Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Cool season member lawn journals
Topic Author
abstract
Posts: 52
Joined: Sat May 30, 2020 7:42 pm
Location: Northern NJ
Grass Type: Lots, moving to TTTF/KBG
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Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Hey all-

First thanks for all the resources and information here, don't remember exactly how I found the forum, but sure it was furiously searching for information on something I still don't know enough about. This site has helped me get a lot smarter very quickly, which is good since just a few weeks ago I knew next to nothing.

My situation: About 6000 sqft, 2400 front, 2900 back, + a driveway side strip, and a sideyard that was deep shade, but is now sun/shade since my neighbor took out some trees. Current grass type is probably all of them, since I've put down box store mixes haphazardly over the course of many years, and not sure what we started with. We've lived in our house for about sixteen years, and since the lawn always looked ok, I focused my outside time elsewhere, mostly on building out ornamental beds and building stone retaining walls. The lawn has not been consistently watered.

Current state of the lawn: not a total disaster, but lot of issues. It looks ok now after the spring growth, but goes dormant/dies off when it gets hot, with lots of bare spots. Very lumpy in the back, as I have 140 pounds of labrador chasing each other over it, decently level in the front.. Lots and lots of weeds. Compacted soil, typical NJ clay, gets rock hard when dry. Some current bare spots.

So why now to try to get smart about this, and do something about it? Two things. 1: Last year I had a terrible creeping charlie infestation, front and back, that took over a good chunk of the lawn and had eyes on the rest of it. Was able to fight that back, but that opened my eyes to how close we were to a total weed takeover. 2. Had some patio work done last year, and the contractor put down grass seed on post-work bare spots, in early August, and threw some straw on it. That grass seed, with no attention and very little watering, came in beautifully this spring, and looked healthier and stronger than anything else in my yard. Found out later it was Black Beauty, so no surprises TTTF is in my plan.

The plan: Move to TTTF/KBG mix (75/25?) over time without a full reno, which I can't do because the dogs need the back yard, and frankly not up for it in the front. Will try to do it semi-organically, not against chemicals totally, but have little cousins who use the yard, + the dogs, so any chemicals will be targeted. I used spot WeedbGon in the creeping charlie war last year, but have so far this spring managed it by pulling the cc when it shows it head. I plan to do manual aeration + overseed in the fall, so the summer is mostly about trying to get the lawn chemistry healthier, learning into consistent irrigation and developing an easy to use irrigation solution, and lots and lots and lots of weed eradication (more on that later). Sending in soil samples this week to Rutgers for analysis, but with my weed mix it's a very safe bet my Ph is low.

What I've done so far this spring:
Every week: Pull weeds
1. 5/16 Lime (HD Lime front, JGreen Mag-i-cal back)
2. 5/23 JGreen 10-1-1 front and back
3. 5/30 SLS Humic Fulvic front and back

Plan for rest of summer:
6/13 SLS Lawn Energizer
6/25 Liquid Aeration?
7/4 Fertilizer TBD (based on Rutgers results)
7/18 SLS Lawn Energizer
7/25 Maybe liquid aeration again?
8/8 Fertilizer TBD
8/15 SLS Lawn Energizer
8/29 Start Fall Aeration/overseeding

Oh yeah, mowing: Currently have a lawn guy, but probably going to fire him soon and do it myself, since he's not great, and I'm home now anyway.

Appreciate any feedback on the plan above, and thanks again for all the great info on the forum. Will post some pics of current state this week.

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Here are some pics of the current state of the lawn
Image
Backyard, looking up the slight slope, you lots of clover and plantains. The patch of Black Beauty that was used for patio work repair last year is the dark green in the top right, that's the grass that got me started on this journey, see the post above.

Image
Detail of the backyard, again showing a lot of weeds.

Image
Partial view of front yard, less weeds than the back but some plantain clusters and clover. Also had two patches of lesser celandine here earlier in the spring that I hand pulled before it flowered, we'll see if any less comes up next spring.

Image
Probably the best looking part of the lawn, the shaded area in the top right of the previous pic. It's next to the sidewalk, so I have that going for me.

Topic Author
abstract
Posts: 52
Joined: Sat May 30, 2020 7:42 pm
Location: Northern NJ
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Since weeds are my current focus, here's what I have and what I'm doing about it, in rough priority order. I do 1-2 weed passes through the lawn per day, they take about 10-15 mins each. This wouldn't really work if I was in the office and traveling, but I have time this year.

1. Creeping Charlie: As mentioned in my first post, had two awful patches of this last year, front and back, fought it back with Weedbgon and hand pulling. So far so good this spring, have hand pulled everything that came up, didn't let if flower, probably pick about 20 seedlings a day in the back, 1-2 in the front.

2. Creeping buttercup: God this stuff sucks. Have about thirty square feet where it's taken over, I got frustrated this weekend and scraped it down to dirt, will continue to wipe out whatever comes up, hope to exhaust it. Also creeping into other part of the lawn, luckily the yellow buds are easy to spot so I pluck them daily.

3. Plantains. My weekly quota is to pull about 200. Done with a garden knife and an Ames stand up weeder. The Ames pulls really big plugs, so I've been filling them with leftover topsoil and potting soil for an ongoing semi-aeration, will probably get some sand as well.

4. Lesser celandine: It's dormant now, but had two big patches in the front and a bunch of smaller ones in back, plus some in my backyard treelike. Flamed down the treeline patches before the flowered, curious to see how it comes back next year.

5. Wild strawberry: Pretty prevalent, haven't focused on pulling it, other than on the edges where it gets really big along the stone wall, I pluck the flowers when I see them.

6. Mouseear chickweed and corn speedwell: Not much of this, pull it when I see it, especially where the chickweed starts to mat on the edge of the lawn.

7. Clover: Not on my priority list for this year, figure I can take care of it next year.

Wickerman323
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by Wickerman323 »

I'm curious to see how things go with your creeping buttercup. I'm in the Pacific Northwest and removed a lot of moss from my yard. I planted some seed in the bare spots. Since the moss is gone and I'm watering so much, creeping buttercup have had a field day. I'm letting the seed establish then I'm going into attack mode. I've read that MCPA is the most effective chemical. I found that RoundUp that is safe for lawns has MCPA. I was happy to see they had creeping buttercup on the list of weeds it kills.

I've tried hand pulling but can't get deep roots so I figure chemical is the best option for me.

Keep up the good fight.

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PNW_TurfNoob
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by PNW_TurfNoob »

Hey abstract, glad to see you started a journal. I'm somewhat of a newb, so take my advice with a grain of salt...

I've also tried to run my lawn "semi-organically", but have had to use some selective herbicides. If it were me, I'd hit the lawn harder with post-emergent herbicides (Weed B Gon or Weed B Gon CCO or Round'Up for Lawns) this year prior to the overseed this Fall. I think you're smart to feed the soil and build up soil nutrition and I'd wait on the soil test prior to major amendments. I haven't done a lot of aeration, so I can't really comment there except to say that you can pull a core or a section with a horihori or shovel and just check out the soil. Most of the experienced folks say not to fertilize established grass too much over the summer, although if the soil is really deficient it might be okay to go ahead and spoon feed over the Summer and then hit it harder in the Fall. Definitely check out G-man's cool season guide if you haven't already.

Hopefully someone with more experience will weigh in. Good luck!

Chris LI
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by Chris LI »

Sounds like a good plan. I would be a little careful with summer fertilizer, so you may want to skip the post 7/4 fertilizer apps until resuming in late August. You don't want to push growth too much. That could add to turf stress and promote disease (fungus). Maybe spray some organics lightly, if needed. For the 7/4 app, I would also consider an organic, based upon your soil tests. I would suggest Milorganite and supplement with K later on, if needed. The Milo will add some iron for greening over the summer. Other organic options are Espoma, Purely Organic Products Lawn Food, Corn Gluten, Soybean meal (component in POP LF), alfalfa, kelp, etc. Plantain is an indicator of compaction, so you liquid aeration will be helpful. There are options out there; SLS Soil Loosener, NeXT Air-8, etc. Good luck!

Topic Author
abstract
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Joined: Sat May 30, 2020 7:42 pm
Location: Northern NJ
Grass Type: Lots, moving to TTTF/KBG
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Hey all, thanks for much for the ideas and guidance, really appreciate it. Here's what I've been up to:

wk of 6/13: SLS Liquid Aeration front and back. Hard to tell if this has done anything, I'd say maybe the lawn has been a bit more responsive to watering? It's been very dry in NJ, have been focused on keeping the lawn watered properly, and it looks pretty green, so I'll give the liquid aeration some credit. Also did a leveling and reseed of a low spot that was bothering me, we had a run of coolish nights and days in the low eighties, so put down some Black Beauty Ultra that's coming up nicely.

And, every darn day, murdering weeds:
@Wickerman323 Had the same experience with the creeping buttercup, it's impossible to pull it fully, if anything feels like pulling it makes it spread faster. So went to Weed B Gon on it, that seems to knock it out.

Also went chemical (Weed B Gon again) on the plantains that are in big clusters, and spent a good amount of time in the last couple of days pulling off plantain seedheads. Will see how effective the WBG is on these, it takes them a few days to die off.

Creeping charlie, my nemesis from last summer, is surprisingly under control, just pops up a bit here and there, easy to handpull.

The new unwelcome guest that wasn't on my original weed list above is selfheal, it came out of nowhere in the last week or two, and it's everywhere. I've hand pulled it so far, but it's amazing how quickly it mats up and crowds out the grass, so I end up with bare spots after it's pulled.

For the coming weeks, sorting out my fertilizer plan. @Chris Li I hear you on backing off some of what I had planned, any thoughts on using SLS 16-4-8 for the 7/4 fertilizer? I ordered it a while back but haven't used it, maybe too much N? If the SLS is overkill, haven't seen Milorganite in my last few big box trips, but will look for the alternatives you mentioned.

Also a question - is spot repair this late in the summer worth it? I've got a decent amount of patchy/bare spots that would be nice to fill in. Since I'm home anyway, can definitely keep the spots watered if I seed. The Black Beauty that my patio contractor put down in early August last year came out great this spring, and that was definitely not watered consistently, so wondering if the TTTF is tough enough to survive a July/Aug start?

Thanks again all.

Chris LI
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by Chris LI »

The SLS 16-4-8 appears to be mostly fast release. It would probably be a little too much at the full rate (10 oz per 1,000 sq ft). You could try two split apps at a lower rate, maybe 3 oz per 1000, if you put some down now and then around the 4th, or just afterwards. If you bought the quart size RTU, you could pour off most of it into a container (shake up the RTU first-in case settling occurred), and leave 3 oz for example and refill with water and lightly spray over 1000 as a foliar app. Then later that night, you could water it in. Even better, if you have a pump sprayer, you could use 3 oz per gallon, and spray that over 1,000 sq ft. I did that with their 15-0-15 product, and it gave a color pop without too much growth, during this spring.

Spot repair now would be difficult, but if you're not too concerned with wasted seed or time, you could give it a shot. You would need to be extra diligent with watering. If you find Milo, a little sprinkle frequently, goes a long way with seeding.

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Chris LI wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 5:41 pm
The SLS 16-4-8 appears to be mostly fast release. It would probably be a little too much at the full rate (10 oz per 1,000 sq ft). You could try two split apps at a lower rate, maybe 3 oz per 1000, if you put some down now and then around the 4th, or just afterwards.
Thanks, will try that, I bought the RTU but can pour it into my hose end sprayer to apply at the lower rate.

Will also probably try some spot repair, even if it's risky - it's nice to have something else to do besides weeding.

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

PNW_TurfNoob wrote:
Tue Jun 16, 2020 10:53 pm
Hey abstract, glad to see you started a journal. I'm somewhat of a newb, so take my advice with a grain of salt...

I've also tried to run my lawn "semi-organically", but have had to use some selective herbicides. If it were me, I'd hit the lawn harder with post-emergent herbicides (Weed B Gon or Weed B Gon CCO or Round'Up for Lawns) this year prior to the overseed this Fall.
Thanks, I pretty much got to the same place in the last couple of weeks. I've used Weed B Gon for bad spots of plantains and anywhere I see creeping buttercup. It's made a difference.

Also backing off the fertilizer plan based on yours and some other's feedback.

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Here's the Black Beauty Ultra I put down about two weeks ago on a spot I releveled, watered twice/day, hasn't been any rain since.. Looks good so far. I pulled that big plantain right after I took the picture.
Image

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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by Chris LI »

:thumbsup:

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Put down the SLS 16-4-8 in the back at half rate and watered it in. Didn't put it down in front, as the front gets more sun and looked pretty stressed, so watered instead. Hope we'll get lucky with thunderstorm tracks this week, got about .25 yesterday from a passing cell, and it's gloomy and dark out now, so fingers crossed. If the front perks up will put it down there as well next weekend. Some more evidence that maybe the SLS Liquid Aerator worked - was able to pull a lot of plantains by hand, roots and all, without a tool, so seems like the soil may be softening a bit. Here's a four or five days of pulling work. mostly plantains but a lot of selfheal, and some kind of grass, maybe crabgrass?:
Image

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Just updated Mower in my profile from "Lawn Guy" to "Ego 21". Took it out for its first spin tonight, cut the back to 4". It's an easy mow. Color in the back is holding up pretty well. Still a decent amount of clover but other weeds way down.
Image

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Have gotten just enough early evening rain the last few days to make the lawn damp but without any meaningful watering. Today the back lawn was still damp into mid-day, and some of the grass, not sure which type, was getting floppy, so I cut the back down to 3". Would probably have gone to 3.5", but my new EGO doesn't have 1/2 inch increments. My landscaper (who I fired today!), came pretty infrequently, and the back would get way over 4", then he'd cut down to 2.5/3ish, leaving big globs of wet cutting everywhere. So think keeping it at 3" and mowing more frequently will keep it much healthier.

Question: I've been mulching so far to get some desperately needed organic matter into the lawn, and the new EGO seems to mulch pretty well. With all the clover seedheads I have now, is it better to bag so I'm not putting clover seed back into the lawn?

uts
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by uts »

I started out with a fairly bad lawn and while I have applied a few apps of herbecides I think bagging really helps in not redistributing the seeds which you might not be able to see. It also helps in minimal movement from front to back vice versa. I did it for atleast one season religiously. I can always apply a higher fertilizer rate when bagging. OM is a different story. If you have a reliable place to get great compost, that's an easy fix.

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

uts wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 6:35 pm
I started out with a fairly bad lawn and while I have applied a few apps of herbecides I think bagging really helps in not redistributing the seeds which you might not be able to see.
Thanks @uts, that makes sense. Sometimes I shudder to think how much weed seed is my lawn already, probably best not to make the problem worse.

Chris LI
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by Chris LI »

+1 on bagging to collect seeds. Once you get it under better control/annual weeds start to die off, mulching would be fine. Also, I looked up on your photo and saw a lot of OM that will become available, come fall. Leaf mulching definitely helps to build OM. I go out frequently (2x per week+), and mulch as much as I can until soil temperatures drop, and microbes slow the breakdown of the OM. Then I mostly bag for the garden.

3" HOC looks good in the backyard. If the front is stressed due to full or mostly sunny conditions, try mowing a little higher. Keep at it and you'll get there.

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Not much to report, still working on the weeds, Weedbgon and hand pulling. Lawn was definitely getting a little dry, especially in the front, interested to see how it reacts to the deluge we got yesterday, just about 3". My clay doesn't hold water well, in fact that much rain showed where I have some drainage issues - I live on a hill, and one of the things you get to do on a hill is manage the water coming out of the uphill neighbor's yard. Most of it goes into a in ground drain that runs the full width of my driveway in front of the detached garage, and that water is then funneled by a stone culvert into the back of my yard, where it runs down the hill (most everyone on my street pushes water to the back of the property like that). Looks like the stone culvert has failed or gotten overgrown, and some of the water, at least at tropical storm volume like yesterday, is escaping the culvert and flowing over the backyard. So that will be a project for the fall, getting in there now is likely guaranteed Lyme Disease.

Going to put down some Mag-i-cal front and back this week, last application was six weeks ago.

Topic Author
abstract
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Re: Abstract 2020 Journal: It's a Start

Post by abstract »

Put down Mag-i-cal last weekend at bag rate front and back. Watered last two days heavily to get some water in before this heat wave (> ninety for five days straight, only down to mid/high seventies at night). Back is getting some fungus, so just put down Bayer Advanced at curative bag rate. Starting to investigate seeds for the overseed, will likely order this week.

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