All Things Gardening forum: And the BROWN grass 'grows' all around, all around...

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Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
May 17, 2016 7:41 PM CST
I'm having difficulty trying to figure out what to do with my yard and in what order to do it. I want to ask for advice from the company we used for core aeration last year, but I don't want them to give me whatever answer means the most services/money from them, I want to know what my yard actually needs. (I don't have any particular reason to distrust them, but not enough experience with them to trust them implicitly, either.)

Details:

Current conditions:
Heavily compacted, clay soil with new, lush sod installed on it about three-ish years ago. Yard was deteriorating and had a lot of thatch last year, but wasn't as brown as it is this year. Last year we lightly seeded (mid-summer) and core aerated, once, later in the season. Front yard was 'treated' with milorganite early April this year (not sure if that impacted it or not). Yard is still fairly brown except in the back of the house, presumably because that's where the dogs poo, but I'm also wondering if our grass prefers the shade our house based on the area where the grass is growing best out back. (Coincidence?) I have no idea what type of grass/sod was installed right after our home was built, so I don't know with certainty if it's a shade-loving, sun-loving, or mixture of grasses. Some areas of our lawn are sparsely grassed--no 'holes', just some areas that have very, very short grass that is sparse...you would think it was too sun-baked except that area was often saturated with water after rains last year and this year...maybe poor air circulation to the grass roots? And maybe too much evaporation on hot summer days?

Considerations I've had:
Core aeration
compost/topsoil mix added across entire yard and overseeded
miloorganite (organic fertilizer)
maneur (too risky to humans pets? might burn grass?)
de-thatching


What would you recommend? Please only answer if you are well-qualified in this topic. Not to offend anyone, but I don't want to waste time/money on guesses, I need to get this fixed ASAP. (If you don't know the answer, but know what I should do to get an unbiased answer, that would be helpful, too!) If you suggest multiple solutions from the above list (or have your own solutions not listed above), please let me know what order I should do it in to be most effective. (For instance, if I should do core aeration and overseeding, which one should I do first and on what schedule....a day apart?...two months apart?....)

NOTE: I am only interested in organic non-'chemical' products...I like to do things in as eco-friendly of a way as possible, so remedies such as 'weed n' feed' are not an option.


THANK YOU for anyone that can help, this is a real problem this year and I'm so sad that our lush, gorgeous lawn has come to this!


Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/552716 Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/8bf5ea Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/b6f083 Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/b7c54f
(The last picture is of the 'sparsely grassed' area...I think the other three are from the front yard or less-sparse areas of the backyard.)

A couple more pictures:


Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/572fec Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/e51d57 Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/b255d4 Thumb of 2016-05-18/DogsNDaylilies/cb3992
As you can see, not ALL of the areas of the yard are brown...a couple of these pictures show where there is some lusher, greener areas. (We have irrigation all over our yard, not just in the areas where the green grass is showing.) The two pictures showing greener grass are in the shadier/poopier area of our backyard. All photos are taken right after the lawn was mowed (although that didn't impact the short grass...they were too short to get cut.)
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
May 17, 2016 8:17 PM CST
Oh, and if anyone wants to also suggest what sort of grass seed we should use for southeast Michigan, please feel free to do so! Most of the yard gets full sun; there is very little shade in my yard, so I'm looking for the best sun-loving grass for this area, I suppose. (I planned to research this on my own, but if you could save me the time, that would be really appreciated.)
Name: Kabby
Lowndesboro, AL (Zone 8a)
Region: United States of America Region: Alabama Plant and/or Seed Trader Dog Lover Birds Hummingbirder
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Kabby
May 19, 2016 3:30 PM CST
DND have you considered chinch bug damage?
Name: Dnd
SE Michigan (Zone 6a)
Dog Lover Daylilies Organic Gardener Houseplants Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Garden Ideas: Level 1
I helped beta test the first seed swap
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DogsNDaylilies
May 19, 2016 4:48 PM CST
I've never heard of that, what is it?
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
May 19, 2016 4:55 PM CST
DND - if you decide to overseed, wait until mid-Aug to mid-Sep. Cool season grasses (what we normally see in the midwest) can't establish roots fast enough to survive the hot, sometimes-dry summers. I'm not a fan of Milorganite (who knows what's in human waste?) but, if you can find it, Ringers Lawn Restore is a good one to use. I wonder how compact the clay was when they put down the sod and if it was dry, rock-hard.
Name: Kabby
Lowndesboro, AL (Zone 8a)
Region: United States of America Region: Alabama Plant and/or Seed Trader Dog Lover Birds Hummingbirder
Butterflies Tropicals Bulbs Lilies Daylilies Garden Procrastinator
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Kabby
May 19, 2016 5:43 PM CST
You might be too far north, not sure, but it's a lawn destroying bug. I can't link, I'm on a Kindle but do a Google search for them.
Name: Amanda
KC metro area, Missouri (Zone 6a)
Region: Missouri Cat Lover Dog Lover
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pepper23
May 19, 2016 5:47 PM CST
If you're using milorganite I also recommend using Revive with it. You put the milorganite down first then spray over it with the Revive. It really helps with the grass.

http://www.revive.com/how-revive-works
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Shadegardener
May 20, 2016 7:24 AM CST
pepper - Revive looks like an interesting product. It's based on poultry waste? We've been using only chicken poo on our lawn for the past couple of years and we've had great results. Sadly, our preferred fertilizer isn't currently available due to avian flu outbreaks.
Name: Sue
Ontario, Canada (Zone 4a)
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sooby
May 20, 2016 4:36 PM CST
Kabby said:You might be too far north, not sure, but it's a lawn destroying bug. I can't link, I'm on a Kindle but do a Google search for them.


Chinch bugs occur here in Ontario so I would think they're probably also in Michigan but it's too early in the season for damage here. Some ways of testing for them:

http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/facts/08-019.htm#t...

It would really help to know what grass/es are present and at what height the grass is mowed. Have you thought of contacting your Extension service for local advice?

Edited to add, if you want to try and figure out what grasses you have, this may help:
http://buckeyeturf.osu.edu/pdf/01_turfgrass_identification.p...
[Last edited by sooby - May 20, 2016 5:14 PM (+)]
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Name: Rick Corey
Everett WA 98204 (Zone 8a)
Sunset Zone 5. Koppen Csb. Eco 2f
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RickCorey
Jun 7, 2016 6:31 PM CST
>> Heavily compacted, clay soil with new, lush sod installed on it about three-ish years ago.

That is a little bit like installing sod over concrete. It may live, but would have preferred to have had some soil.

I don't know enough to say what the fastest or most efficient thing to help is. If there is a bug or disease infestation, identifying and fixing that might be top priority. Sending a photo to your local extension service would be sure to get an expert answer.

BUT ...

Starting with clay, you won't have ANY soil until you add enough organic matter to feed enough soil organisms to make soil from clay. Top-dressing is probably the only way to add it (or thick compost tea). If it is just UN-composted leaves, at least shred them first and scatter thinly, but repeat. Mow them in. I don't know whether it is possible to sheet-compost over sod. I would guess "not possible, that kills the grass".

Maybe sod doesn't need soil, but if it does, your clay needs compost. Or any organic matter that will decompose and feed the microbes and worms and so on.
Name: Brenden Reinhart
Flushing Michigan (Zone 6b)
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bhart90
Jun 7, 2016 7:39 PM CST
DogsNDaylilies said:Oh, and if anyone wants to also suggest what sort of grass seed we should use for southeast Michigan, please feel free to do so! Most of the yard gets full sun; there is very little shade in my yard, so I'm looking for the best sun-loving grass for this area, I suppose. (I planned to research this on my own, but if you could save me the time, that would be really appreciated.)


Before I saw your location, by the looks I knew it was our lovely state... I'm ALL EARS TOO
Brenden

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