deven_webster

Lawn extra thirsty

Deven Webster
11 months ago
last modified: 11 months ago

I live in the treasure valley area of Idaho I’m trying to follow the deep In frequent watering schedule as recommended. Ideally watering twice a week and going at least 3 straight days without watering. I seem to be struggling. After just 2 days of not running the sprinklers the lawn shows signs of drought. I follow scotts fertilizing schedule rigorously and believe I’m doing fine there. I have a drop spreader, it’s kind of hard to mess the application rate with those.


My front lawn does marvelously well on an infrequent water schedule but it’s a lot smaller and easier to manage. I admittedly have a small poa annua invasion I’ve been battling all year, is this the poa Annua mixed in that is looking bad? Should I ignore the drought signs and water according to schedule? My lawn soul wants to run the sprinklers for 30 minutes the following morning every time I see it in drought but maybe that’s the issue and I’m only helping the poa annua’s thirst? i do live in the high desert is my goal unachievable in such a large lawn exposed to high desert sun all day? Am I assuming it’s drought stress? The lawn and home is a year old. Also I keep it at 3 inches.










Comments (26)

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago


    Front yard looks great all the time never shows signs of drought.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    "I follow scotts fertilizing schedule rigorously and believe I’m doing fine there."


    Mistake one, I'm afraid. Proper fertilization is Memorial Day, Labor Day, October first, and when the last mow of the season is done and the lawn stops growing. Scotts schedules it out so their executives can make their boat payments and your lawn dies regularly and they can also sell you seed and soil to repair your lawn when that happens.

    Never fertilize in summer; it wears the lawn down, nor in early or mid-spring, it taps the roots of their carbohydrates and fires the energy into excessive top growth (which is happening anyway and doesn't need to be further accelerated). Feed it when the growth slows so the nitrogen goes toward food storage for summer when the weather turns, then let it nap during summer when the weather is hot.

    Otherwise, the spots that are drying out do look like something...not normal. I'll take your word that they're P. annua, but that's certainly possible. Post-blasting, they're not really recognizable. :-)

    The rest of the lawn looks good, so I'd let the spots blast out and go with deeper, infrequent watering in the back as well. For a year-old lawn in the desert, however, deep and infrequent might be every 2 to 3 days this year, however, as the roots deepen.

    That will increase over the years, but you won't change the fact that you're in the desert. Fortunately, fungus risk is fairly low due to your lower humidity and harsher sunlight. Water in the mornings and arrange to give the lawn 1 inch of water per week total, watering such that the soil is always wet to below the existing root depths (we want the roots to be reaching for water, not dry at the base, or they'll tend to be dropping roots).


    One thing you might do is have the soil tested through Logan Labs. Any soil shortages that are limiting the lawn will show up, you can fix them, and that will also make sure the lawn can develop properly. Desert soils are probably also going to be sandy soils, which tends to also mean soils that aren't going to hold a lot of resources.

    Deven Webster thanked morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
  • Related Discussions

    Rethinking an acre of lawn

    Q

    Comments (9)
    Do what golf courses do: establish a "greens" and a "rough". The "greens" would be a small groomed play and relaxation area nearest the house, a good turf grass of the low water kind. Some of the new mixes and hybrids are very unthirsty when established. Look into seeding the semi-domesticated native grasses: Buffalo Grass and Blue Grama Grass, bluestem, or a good local pasture mix for the rough and pasturing areas. A small patch of "Hachita" variety of blue grama has been growing in my front yard in Phoenix on zero care - I scattered the seeds as an experiment. It's getting roof runoff and that's all. I have UC Verde buffalo grass in back, but it's a sterile variety and has to be plugged ... $$$$$ for your acre. Seeds would be affordable. Different varieties of Buffalo and Grama are available from seed: Hachita is short (maybe 6-9 inches, unmowed) and others range up to knee-high. Buffalo grass gets 9-12 inches tall, unmowed. Blue Grama has cute seed heads ... little pennants along the stem that curl and look like eyelashes when it's ripe. One way to easily do the conversion is to mow the existing grass short in the "rough" area, scatter the new grass seeds in the fall, rake them in, and let them do what they do. They'll soak up the winter rains, maybe some will germinate that fall, some in the spring, maybe some the next fall. If you don't supplement the water for the old lawn grass, it should be out-competed by the natives and slowly die out.
    ...See More

    Need help to make my front lawn beautiful again.

    Q

    Comments (6)
    Looks like Chicago to me. After cleaning it out, and grading, I would plant a "screen" along the fence of arborvitae. (You don't really want to look at the parking lot.) Depending on the sun consider a drawn flowering shrub along the house.
    ...See More

    Landscape Architect Designs for the Drought

    Q

    Comments (0)
    While landscape architect Sally Farnum of SE Farnum Associates has been taking the time to educate her clients about how to deal with their outdated, thirsty landscapes—especially rolling, green lawns—she has designed and implemented an outside environment for her own home that is water-considerate and still lush, inviting and peaceful. Check out the Before and After of this work in progress. See the rest of the story here: http://www.eyeofthedaygdc.com/2015/06/a-landscape-architect-designs-for-the-drought/ http://www.eyeofthedaygdc.com/2015/06/a-landscape-architect-designs-for-the-drought/ Water-thirsty lawn Flower beds that require a lot of water also get removed. Introducing water wise plantings as an alternative The key hole design gets drought-friendly plants along the perimeter.
    ...See More

    Our Front Lawn

    Q

    Comments (6)
    Can you add the extra feet for the garage to the back of your house? I really like the facade it has now. If you bring the garage forward then your entry will be in a recess. Have you seen a mock up of how that would look?As to the new path to the door, you need a landscape architect. You are a very fortunate person. Not only do you get to live in Vancouver, you also own that beautiful house. When you landscape you will be growing a lot of perennials. I found a picture to show you what I mean.I do not approve of growing trees that close to a house. It is the rest of the garden I want you to notice. You will be growing different plants of course. When you get the landscape design it will have how to do the new "lawn" area. A landscape is meant to enhance the view of your house and designer or LA will know ways to make your new recess attractive.
    ...See More
  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago

    You hit the nail on the head. I fertilized quite a bit during times I shouldn’t have. Scotts is currently recommending I through down summer guard and I’m thinking uhh no..

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    Uhh...no. :-) Doing that will cause water issues, as well as set off growth during a period when the grass simply wants to drowse in the summer heat.

    Not that you should really use that anyway. Most insects are helpful and shouldn't be killed. That stuff destroys the microherd in your lawn, which is trying to keep the soil balanced. Again, you get to buy seed to rebuild the lawn for the damage you just did.

    Don't use fungicides, herbicides or insecticides unless you have a specific issue.

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago

    One thing, I thought fertilizing in early spring was the best time due to cooler temperatures. i thought the rule of thumb anytime it’s “thriving or growing“ you can fertilize it. KGB mix would be early to mid spring and early to mid fall.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    Unfortunately, no. In early spring, the grass is tapping the carbohydrates from its roots to go into rapid growth. Adding nitrogen increases that--and increases the tap of carbs from the roots. Bad move on the grass' part, but it doesn't understand that, being a plant.

    You'll get beautiful growth, but it's at the expense of tapping out everything from the root systems.

    Deny it nitrogen at that point and force it onto a bit of a lean diet, then feed it later on when growth slows severely (around Memorial Day)--at that point, it's starting to store carbohydrates to survive summer, and will use that energy to store yet more energy to survive better.

    We're trying to work with the grass' natural systems instead of against them. Scotts, unfortunately, tends to work against them because they then get to sell more stuff to fix the problems they caused. Or, as you can tell, I'm not a fan...

    For the same reason, all of fall is spent storing energy to survive winter. Feed liberally then to increase carbohydrates. The bonus there is that growth is also good through fall, so the grass always looks great.

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago
    last modified: 11 months ago

    I read some more and it seems iron is okay to use at any point during the growing season. Organic low percent iron like ironite. I have some hi yield iron sulfate in the garage I need to get rid of it. Would this be okay to use? The reason I ask is because I believe hi yield iron sulfate is a faster release with a lot more iron. I believe ironite is 1% iron and the other is 11%. Or am I wrong and is iron going to make the lawn worse. Ive only applied iron once in the lawns lifetime so maybe that’s what it’s lacking?


    is it my understanding that as long as it’s organic and phosphate free just About any organic lawn food should work right? Thanks for all your help.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    It does depend. I'd hold spray iron during the summer because it can burn in hotter temperatures. Soil iron can go, but without a soil test we have no idea if you need it, or if your soil can use it. It never does any damage, but there are cases where it's not needed (my soil would be one of very many cases where soil iron in summer would be useless).

    From what I can see, iron isn't deficient on the lawn, but only a soil test could tell us that. Regardless of what it ends up saying, it's not going to be the limiting factor, let's just say that.

    For Lawns With Issues (P. annua not necessarily being an issue), feeding in summer is a definite no-no. Yours really isn't that case, so if you absolutely demanded that you wanted to use cracked corn or corn meal, I'd be OK with that.

    Anything heftier isn't something I ever recommend during summer. Corn is all of 1.65-065-0.4 in terms of a fertilizer, so if in a bag, it would have to be listed as a 1-0-0. It's more of an organic addition than anything else and will mostly feed the worms, bacteria, and helpful fungi.

    All that being said, I have the best lawn in the county and I still simply keep my hands off it from May through late August.

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago

    I’m probably doing too much. I haven’t dethatched or overseeded at all. i tested an inconspicuous area and the iron sulfate was definitely too much. I bought a bag of ironite on standby and I’m ordering a soil tester. Any tester you recommend??

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    Cancel the order. Send soil off to Logan Labs. Home testing sucks. Even if you get a good answer, that answer means absolutely nothing anyway because it simply doesn't give you enough pieces of the puzzle to give a complete answer.

    pH, for example, is completely useless. It says nothing about calcium, potassium, and magnesium balances that comprise it. Therefore, low or high, you have no idea what to do about it (if anything). Whereas Logan will specify exactly what's going on.

    Dethatching may or may not be necessary. Up to a quarter inch, ignore it. It's actually helpful and protects the crown of the grass. To a half, it's questionable. Over that, a dethatch may be required, although it can be done without a dethatching machine (simply step up organic additions and let nature do it). I have Kentucky bluegrass, the second-thatchiest grass, and haven't dethatched...well, ever. There's no need.

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago
    last modified: 11 months ago

    i let my inner lawn spirit wing it and threw down some ironite 3 days ago and I’m noticing a vast improvement. I also used liquid lawn aerator/surfactant down. Although still thirstier than I would like it’s greening up much better. I’ve learned a lot from you to help me do some independent research. I was fertilizing way too much and completely misunderstood the proper way to fertilize until you helped me understand it better. I thoroughly appreciate you. I also treated for grubs with spectracide (bag of granular treats up to 25,000 sq ft for under 15$) I plan to spray down spectracide weed killer today the one that kills 470 varieties of weeds my neighbor doesn’t have a yard just very tall and unique weeds and I’m sure the wind is constantly blowing those weeds in my yard hence my poa annua struggle for the year. For watering only 2 times a week I can’t complain too much, we haven’t had a day under 90 degrees in over a week and our days are quite long this time of year.



  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    It looks great! As long as the weather is holding or you're irrigating enough, the ironite won't do damage, the lawn just doesn't need the feeding right now. It's not really a mistake, per se.

    Try this again on October first, though. The iron...does amazing things in fall when the weather is cooler, the grass wants to absorb as much sunlight as it can, and is trying to create as much chlorophyll as possible to do that. Plus growth is slowing for winter so the color will stay around a very long time.


    "I also treated for grubs with spectracide (bag of granular treats up to 25,000 sq ft for under 15$)"


    That one was a mistake again, I'm afraid. :-) Grubs are mostly Japanese beetles (European chafer are possible but unlikely). Unless you know you have a problem, don't bother. And Japanese beetles aren't in grub form right now, they're flying around. Grubs are in the soil in early September, and the correct time for a grub killer like GrubEx was May as it takes forever to work into the soil.

    Fast killers are long gone by that time. Slow killers don't have time to work in. Fast killers just killed a lot of bugs that were doing good things in the lawn, like aerating your soil and eating the thatch.

    I use a slow killer in May (GrubEx) because they're well-targeted and don't kill too many incidental species. I do have Japanese beetle problems consistently.


    "I plan to spray down spectracide weed killer today the one that kills 470 varieties of weeds my neighbor doesn’t have a yard just very tall and unique weeds and I’m sure the wind is constantly blowing those weeds in my yard hence my poa annua struggle for the year."

    You can skip it. I don't see much evidence of weeds in your lawn, and the P. annua has no susceptibility to Spectracide Weed Killer or most other OTC stuff. What few you have can be spot-sprayed as needed. Blanket-spraying this kind of thing is another activity we don't approve of--you'll be damaging plants that don't need to have herbicide sprayed all over them. :-)


    Good news, though. P. annua that's green responds to being sprayed with Tenacity. It's not cheap. Get a 1 gallon sprayer, mix it up per instructions (you'll also need spreader sticker). Spot-spray annua in late May or early June just before it gets really hot and dry. Let the stuff get really hot and dry, which it hates. The combination of stresses will slowly kill it over time.

    Surviving patches can be sprayed again. And again before winter hits, which will, again, weaken them just before it gets cold and there's no sunlight.

    Oversprayed grasses may turn slightly white, but they'll recover.


    To protect the rest of your lawn, use a pre-emergent (pre-em) in August that lasts at least 60 days. You won't be able to overseed your lawn that year unless you use Tenacity itself as the pre-emergent, but the P. annua and P. trivialis won't be able to sprout, either. I use Prodiamine, a 9 month protection layer. Others prefer Dimension, 3 to 5 month layers.

  • dchall_san_antonio
    11 months ago

    Deven, you are doing great here. Specifically, you're running a stream of consciousness on your lawn plans, rather than lawn activities. Too often people write in here to say they just rototilled in 4 inches of new topsoil with 8 yards of compost, leveled, and seeded. Well, that's a horrible start. But for the most part you're telling us what you're going to do next and giving us/morph time to reply. Note that morph's comments have saved you from doing much of anything. The Ironite you did on your own against morph's recommendation. The reason he tried to stop you on that was to save you some money. A soil test would tell you if you needed it and also whether it would work. My soil is practically pure calcium which attracts iron ions faster than the grass roots can use it. Without knowing more about your soil it is irresponsible to recommend which micronutrients would be preferred and useful. If you are thinking about using Epsom salts to green up the lawn, DON'T until the soil test comes back. This is a little more serious than the iron thing.

    Note also that morph is urging you toward a more natural approach to lawn care rather than a pure calendar approach. Don't use grub control now because you cannot have grubs, yet. Even if you think you might have a grub issue, there is a way to confirm it is grubs and not something else. I would have advised against a herbicide now due to the heat. Read the label for any temperature restrictions before using it. I would wait until mid September, but I don't live in your area and don't have your grass. If you use organic fertilizer and minimize the use of -icides, your soil microbes will help you take care of things like aeration, thatch, and pests insects.

    Another tip you have not asked about is this: Mow then water, not water followed by mowing. Always mow dry soil so the wheels and your footsteps don't compact the soil. Also just mowed grass is subject to drying, so it will appreciate the water after mowing.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    Sometimes passively ignoring things is the best way to go, at least for a while. :-) During summer, unless an obvious issue rears its head, this is frequently true. I plan on sitting on my butt, as far as the lawn is concerned, well into August.

    Right now, my attention is on the gardens and the newly-sprouting hibiscus and desert rose plants that require care.

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago
    last modified: 11 months ago

    Thanks guys! It’s still holding up well We had a 100 degree day and have had nothing below 90 for over a week and it will be much of the same for the next 2 weeks. Do you guys water longer in these cases? Im watering slightly longer but thinking about watering 3 times a week instead of 2 temporarily. I tried out running my zones 15-18 minutes 3 times starting at 3:30 am and woke up to a couple mushrooms. I guess 55 minutes is a tad too long.

    side note the lawn is holding up beautifully. I could undoubtedly tell it was dealing with some slight iron Chlorosis so I applied elemental sulfur to it 0-0-90 at 4 pounds per thousand sq ft and it’s greening up absolutely beautifully. You guys prompted me to dive into research and learn more about N-P-K and micro nutrients. Sending in soil samples soon before I add anything else but I have a feeling it may be lacking potassium but not enough to notice anything.

    and to dchall, ive learned my lesson on all that silliness and overreacting. last year I probably would of thought the lawn was hungry and doused more fertilizer on it. This is my second year with cool season grass and while very picky i think it can take care of it self with the proper balance of nutrients. I hated it at first, thought it was impossible to grow in the high desert summer. I’m learning different this year.


    also the grub killer targets all lawn pests and while i didn’t see any visible pest damage I have seen my fair share of clover mites, mole crickets, chinch bugs, and moths which I believe lay the grub eggs. Nonetheless the mites have been pretty tough this year. I also had to apply Bifen I/t to my lawn with a hose end sprayer. With all the stuff I’m throwing down on it I’m suprised she’s so healthy! :)

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    "I could undoubtedly tell it was dealing with some slight iron Chlorosis so I applied elemental sulfur to it 0-0-90 at 4 pounds per thousand sq ft and it’s greening up absolutely beautifully."


    Seriously. Stop. The greening is still from the Ironite, not the sulfur.

    Sulfur's a weird little animal when applied. It won't work unless the soil is already acidic. In an alkaline or near-neutral soil, sulfur-processing bacteria are inactive or simply not there because...they can't do any work at near-neutral pH or higher.

    And, surface applied, it almost all gets lost to the atmosphere as sulfur dioxide (smog) anyway. It's a pretty useless chemical and one I almost never advise using in the elemental form. It's both too stable and too unstable at the same time--a real rarity.

    It can do some good when dug in at large amounts but the soil chemistry will take a real hit for years until things adjust and there are easier ways of dealing with it.

    Which I'm actually not going to tell you because you'll do it, and I don't want you touching anything else until we see that soil report. I now have to account for iron and sulfur additions, but fortunately, I can null out the sulfur.

    Unless it also needs calcium, which will surface-react with existing sulfur over the next four months to form gypsum and make Morpheus do extra math in his head with degrading sulfur outgassing while simultaneously reacting into soluble and hydrating gypsum and...


    Please don't make me do any more math.


    Also, we're getting into potential interactions here. Iron and sulfur, no. With some thing that might have to go down as a result of a soil test? Absolutely, just as mentioned above--calcium is now a potential issue. Fortunately, sulfur doesn't lock me out of sulfates, which are what I use to do a lot of other jobs...but....


    Minor iron chlorosis is, actually, not much of an issue and is relatively normal for soils that are waterlogged, overly dry, or at non-optimal temperatures. Grasses naturally lighten during the summer to reflect some light away from themselves and lower their own temperatures (a tendency you'll actually see through many plants--as a general rule, tropical and spring/summer plants are redder and lighter, arctic and fall/winter plants are bluer and darker, although there are certainly many exceptions).

    Grass' optimal color is generally reached in September through December (on my lawn, anyway, October through February and again in April and May, but with more of a pthlalo green overall in spring).


    You can step the watering a bit in extreme heat if you must. If the grass is wilting mid-day, that's normal in 100 degree weather. If it recovers in the evening and looks good by morning, that means it has the water, the roots just can't deliver it fast enough to keep the grass hydrated during the hottest part of the day. That's also normal and means the grass doesn't really need to be watered--but might benefit from a syringing. That's when you run the water for 2 to 5 minutes, just enough to damp the blades a bit, and stop and let it dry off to cool the blades by evaporation. Do that once or twice in the afternoon and it drops the blade temperature of the grass for about 30 to 45 minutes enough to reduce stress a bit.

    If the grass isn't recovering by morning and you observe graying patches that are starting to wilt, it's time to water.

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago
    last modified: 11 months ago

    Thank you. :) My lawn has relatively high ph and feels pretty solid when trying to drive a small screw driver in it. I figured the iron chlorosis, naturally alkaline soils in idaho, and compact soil were all telling signs of alkaline soil which can cause iron Chlorosis figured elemental sulfur was as natural a way as any to lower the ph.


    darn I thought I found a secret recipe it seemed to help with the iron chlorosis I was seeing. I definitely don’t like iron chlorosis. :(

  • Lisa
    11 months ago

    Hi Morph ;) I use Milorganite in the summer, I do spoon feedings all summer, but not as much this summer, it's doing really good, I got my watering down for once perfectly, I water @ 3:30 am before the heat of the day occurs and it's been so HOT here, I am putting down a preventative fungicide tonight though after I cut a foliar spray because the humidity is here now and the pop up showers are all next week = fungal issues per every summer, How's is your lawn doing? also I wanted to ask you I have Geraniums on my front deck and they were loaded w holes and I googled and it said Neem oil, so I sprayed the Neem oil on the leaves and I don't see any really anymore, I know you know a lot about organic stuff

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    Hey, Lisa! Neem's great for removing most insect, fungal, and bacterial issues...when it works. I use it as a gentle kick on very young plants since it usually won't do any damage and does provide some protection, and it's safe even on most of the very delicate stuff. So sure, it probably took care of whatever was nibbling at the geraniums and, worst-case, told them to go somewhere else (it tastes bad). Best case, it killed them outright.

    My lawn is...OK. Most of it looks good. Some is a little brown this summer, but re-greening as June's little drought turns into a July constant downpour. I'm glad to hear yours is doing better than mine is!

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago
    last modified: 11 months ago

    Morpheus, do you have a lawn plan posted for cool season grasses or do you mind sharing a cost effective one? i spent so much this year! Partially from all those Scotts products and not focusing on micronutrients.

    this looks like a good summer fertilizer https://yardmastery.com/products/yard-mastery-7-0-20-summer-stress-blend?variant=31939678044212 <—— this seems like a really good product for summer stress Instead of those cruddy Scotts products.. Slow release nitrogen, potsssium loaded, and feeds all micronutrients.



    i really like what azomite has to offer in terms of nutrients https://seedbarn.com/products/azomite-organic-mineral-fertilizer-10-lbs?variant=12530241273956&currency=USD&utm_medium=product_sync&utm_source=google&utm_content=sag_organic&utm_campaign=sag_organic&utm_campaign=gs-2018-11-18&utm_source=google&utm_medium=smart_campaign

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    If things come back's great, you may need nothing more than a very high nitrogen feeding, which would be more like soybean meal (7-1-2), which would be more than good enough (and what I use). If you can get that as cheaply as I do ($15 per bag), it's a good deal. I also have no objection to a synthetic if price is an object, as fertilizer grade urea (46-0-0) runs about $10 per 50 pound bag.


    Everything balances back to the results of that soil test. If it sucks, you may end up spending more to rebalance the soil--but once done, soils do tend to stay in place and you get to safely ignore them for a period of time that depends on your EC.


    Chemistry/Physics Lesson, Emergent Properties and Exchange Capacity (EC). Long story short, soils are structures of atoms and molecules, and knockouts and replacements in the structure can and will make negative charges exposed on the surface of the soil particle. Sand doesn't do this much at all. Silt, far more often. Clay varies from not so much to a whole heck of a lot. Organic matter is a huge contributor due to having charges exposed on "arms" of its molecules that are generally also negative. Organic matter has a lot of those arms, so if you see me read a low EC soil and recommend adding organic matter, this is why.

    This characteristic is an emergent property of the fact that atoms bond in certain ways. You can read more about that if you want by studying electronegativity, which is a fascinating subject. Follow the rabbit hole on that one down into quarks and leptons and, thence, into the energy states of the early Universe.

    I'm oversimplifying a lot here to boil this into an easy-to-read paragraph and it's already more complicated than I want it to be. The takeaway being that a high-EC soil holds a lot of positively-charged resources. Low-EC soils don't hold many resources. The resource amounts they hold is directly proportional to the EC, with some qualifications we're not going to get into here but again, you'll sometimes see me talk about.


    All that leads to: low EC soils will not stay stable for long, so a white sand soil will tend to have an EC around 2 to 3 and need testing every 1 to 2 years. That's not completely awful in that a screw-up can be corrected almost instantly. And some things also don't need yearly correction--phosphorus doesn't bind via EC and bonds quite effectively to the soil particle itself instead. It also doesn't leach out easily, leaving the soil only via erosion. Consequently, however, phosphorus levels can go sky high and cause major issues. Fortunately, they rarely do so and even high P levels are usually not a major problem and fairly easy to counter. My garden is set at 1,000, but I keep the lawn at 200 PPA.

    So a correction on phosphorus will stay in this soil with no problems. That's partially true with boron, another positive ion, but it doesn't bond so well and it leaches more easily. Since it's not a pollutant, we don't worry about it very much, and we don't use very much, either.

    Calcium is another exception in that it precipitates into limestone (or gypsum if sulfur is present), so you can end up with a limestone soil if there's a lot of it. There's other implications, but it's not a problem or barrier to a great lawn.


    Midrange EC soils, 10-20, are great. They stay where you put them, you test every 5 years once they're balanced, and otherwise you give them their nitrogen and forget about them. Every 5 years, you tap the soil back into place and that's that. I have a soil with an EC of 16. They move into place without too much effort, they're hard to force into much of an overshoot, they're forgiving about it if you do, and they just do their thing.


    High EC soils, 20-40, can be a struggle to get where they're going, but once there, they won't move anywhere fast. You'll toss resources at them and, if you can get them to move at all--sometimes you can't--it'll be ages. It's like watching a glacier move sometimes. But again, once there, you'll also stay there. If there's a big problem, like lime in the soil, you will never get rid of it here. But fortunately, something like that can be lived with and isn't really a problem at all.


    Muck soils, 40+, tend to be highly organic and most of us don't deal with them. Think peat bog. You'll never get that to do what you want.


    That was more long-winded than I intended, but I'm trying to put off mowing the lawn until it a) cools off from 90 or b) storms and I don't have to.

    Deven Webster thanked morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago

    Morpheus you really know your stuff. I was going to use play sand to level off low spots in the lawn. But as I got to reading more Its possible sand can turn your soil into “concrete” Depending on your soil type? If so what do you recommend for an inexpensive top dressing.

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    Sand's fine if you want to use it, but I generally recommend a good topsoil that's a s close to your local soil as you can manage, if you know what that is.

    If you don't, look up "jar test" and do that. It's a fun 2 day test that lets you know what you have. If you can't find it, ask and I'll type it out again. This time I'll even save it for the future.


    Large amounts of sand can lead to a soil horizon in addition to the natural ones (A, B, etc.) that you can read about. If we're talking inches, it means that grass that's planted in it becomes hesitant to extend roots past the existing "soil" into a different one, so from the sand into the other type of top soil.

    Getting close to your existing soil avoids that problem.

    But for a few tenths of an inch, you don't need to worry about it overmuch. Use whatever you want.

    But in all cases, avoid soils with a lot of organic matter. That stuff is just going to rot away. This is one case where you don't want it.

  • Deven Webster
    Original Author
    11 months ago

    It’s “engineered soil” new construction. The soils are clay here and I believe all they do is mix sand in with it. Should be a sand/clay soil.


    by the way morphy is it too early to say I got lucky with the elemental sulfur? I’m noticing very luscious dark green growth that I haven’t seen before in this lawn. :).

  • morpheuspa (6B/7A, E. PA)
    11 months ago

    Too early. Sulfur will take months to activate when surface applied, if it activates at all (which it generally won't). It requires bacterial action, time to work through, and a whole bunch of transformations. I've always been disappointed with sulfur applications when not dug in, although it does find some use in pots and as a minor anti-fungal for seeds and dry-stored bulbs.


    What you're seeing is the Ironite going into play.