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theskunk 09-13-2009 10:01 AM

Need some serious lawn help...
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I'm in need of some help with my rapidly worsening lawn...

I'm in New Jersey, which had a very wet early summer, and a fairly hot stretch through august. I admittedly did not water the lawn at all, since it was quite wet most of the summer. I mow once a week, at a fairly high setting, though I just brought it down to the mid setting about two weeks ago. I fertlized twice, once in april, once in july, with "weed and feed".

The lawn was not in great shape when I bought the house last year, though after the april fertilization and mowing it was showing promise.

I now have what seem to be large clumps that are easily rakeable, and which look like dead roots. It's on large portions of the lawn, and others for now are still green and stable.

I've attached a few pictures- any ideas of what's going on and how to remedy it?
Thanks much-

Kap 09-13-2009 01:18 PM

Looks you need to dethatch.

ccarlisle 09-13-2009 05:08 PM

I think you have compacted soil that prevents those roots from going down...they are spreading along the soil instead of into it. Aerate to break up that clay soil and add sand to keep it from clumping up.

farmerde 09-15-2009 12:36 AM

One says dethatch, the other says aerate, I say do both! You need to dethatch to get rid of the dead stuff, aerate to help break up your soil. If your soil is indeed clayish, then you should add some gypsum as well, it's pretty cheap and will help break down the soil. Finally, I would recommend over seeding, but be weary of what kind of topsoil if any you choose to cover the seed, you don't want anything with weeds in it.

ccarlisle 09-15-2009 06:24 AM

Yup, gypsum too will help, I hadn't thought of that...

Actually, both are good ideas, but dethatching almost solves itself, with the chemical and biological breakdown of the thatch over time, something like a year.

On the other hand a clay soil won't change apprecaibly unless you add something - albeit it's something of a temporary measure.

bob22 09-18-2009 08:29 AM

Supposedly, gypsum does not break down clay soils as once thought it did.

buffdadjj 09-18-2009 04:24 PM

Is your yard real shady?Some of it looks like it is starving for sun light and the soil is hard and causing the roots to stay and grow on top of the soil.

theskunk 09-19-2009 01:27 PM

Thanks for the replies
Some of the yard is shady. That area that is shown in the pictures was one of the worst spots, it happens to be under a red maple tree. Other areas that get decent sun are affected as well.

I dethatched today, my yard now of course doesn't look too great. I plan on overseeding tomorrow, and probably a fall fertilizer at the same time. Does that sound right?

Also, when I overseed, do I need to cover with topsoil?

Allison1888 09-24-2009 05:50 PM

When you overseed, cover it with peat moss to keep the moisture in and the birds from eating all your grass seed! Then water twice a day, lightly to keep it moist.

user1007 09-24-2009 06:10 PM

Before you start adding gypsum or anything much else you will save yourself a lot of anguish and long term cost but getting the soil analyzed. A basic home service shouldn't cost you much and the soil lab will give you a sample and maybe even lend you a core sampler (or you can use a trowel). With the soil sample results you will know what you need to add. Aeration and dethatching will certainly not hurt though. Make sure you water longer and less often to stimulate the root growth especially in clay soil. If you have clay soil it won't hurt to add some riverwashed sand to fill in the cores pulled out by the aerator.

ccarlisle 09-25-2009 06:30 AM

I wouldn't go overboard with this soil-testing stuff as you may be disappointed. First, you must take samples from several different parts of your lawn. Second, pH is probably more important than other bits of information. Third, serious nutritional problems are rare. Then, where you take it may be less reliable than somewhere else - and how would you know? Your garden center could give you any figure just to sell you their products...

Nitrogen % is the most useful % to know about - and several tests won't even tell you much, even though they give you a figure for it. Nitrogen availability may differ from one square yard to another in your lawn so the figures reported aren't fool-proof. Knowing how many p[ound of fertilizer your grass requires should tell you that a complete and accurate fertilizing program should be followed. 'Don't add too much at one time' and 'frequently' for example.

That should be more helpful to you than someone telling you eg 'your potassium level is low" or your "pH is 6.3"...serious depletions of any element are rare, and a few applications of an appropriate product should solve yuor problems.

Of course, watering, mowing and things you can do have the most impact on a healthy lawn than pretty much anything else.

bob22 09-25-2009 07:30 AM

"Organic vs. Inorganic Amendments There are two broad categories of soil amendments: organic and inorganic. Organic amendments come from something that is or was alive. Inorganic amendments, on the other hand, are either mined or man-made. Organic amendments include sphagnum peat, wood chips, grass clippings, straw, compost, manure, biosolids, sawdust and wood ash. Inorganic amendments include vermiculite, perlite, tire chunks, pea gravel and sand.
Not all of the above are recommended by Colorado State University. These are merely examples. Wood ash, an organic amendment, is high in both pH and salt. It can magnify common Colorado soil problems and should not be used as a soil amendment. Don't add sand to clay soil -- this creates a soil structure similar to concrete.
Organic amendments increase soil organic matter content and offer many benefits. Organic matter improves soil aeration, water infiltration, and both water- and nutrient-holding capacity. Many organic amendments contain plant nutrients and act as organic fertilizers. Organic matter also is an important energy source for bacteria, fungi and earthworms that live in the soil.
Application Rates

If your soil has less than 3 percent organic matter, then apply 3 cubic yards of your chosen organic amendment per 1,000 square feet. To avoid salt buildup, do not apply more than this. Retest your soil before deciding whether to add more soil amendment."

user1007 09-25-2009 10:22 AM

Wasn't suggesting to mix sand with the soil, just to create cores that would drain deeper and allow root penetration.

A good soil lab will be able to make all sorts of recommendations about what to add to change PH, breakdown organics, etc. And yes, you do have to take samples from a number of locations. This is especially important where land has been scraped for development and than filled in with who knows what.

bobssurfin 09-30-2009 02:48 PM

If you have compacted/clay soil, you'll need to core aerate. If you dig a hole about a foot down and pour water into it, does the water sit there for too long? I had this problem and the aeration along with proper maintenance thereafter solved it.

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