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Old 04-11-2016, 05:11 PM   #1
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How to improve "sterile" soil


I had some top soil brought in a couple of years ago and it looked real good. I thought my fescue would take off. The guy tells me it came from a creek. I didn't realize at that time it was probably leached of all its nutrients and good stuff.

I spread it, seeded it heavily with fescue and very little grass popped up. I think I could sell this dirt as weed killer.

I still have some 8 month old seed and I am thinking of trying it again.

I don't want to go to the expense and problems with getting some more top soil (a crap shoot) and having it spread with a tractor.

I am considering getting some organic topsoil (the kind you can get in bags which is very little soil but lots of mulch, wood) If I could find that in bulk, I would get it. a forty pound bag would cost $4.25 plus tax. Don't have a clue how much to get per square feet.

I suppose I could get some black cow too.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

I would then till it in good and reseed. If that did not work maybe I would put sod on it.
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Old 04-11-2016, 05:54 PM   #2
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Re: How to improve "sterile" soil


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I had some top soil brought in a couple of years ago and it looked real good. I thought my fescue would take off. The guy tells me it came from a creek. I didn't realize at that time it was probably leached of all its nutrients and good stuff.
Where are you located?

Get a soil test done. Google for 'agricultural extension turf soil test'. Very easy and cheap and they'll give you a lot of advice to boot. If your soil is really grass poison (doubt it) they'll tell you how to correct it. I wouldn't get more topsoil as that is mostly just dirt. Compost from a farm would be great. If you can get some, do that. Don't get the bagged "compost" from the box store - it is mostly just rotten wood mulch and will suck any nitrogen you have out of the soil. It is both expensive and worse than useless.

I'm more inclined to think you have bad seed. If the seed wasn't fresh and stored properly, it simply won't take. It also won't germinate if it ever dries out during sprouting.

Spread some compost, spread some seed on that, lightly rake it in, and make sure the soil remains moist (not flooded dripping wet, moist) for several weeks. Give it 1-2 weeks and hopefully you'll see some green popping up.

Last edited by Thunder Chicken; 04-11-2016 at 05:58 PM.
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Old 04-11-2016, 08:36 PM   #3
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Re: How to improve "sterile" soil


When you say it didn't "pop" I assume you mean it didn't germinate . If so , TC is correct . Soil nutrients don't affect germination .

The only other factors are ground temp & moisture . (OK , I'm assuming the birds didn't eat it)

Last edited by dd57chevy; 04-11-2016 at 08:38 PM.
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Old 04-11-2016, 09:41 PM   #4
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Re: How to improve "sterile" soil


good info, thanks.
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Old 04-11-2016, 09:42 PM   #5
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Re: How to improve "sterile" soil


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Where are you located?

Get a soil test done. Google for 'agricultural extension turf soil test'. Very easy and cheap and they'll give you a lot of advice to boot. If your soil is really grass poison (doubt it) they'll tell you how to correct it. I wouldn't get more topsoil as that is mostly just dirt. Compost from a farm would be great. If you can get some, do that. Don't get the bagged "compost" from the box store - it is mostly just rotten wood mulch and will suck any nitrogen you have out of the soil. It is both expensive and worse than useless.

I'm more inclined to think you have bad seed. If the seed wasn't fresh and stored properly, it simply won't take. It also won't germinate if it ever dries out during sprouting.

Spread some compost, spread some seed on that, lightly rake it in, and make sure the soil remains moist (not flooded dripping wet, moist) for several weeks. Give it 1-2 weeks and hopefully you'll see some green popping up.
should I spread compost or till it in? The soil is hard clay
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Old 04-11-2016, 10:32 PM   #6
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Re: How to improve "sterile" soil


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The soil is hard clay
Well, there's your problem!

I'd till it in. The more compost the better.
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Old 04-11-2016, 11:09 PM   #7
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Re: How to improve "sterile" soil


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Don't get the bagged "compost" from the box store - it is mostly just rotten wood mulch and will suck any nitrogen you have out of the soil.
I read about the nitrogen being sucked out by mulch, on here, somewhere else recently. What causes that?
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Old 04-12-2016, 04:01 AM   #8
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Mulch is fine it adds to the organic matter and contributes to he heal of the soil. What the prior post refers to is super cheap "mulch" which is not mulch but rather ground wood, often pallets, dyed brown or red. Wood chips will adversely affect your soil and attract bugs. True mulch is a composition of ground bark, compost and other organic material and is aged for some time. I buy all my mulch from either local farms or from tree arborist a or wood plot managers who actually take he time to produce a relatively in expensive bulk product and leave the big box store questionable stuff for someone else to buy.
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Old 04-12-2016, 08:45 AM   #9
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Re: How to improve "sterile" soil


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I read about the nitrogen being sucked out by mulch, on here, somewhere else recently. What causes that?
The wood chips are low in nitrogen to begin with, and the growth of the microbes that break down the wood chips consumes the rest.

When the microbes are done and die off, they do return the nitrogen to the soil, but it may take several years for the wood to be completely consumed, so the soil will be nitrogen depleted for a long time. That's why wood chips make such good mulch - they make it hard for surface weeds to get nitrogen.

If the mulch is extremely well composted, it may not matter. The box store stuff is literally the bottom of the wood chip mulch pile and is no where near done composting.

I'd steer clear of mulch completely and just go for some good composted farm manure. Plenty of nitrogen, and carbon, microbes and all sorts of other good stuff.
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