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Old 11-18-2012, 06:42 AM   #1
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


I admit I'm no lawn care expert so please correct me if I'm going wrong here. I'm trying to strengthen up the roots of my grass since it has been neglected. Did a little research that said to put down a high nitrogen slow release fertilizer after the temp is consistently below 50F after top growth stops but before the ground freezes. I just cut my grass last week for the last time. Guy at the store said I'm way too late though and I'm only going to encourage top growth. What's the right thing to do here?
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Old 11-18-2012, 08:53 AM   #2
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


I agree it is too late here for even a timed release, high nitrogen fertilizer.

Your time and money would be better spent on an inexpensive but comprehensive soil test and adding ammendments to enrich the soil and balance Ph at this stage of the year.

Wait until spring to begin your regular feeding regimen.

That said, if you have not added any nutrients in awhile, you could apply a general purpose balanced fertilizer to the turf now. Something 10-5-10 or so. These are the three numbers representing the percentage of key nutrients in the sack of fertilizer known as the NPK ratio---nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. You may not be able to get phosphorous or need it.
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Old 11-18-2012, 10:44 AM   #3
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


Thanks, sounds good. Ive lived here two years and only fertilized once and doubt it was done before that. I've got some extra general purpose in the shed that I can put down to help the soil. I'll also get that sample done so I know what to do next year.
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Old 11-18-2012, 12:24 PM   #4
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


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Thanks, sounds good. Ive lived here two years and only fertilized once and doubt it was done before that. I've got some extra general purpose in the shed that I can put down to help the soil. I'll also get that sample done so I know what to do next year.
Wish I could point you to soil labs. The UofI in Champaign or the Illinois Soil Survey part of the Department of Natural Resources should have a list. I doubt, given our financial situation, we provide them for free. A comprehensive soil lab test for a residence should not be expensive though.

The soil lab will tell you how to gather samples and label them. Make sure you sample several points of your yard as long as you are doing this. So often during construction projects land was scraped of its topsoil and it was either removed or redistributed and then new topsoil brough in from elsewhere (or not at all). So you may have different conditions in different areas of your yard.

Search this site for soil tests. A poster posted a nice set of results recently that will give you an idea of the information you will get back. It suggested what was needed to balance Ph and had recommendation for nutrients.

Come next Spring, the Scotts program is not bad for the residential customer to implement but it is expensive---especially if you have lots of turf. With soil test recs in hand, you can buy and bulk and save a bundle. You won't get a pretty lawn picture on the packaging though.

Last edited by user1007; 11-18-2012 at 12:29 PM.
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Old 11-18-2012, 01:33 PM   #5
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


HD sells a DIY soil test kit.....it was actually pretty good.....and actually makes for a fun project to do with the kids.

SD is giving you some good advice....so lacking soil tests...the 10-5-10 is a safe way to go for now....

In my experience....now is the time to take care of other issues besides grass. Remove stuff you don't want...clean out the flower beds....etc. If you want to make major changes...do it during the winter....

This is when my wife starts trimming her roses and cutting back plants....each week she fills up the green trashcan (90 gal job)

One thing to remember....even though your grass is dormant....it's actually doing something usefull....keeping the dirt covered.....protecting it.
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Old 11-18-2012, 01:43 PM   #6
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


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Old 11-18-2012, 01:49 PM   #7
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


It is actually going to be as warm of a Winter this year as last. The ground will not freeze, so you should be fine. In reality, you should have put it down late Oct, first week of November.
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Old 11-18-2012, 04:10 PM   #8
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


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HD sells a DIY soil test kit.....it was actually pretty good.....and actually makes for a fun project to do with the kids.
Such kits--or a Ph meter--will test for basic things like Ph and are great once you have done a complete analysis. A soil lab is going to grind up your samples and show you what mineral levels are like (and what they should be), how you stand with the three major nutrients, what you might add to balance things and will even suggest organic ammendments.

By the way, even if we are in for a warm winter (and I selfishly hope so) and the ground does not freeze, you do not want to encourage too much top growth of grass blades. Most energy will be diverted to root and stem systems now but frost is your number one worry. It aspirates plants of moisture as it freezes them and then thaws out the moisture. A few inches of snow can actually serve as a decent insulator but as you know we did get any that lasted long last year and really only that wicked February storm the year before.

Last edited by user1007; 11-18-2012 at 04:22 PM.
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Old 11-21-2012, 01:43 PM   #9
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Too late for milorganite in Northern IL?


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HD sells a DIY soil test kit.....it was actually pretty good.....and actually makes for a fun project to do with the kids.


If by "pretty good" you mean, "pretty good at being inaccurate", then I agree. The reagents are usually old. Every test I've done with them has been horrible.

University of Massachusetts only charges $15 for a very good soil test. http://extension.umass.edu/floricult...s/soil-testing.

I think Harris Labs charges about the same.
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