance Ph. You might as well wait now for spring to put the lawn on a regular feeding schedule. The Scotts program is expensive but is fairly easy to follow.

You may want to think about overseeding in the spring as well.

As you stare out over the front lawn this winter, also think about how much turf you really want to maintain. You can add color, texture and depth to your landscape with carefully chosen groundcovers that might do better under trees than turf. Maintenance will be lower as well.

guynextdoor 11-22-2012 06:48 AM

The gardener I once consulted said that lawns don't do well when there is too much tree cover. I think that's the problem here.

Lawns need lot of uninterrupted sunlight. We have loads of trees all over our small yard and very little grass :-(. I don't want to take down the beautiful big trees for a bit of lawn, so have resigned myself to the situation. I have lots of potted plants to compensate. We rotate the pots around the yard to make it greener and prettier. Moving them around gives them enough sunlight to thrive too.

A horticulturist acquaintance of a friend of mine had mentioned once long ago that there are certain types of lawn which don't need as much sunlight and also tolerate tree cover well. Need to get hold of that person to find out more details.

Maybe you should explore that option. Ask at your nursery or professional lawn laying service if it is available in your area.

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