Thursday, September 4, 2008

More Photos!

Once again, on my Flickr page.

Things are doing very well (after 72,000 gallons of water this summer, they should be).

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Soybean and Milorganite

I've actually applied two doses of soybean meal this month for a total of 28.6 pounds per thousand square feet. Today I'll add a bit of Milorganite just to diversify the mix a little bit.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More Photos!

Trying to copy images into Blogger is a bit of a hassle, so here's the link to my Flickr page...

Enjoy! The density and color of the lawn are excellent (I think the Nature's Magic is helping a lot) and the gardens are bursting with flowers. We're starting to come into grass' fall season, and I'm looking forward to seeing what it does.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Back Line Revision

I've replanted the back line with 2 pounds per thousand of Galaxy blend (1/3 Midnight II, 1/3 Moonlight, 1/3 Prosperity). I also added 30 lbs per thousand of soybean meal, 10 lbs of corn meal, and 10 of alfalfa. Hopefully that'll hold it until well after sprout when I can walk on it again...

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lime and Death

I added 10 lbs per thousand square feet of lime--mostly for calcium and magnesium . There's no visible change and won't be, really, as I already know both are within reasonable range. I just want to make sure they don't drop out of that. Photos soon!

The "landscapers" (believe me, I use the term loosely. Hence the scare quotes) had "worked" on the back line and "seeded" in new grass. If you consider annual rye new grass, which I don't. I just hit that with Round-Up last week, preparatory to thinking about planting next week when I'm on vacation. The area is 100 feet long by about ten wide, so I can easily cover that with two strip sprays I have left over, plus a few small garden sprinklers.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Watering Reconfiguration

I'll post this separately as it's a very different topic. I spent some time reconfiguring my north face's watering and I'm thrilled with the results.

Prior to this, I was using Hunter PGJ sprinklers. Don't get me wrong, they worked and fairly well. However, the pressure on that face is a bit low, so I replaced them with MP Rotators (three 3000 and two 2000). Those function well at lower pressures and have improved the watering immeasurably. They're even close enough on the precipitation rates that I have no qualms about mixing them with the Hunter PGP.

They even used slightly less water, bringing the pressure up a bit!

I also added an EZ Flo hose-end system to the drip system in the back garden. That's working beautifully as well, and I no longer have to feed by hand. Next year I may add one to the front as well.

It's rare, but here are two products I can recommend: the EZ Flo fertilization system, and the MP Rotator 2000 and 3000. One mention is that it's best to use either a liquid fertilizer or a solid that dissolves well (Miracle Gro works fine) in the EZ Flo. My Maxicrop seaweed solid fertilizer clogged it a bit and I had to do a bit of cleaning. At least that's very easy to do.

More Milorganite

Today was July's second feeding with 2 bags of Milorganite (a grand total of around 0.5 pounds of nitrogen again, so 1 pound total for July). Note to most people reading this: don't feed that heavily. I'm bringing in a first year bluegrass lawn and it's very hungry. For most of you, half that would be fine on any northern lawn. Southerners with Bermuda need to ignore me and feed very heavily during summer.

After this, it's back to soybean meal until October when it's getting too cold for that.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

More Images

It hasn't been quite a month since the image update, but the grass has changed since then. The Nature's Magic is definitely influencing the color (and I only put it down a week ago), plus the rain we're getting is helping a lot. I dodged out during one of our rare sunny periods this morning and took the following photos.

For reference, here are the dead areas of Poa annua on May 7th:

And here's the same area today (I'm standing perhaps 2 feet in front of where I was...sorry!)

Here's the side yard, with a bit of sunburn:

And here's the back gardens (the color of the grass is not that dark--it oversaturated a bit):

Organic Interdependence Day

Yes, I did just make that up. Deal. :-)

As of yesterday, I dropped 72 pounds of Milorganite (about 10 lbs per thousand square feet) on the lawn. I'd already done the gardens at 18 per thousand the week before.

At the same time last week, I sprayed the lawn and gardens with Nature's Magic. It's composed of about half humic acid, half kelp extract. I think it improved the color a bit, and it does seem to be helping the soil to retain even more water.

It wouldn't be something I'd recommend to people with an established lawn, but mine is first year and still feeding very heavily. The color is still improving slowly, and I couldn't be happier with the density. I'll take photos once it stops pouring...which may be this week. Maybe.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

I Am Duly Admonished

Mr. Parafly noted that I haven't posted photos in forever. As you wish. They're always available on my Flickr page, but I'll post the ones I took today one from May.

May's shot shows the holes where I killed out the Poa annua, leaving ginormous holes...

Here's the shot from today, showing the closing holes:

The color looks a little odd because I took this photo in the morning. It always increases the yellow tone in the green.

This is the semi-standard front yard shot:

And here's the back gardens:

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Thuja Are In

All four Emerald Thuja have been planted (they're all of a foot tall!) The tulip tree is also here, and that went in at the same time. I'm still waiting for the lilac, but they're supposed to be off backorder shortly.

Of course, the temperature just reached 90° F. Fortunately, these are so small and have such large root masses that keeping them damp is easy.

The builder decided to regrade the swale behind the house late last week. Right now, 11' x 110' of the property is torn up. Since they also removed Myrtle's wire, they'll be replacing that. I trust it's in the correct place (I called them, so it should be). Otherwise I fully intend to complain to the township.

I'll reseed that in fall once the weather breaks. It's right at the back line of the house, so although it looks awful at least it isn't in the middle of anything important.

They decided to seed the front easement as well in the small holes where the lawn is filling in. I think they used contractor seed (I can see rye in it), so I'll make sure that fails. Fortunately, during the summer that's extremely easy.

I fed the lawn this weekend with 40 lbs of soybean meal (the bag is fifty, but I had the setting a bit low. It was so hot I didn't want to go over it a second time). That works out to about 0.4 lbs N, 0.06 P, 0.11 K, and around 5 lbs of organics per thousand square feet.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Myrtle's Home!

The Robomower 850 (named Myrtle) got here on Friday and it wasn't that expensive to repair. She's now done all three zones twice.

It's been a while since I blogged, but I've been busy. Six bags of Milorganite went down in May, plus setting up all the gardens (around 800 annuals), and keeping everything weeded.

I finally decided to close out the back line a little better, so I ordered 4 Emerald Thuja for there. That should compliment the 2 butterfly bushes and 3 lilacs very nicely, and they don't invade too badly.

The crepe myrtle (named Suzette...the name Myrtle already being taken by the mower) isn't doing well. That went into a pot, and I ordered a tulip cedar (actually, that's a magnolia) for that spot. Since they're native to Pennsylvania, that should do fine.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Robomower 850 Update

Well, at least Probotics in Glenside, PA is really interested in helping their customers. They offer a shipping box to keep the ship-size from going over into the oversized rates, and gave me a very reasonable quote on the broken item. It's beyond my ability to repair, so they'll be the ones to fix it.

If their service is this good, when I upgrade (probably to a Lawnbott Evolution eventually) it'll be their sale.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Robomower 850 Issues

I have a three year old Robomower 850 (one of those robotic lawnmowers) that has just stripped its gears. I did manage to replace that, but of course now the system won't power up.

Three years for something to break is not a good average. I'm now mowing the lawn with a reel mower.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Unusual Frost

I've been spending plenty of time putting in my annuals for the last few days. Right now, I have most of 5 gardens done out of 9 total, with two of the heavy-hitters done already. There are still two larger gardens to go, but at least the other two are considerably smaller.

Naturally, we went under a frost warning last night and this. I picked up a neat trick some years ago, although I don't remember where. Something's telling me that it was from Watch Your Garden Grow on NBC in the morning, but I could be wrong.

Regardless. I set my watering system to water for 3 minutes at 2 AM, 4 AM, and 6 AM. The water is fifty degrees, which is more than enough to warm the leaves, and water takes a long time to lose heat. As it freezes, it releases even more heat, limiting the damage to the plants.

If you don't have a watering system, water heavily before the sun goes down. That will carry some of the heat up top down below, plus inject enough water to get you through until morning. Of course, if temperatures dip well below freezing, nothing will work. For very delicate plants, it may not work, and in windy conditions it dries off fast and may cause more issues than it solves.

If you're reading this on a frosty night and the sun's already down, water anyway. It'll still help.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poa Annua and Feeding

When it rains, it pours. The triv died out, but I got a massive incursion of annua from last fall's reseeding. I had to wipe that out with Round Up, so I now have tons of little dead areas in the lawn. Fortunately, May is spreading month for Kentucky Bluegrass, so they should fill in fairly well.

The lawn, where it isn't in a dead spot, is a beautiful dark green. I'm hesitant to photograph it because the dead spots make it look terrible. Well, maybe this weekend I will.

I just applied 150 pounds of soybean meal, or just over 20 per thousand square feet. That's about 1.5 pounds of nitrogen per thousand, 0.2 of phosphorus, and 0.4 of potassium.

The gardens are coming back nicely and I put the cannas in last weekend. It's a little early, but the coldest weather we have on the docket for the next two weeks is 40 degrees.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Soybean Meal

Today was the first application of soybean meal, but just a little snack for the lawn. I put down 50 lbs, or about 7 lbs per thousand square feet. It's supposed to rain this weekend, so I jumped the gun a little bit.

The remainder won't go down for 2 weeks so it's available during May.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Poa Trivialis and Confessions of an Organicist

I have a moderate incursion of Poa trivialis (okay, it could be P. annua but I'm not inclined to do a precise's one or the other). And I just broke down and spot-sprayed all of it with Certainty herbicide.

So much for 100% organic this year. However, if I let that go it'll beat up on my new grass. That's not acceptable.

No, I'm not taking photos. The lime green incursion into the darkening lawn is awful.

Saturday, April 5, 2008


The grass is starting to come back, but it hasn't grown through the dead layer yet in most places. At least the patches where it has are growing larger. Given the on again, off again weather, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised.

This month's fertilization is 140 pounds of Milorganite (the other 20 went into the gardens), so about 20 lbs per thousand square feet of grass. I'm calling it 1.2 lbs of organic nitrogen, 0.4 lbs phosphorous, and no potassium. There's an additional 0.8 lbs of iron in there as well.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Inflation Stinks

My parents went to Albright's Mill in Kempton today for their soybean meal and picked up seven 50-lb bags for me at the same time. This year's price was $13.25, up from $9.80 last year.

For those of you keeping track at home, that's a 35% increase. In one year.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Maintenance

The weather is still warming but not exactly what I'd call springlike yet. I replanted two Black Knight butterfly bushes that had frost-heaved out this month, plus applied 39 and a bit more pounds of Milorganite to the lawn to keep that from smelling up the garage.

The grass is coming back, but it hasn't yet grown over the old, dead blades from last year. It won't be long before it does that, however.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The weather is holding around 50° during the day, so the grass is just starting to awaken (about two weeks earlier than last year). I haven't bothered with a photo just yet--you do have to look very closely to see the change.

It appears that the Bedazzled is back the earliest, with the Midnight II and Moonlight lagging somewhat behind.

For Posterity's sake, I'll mention that the crocus are well up but not yet budding, the jonquil are well underway, the daffodil are started, and the tulips just breaking ground. Those are also well ahead of schedule.

Here's hoping we don't get a long icy period.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kelp Meal

The first fifty pounds of kelp meal went down today. I'll schedule the next fifty for next month some time or a bit later, depending on how the grass looks.

All things considered, at around 1-0-2, I added almost no nutrients. The primary use of kelp is for organic material in the lawn and to add a wide variety of trace elements.

The stuff stinks. I smell a bit like a rotted shrimp. I did wash thoroughly with a perfumed soap, so I now smell like a rotted shrimp...wearing perfume. The next time I do this I'll change clothes immediately.

Monday, March 3, 2008

A March Reference Photo

Here's a quick reference photo of what the lawn looks like right now. Or, not very good all things considered, but not bad for early March. Most of the top dead material will fall through and disappear into the grass as it re-grows.


As always, click to embiggen. :-)

Sunday, March 2, 2008

An Online Question

One of my readers writes:

Q: Sodfather, hello from Northern Virginia. I did a total front yard restoration last fall. I removed the sod with a sod cutter, did a little tilling of the soil and then brought in several yards of top soil. I seeded with pure Midnight. I have full sun in the day and an irrigation system. The grass took 4 weeks to come up but stopped growing around November. My question would be; do you recommend overseeding now? I am about to purchase more seed. Should I buy some Bedazzled or stick with the midnight? What are your recommendations for feeding and when? I feel the grass needs to be thicker and understand KBG will fill in but I want to give it a jump start.

A: I'm not an expert in northern Virginia, but it's probably close enough for me to wing it. My restoration was last year, too, about the same time and mine stopped growing in mid-November.

You can overseed now if you like, although spring seeding always takes more poorly than fall does. Adding another cultivar would add more resiliency in case of disease or insect problems, but you'll find that Midnight is a pretty hardy grass to begin with and doesn't have too many issues.

Bedazzled is excellent, but you'll find it's a slightly lighter green. If you're looking to add a high note of color in the lawn, it's perfect. If you want a darker color, try Moonlight.

Feeding is the most important part (well, proper watering and mowing are actually more imporant, but I'm assuming you're somewhere in that range). For an organic feeding, feed at any time between now and May. For synthetics like Scott's, hold off until May. Spring grasses grow roots more than blades, so you want to encourage that. High nitrogen feeds force the growth up top. Organics, which are much more balanced, tend not to.

I just dumped 15 lbs per thousand square feet of alfalfa (mostly) meal on the lawn, and I'll feed with 12 lbs per thousand of kelp meal yet this month (which has very little NPK, but a lot of minor elements).

The First Feed

I did see the question in comments and I'll answer it shortly--I got a bit sidetracked today.

First feeding of the lawn was this morning, on top of a quarter inch of snow (which melted by noon). I used 110 lbs of Mazuri chinchilla food which is primarily alfalfa. Unfortunately, alfalfa pellets are difficult to get around here.

All things considered, it's around 15 lbs per thousand square feet, or around 0.3 lbs of nitrogen. That should be just enough to get the grass started when it comes back.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Organic Feeding...When?

Q: When should I put down the first feeding, and what should I use?

A: Around here, no earlier than March first (or, about three weeks before you expect the lawn to start awakening). My first feeding is around 15 pounds of alfalfa (OK, gerbil food from the local pet supply house) meal per thousand square feet, for a minimal feeding. The gerbil food is around 2.5% nitrogen, 0.5% phosphorous, 1.5% potassium, so it's a fairly weak feeding. That's correct for March.

Adding too much nitrogen to a cool-season lawn early in the season is a very bad idea (I covered that in the crabgrass post just below). This is a gentle boost to carry me over until I feed more heavily later on.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Question on Pre-Emergents for Crabgrass

Spring is only four weeks away--you can tell because the grass questions are starting. Here's one I'll blog about. If I actually ever get another visitor, please feel free to post questions in the comments. I'll answer what I can.

Q: When should I apply crabgrass pre-emergent to my lawn? (courtesy of a lawn junkie at work)

A: In the northeast, apply it when the forsythia bloom or when the ground temperature passes 50° and rising. This soil map will give you a more exact answer, but following the bloom is close enough.

Grass doesn't want to eat breakfast quite that early, so a crabgrass pre-emergent without a feeding is best. Feed your lawn in mid-May (for Scott's-type fast release fertilizers) for better results. Delaying the feeding encourages the roots to grow and minimizes top growth. Feeding it grows the top (green) part of the lawn at the expense of the roots.

You can use any pre-emergent you want, or none at all. I tend to find them not very effective, but other people have reported that they do help.

A Visitor!

Ok, the first seven on the counter below were me, I admit it. #8 is not. Thanks for stopping by! Your contribution has taken me from an F-list blogger to...well, an F+ list blogger.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Warmer Spell

The temperatures are holding in the fifties, even at 7 PM. The grass is greening up a bit, although at least the garden refuse is rotting in faster than expected. The projected low on Sunday night is now 13°.

You just have to love irregular climates.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Taking Down the Gardens

Yes, most people do it in November but I tend to leave at least some of the more elegant plants up until February or so. I used the string trimmer today to cut them down.

Over the next six weeks, the bits and pieces should decay away nicely, enriching the soil and preparing the gardens for spring.

January Overseeding

I dormant seeded on January 12 when our warmer period ended. I've included a reference photo from October here--the best of the best, but can you blame me?

For this seeding, I couldn't get my standard mix (Midnight II, Bedazzled, and Moonlight), so I used a different blend (Midnight II, Moonlight, and Prosperity). It should be a hair darker, but not noticeable.

I hope this fills in the area on the western face where the fall seeding didn't take. I was careful to spread some across the entire lawn as well, so any color difference should be minimal.