Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Cool season grasses like Kentucky Bluegrass, Fescue & Rye
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rtdad
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Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by rtdad » Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:43 am

So I used to spend freely on home upgrades when they were not necessary/broken such as new siding, roof, boiler, patio, walkways, driveways, full backyard Renos, etc. I've shifted my focus to obtaining the best results for the least amount of money due to paying off debt, maximizing retirement funding. I also want to minimize the use of chemicals for multiple reasons I won't get in to here.

So here's my plan, similar to what I did this year with good success, wanted to see what you guys think. What "must haves" did I leave out? I've never seen great results with core aeration, just FYI..


Main focus on mowing high every 3-4 days and ensuring watering new seed daily then pulling back to 1-2x per week if it doesn't rain.
Sharpening mower blade a few times a year
Buying a mulching blade ($20?)
3 Milo applications / year about 6-8 weeks apart ($15 per app)
Dethatch 1-2x per year (already own a Sun Joe)
Weed prevention strategy - overseeding spring and fall to keep lawn thick and pulling weeds by hand ($50 each app)
Starter fert (~ $12 per app)
Grubs - Grub ex late spring and again if necessary ($20/bag approx?)
October - Scott's winter guard ($13)


Total just over $220 annually + water.
Should I cut out some of the Fert? Should I add anything?

Thanks! :thumbup:
Last edited by rtdad on Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:46 am, edited 2 times in total.

uts
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by uts » Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:53 am

You live in Massachusetts, switch to baystate fertilizer from milo. 15 a bag will come down to 5.

saidtheblueknight
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by saidtheblueknight » Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:58 am

uts wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:53 am
You live in Massachusetts, switch to baystate fertilizer from milo. 15 a bag will come down to 5.
$3.50 :D

Factor
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by Factor » Thu Oct 10, 2019 11:22 am

Assuming you just want "a lawn".

No need to aerate don't disturb the ground. Overseed in the fall. Get a soil test. Then see what fert you really need. Baystate is good overall choice. Go to coop and get just Urea (way cheap)for winter once all the top growth stops. Unless seeding water deep and infrequent 1 " per week. just some thoughts..
Thanks,
Factor
Just a regular guy from Tennessee.
Tier 2. It just grass... it's not a hobby for me.

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Harts
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by Harts » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:01 pm

2 things I would consider: Pre-em and Urea.

Pre-em might be tough if you plan to over seed twice a year, but will definitely keep weeds at bay.

Urea for the Fall applications.

Both of these might be an initial upfront cost, but at 3,800 sf, they would last you years. Prodiamine likely for the rest of your life; Urea at least 5 years.

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by davegravy » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:08 pm

Agreed, if you use enough product now to get on top of your weeds and you continue following good watering, mowing, and feeding practices you'll have minimal need to use further herbicides to stay on top of weeds.

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ScottW
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by ScottW » Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:19 pm

Dense and high-mowed TTTF lawns, around here at least, are susceptible to fungus e.g. brown patch in late spring to summer. Fungicide is not "necessary" if you don't mind the dead spots, and it will eventually recover, but propiconazole would cost you about $5 per app. Maybe up north there you get less fungus pressure, I dunno.

Does spring overseeding work up there, IOW does it establish in time to survive summer stress? If not, you can save that $50 in the spring and just overseed in early fall, thereby freeing yourself to use pre-em in mid/late fall and early spring so you don't have to spend your weekends pulling weeds.

Then, if you're only overseeding once, you can just run the dethatcher once a year prior to overseed. Not a cost savings since you already have the machine, but saves you some labor and spares your lawn from one extra beating.

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by Green » Thu Oct 10, 2019 5:06 pm

ScottW wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:19 pm
Dense and high-mowed TTTF lawns, around here at least, are susceptible to fungus e.g. brown patch in late spring to summer. Fungicide is not "necessary" if you don't mind the dead spots, and it will eventually recover, but propiconazole would cost you about $5 per app. Maybe up north there you get less fungus pressure, I dunno.
There's two things working our favor here...generally lower mowing heights (I don't know of many people in these areas that mow above a 4-inch HOC as it's really not necessary in general; 4 inches is sufficient in Summer here, and certainly in MA) and a shorter Summer, that comes with (usually, but not always) fewer days with temps 90 and above. So we do get away with less fungicide apps per year in general because of these things. But a few days with high 70s dewpoints and 90s temps can turn that all around and easily create a disease outbreak, so you have to be on guard.
Last edited by Green on Thu Oct 10, 2019 5:09 pm, edited 3 times in total.
Front: Northern mix - mostly TTTF, KBG, TTPR. Back: Firecracker and Bullseye TTTF with America, Rugby 2, Bewitched KBG. Upper Side: Mostly TTPR, KBG. Lower Side: similar to front. Low-input: TF/FF, KBG, PR. Always seeding somewhere or fighting Triv.

rtdad
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by rtdad » Thu Oct 10, 2019 5:47 pm

uts wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 10:53 am
You live in Massachusetts, switch to baystate fertilizer from milo. 15 a bag will come down to 5.

Great tip! Thanks..

rtdad
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by rtdad » Thu Oct 10, 2019 5:52 pm

Harts wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:01 pm
2 things I would consider: Pre-em and Urea.

Pre-em might be tough if you plan to over seed twice a year, but will definitely keep weeds at bay.

Urea for the Fall applications.

Both of these might be an initial upfront cost, but at 3,800 sf, they would last you years. Prodiamine likely for the rest of your life; Urea at least 5 years.

I'll look into both of these. I found this past year the worst weeds were early summer, tiny ones in the front yard that were impossible to pick all by hand and post em spray didn't work well at all.. Besides that I got weeds pretty well under control.

What's urea for?
Thanks

Virginiagal
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by Virginiagal » Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:05 pm

I see you’re trying to avoid chemicals but I think pre-emergent in the spring is so important in keeping weeds at bay. If you’re ok with pesticide for grubs, maybe you’d be ok with pre-emergent. As for grubs, unless you know you have an excess of them, Grub X is one thing you could skip.

I would skip spring overseeding. The grass won’t have time to grow enough roots before summer. There are more weeds in spring seedings. Better to seed in the fall, use pre-emergent in the spring.

Soil tests are well worth the money. If your pH is low, you can fix it with lime. But you need to know how much to add. Putting lime on without a test can create problems as you can raise the pH too much.

Fescue doesn’t create thatch. You shouldn’t need to dethatch. However, the dethatcher would be useful to prep the soil to improve seed/soil contact when you overseed.

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by uts » Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:10 pm

So, my earlier response was at work so kept it to one thing.

You have a small yard, get small batches of stuff. That way you can always get newer stuff once every few years. More products more experience.

There is a pre-emergent (prodiamine) exchange/buying thread. Look at that and get some- small quantities are easy to keep, if you dont store properly the loss is much less plus you can use different product such as dithiopyr next year.

For fertilizer like I said baystate is a great option. But before selecting a fertilizer get a soil test. That will guide your nutrient application which you may or may not need. Its 12-20 bucks so not a big expense.

For urea or AMS you will usually get the cheapest at a coop store. Usually they are 15-20 dollar per 40-50lb bag. For a small lawn I would use AMS since both are slightly difficult to disperse and you will need product to reduce chances of error(read burn)
Again a group buy with someone will help since 50lb bag is a lot. You can get some from me if you are close. I'm in central CT.

Also read the cool season guide thread. It will guide you on all of the above

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by j4c11 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 7:18 pm

I think all you really need is pre-emergent in the spring and some fertilizer. I'd go prodiamine and Lesco 24-0-11 which is 50% slow release, has some K and is decently priced. You could also consider adding some bluegrass to your lawn and possibly skipping the yearly overseed altogether.

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by LawnOrder » Thu Oct 10, 2019 7:23 pm

ScottW wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 4:19 pm
Does spring overseeding work up there, IOW does it establish in time to survive summer stress?
@ScottW - Most of Massachusetts is Zone 5 and 6; some places don't see 90º all Summer long. Spring overseeding is recommended almost universally through New England, and if you get seed down with good soil contact just before soil temperatures rise into the germination zone, the Spring rains will do the rest. By the time your first mow rolls around (as late as the first week of June here some years), you've established noncompetitive seedlings growing just a little faster than your established lawn. By the time The Season Of The Dragon (that's what we call temperatures over 75º up here) arrives in mid-July, the lawn has thickened dramatically.

Seeding in Autumn - in Zone 5 especially - is a gamble. The northern portions of New York and Massachusetts' average date of first frost is October 6th [Statistics: Cornell Extension], and in two of the past fifteen years (2006 and 2008), "Winter" has come along in October, making a quick end of anything other than snowballs germinating. Summer stress is seldom an issue in the North; early frost is the more serous concern.

http://www.nrcc.cornell.edu/services/bl ... index.html
.

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by Virginiagal » Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:04 pm

U of Massachusetts recommends overseeding August 15-Sept. 15:
https://ag.umass.edu/home-lawn-garden/f ... verseeding

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by LawnOrder » Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:35 pm

Virginiagal wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 8:04 pm
U of Massachusetts recommends overseeding August 15-Sept. 15:
https://ag.umass.edu/home-lawn-garden/f ... verseeding
Here's the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program's state-by-state chart:


Image

rtdad
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by rtdad » Fri Oct 11, 2019 7:27 am

Well this thread has been much more helpful than I imagined! Thanks all.

I like the discussion of when to seed. I overseed both spring and fall due to thin and patchy areas (due to dog, kids, me playing with kids + dog)..

Personally, spring overseeding has worked well for me but weeds pop up quickly too.

This fall I overseeded multiple times due to poor results:
Aug 11
Aug 23
Sept 6
Sept 24 - gas line run, had to seed the area they dug up

Aug 11 seemed too early, temps too hot and it was drying out within an hour or two after watering and ended up watering probably too much
Aug 23 I cut back watering to 2x / day per seed company, slightly better results but not great
Sept 6 - Changed seed and got better results
Sept 24 - seedlings within 7 days, and 2 weeks out now there's grass

So there's too many variables above but I was able to grow during any time of the year


Biggest take aways
-Soil test. should I get one now or wait until next year?

-As for grub ex, I found grubs so this was the first year I ever applied it. Half a bag remains for next spring if needed
-Fertlizer - after I use up the remaining starter fert and milo, I'm switching to Baystate and will try Lesco mentioned here
-Pre em - I'll have to research a little more before I pull the trigger. Again I'd like to avoid chemicals as much as possible but still a good tip

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by Suburban Jungle Life » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:09 am

uts wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:10 pm
There is a pre-emergent (prodiamine) exchange/buying thread. Look at that and get some- small quantities are easy to keep, if you dont store properly the loss is much less plus you can use different product such as dithiopyr next year.
I'm not sure of the benefit of switching from prodiamine to dithiopyr. They are both from the same MOA group. If you want to switch it up, I recommend considering another group for control.

uts
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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by uts » Fri Oct 11, 2019 2:23 pm

Suburban Jungle Life wrote:
Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:09 am
uts wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 6:10 pm
There is a pre-emergent (prodiamine) exchange/buying thread. Look at that and get some- small quantities are easy to keep, if you dont store properly the loss is much less plus you can use different product such as dithiopyr next year.
I'm not sure of the benefit of switching from prodiamine to dithiopyr. They are both from the same MOA group. If you want to switch it up, I recommend considering another group for control.
I dont think there is a big difference in coverage but difference in application rates, timing, application itself (staining vs not), form of product.

Everybody has a preference of what they like so no harm in trying different things. :)

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Re: Low cost lawn care, minimal chemicals

Post by Factor » Fri Oct 11, 2019 3:40 pm

Well this thread has been much more helpful than I imagined! Thanks all.
It is why we are here... keep it coming..
Soil test. should I get one now or wait until next year
every 5 years minimum. I won't hurt to do it more often. I would do it in the spring. Again it just money and testing..
As for grub ex, I found grubs so this was the first year I ever applied it. Half a bag remains for next spring if needed
In the spring get Pheromone traps as well. Breaks the life cycle more. also traps the one that are active.
Pre em - I'll have to research a little more before I pull the trigger. Again I'd like to avoid chemicals as much as possible but still a good tip
if you can tolerate weeds some it's all good.

Glad to help.
Thanks,
Factor
Just a regular guy from Tennessee.
Tier 2. It just grass... it's not a hobby for me.

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