Last Updated on December 21, 2021 by Brian Beck
I hope that you will read this as it may save you a ton of money in the future but that is your call.
I have come a long way in the past year in understanding the elements of the soil and how they affect the turf and ultimately how it affects your pocket book. I used to think that having a test performed was a luxury and that we could just get things to look right if we threw some Nitrogen on the lawn and watered a lot. Man, was I wrong! A lawn back in 2020 really put that silly idea to the test.
We had just implemented our now known fertility program and had a customer politely tell us that his yard was sucking, bad! I really did not know what to do so I consulted an agronomist to help me figure it out after I had a long discussion with the customer and got some really valuable information. This particular customer had a MASSIVE necrotic ring outbreak in his lawn.
In addition to his very thick thatch level (more about that later) and very heavy clay presence, the lawn well, looked like crap. So, after getting the test back from our lab in Ohio I had a much better understanding about what the catastrophe was. I spent over 20 minutes on the phone with Mike Hall from Spectrum Analytic. Watch his interview with John Perry above.
While I won't go into the whole "Golden 22 Minutes" as I call it, I will touch on the highlights of the conversation. Much of this was preexisting in the soil but specifically the highly inorganic nature of the soil was causing the roots to grow up and laterally rather than down where they belong (they can't do this because there is no carbon to support the microbes that help the plant root). This excess thatch (about 1.5") was causing the soil to go anaerobic (no oxygen, oxygen being a crucial metabolizing elements for micro and macro elements in the soil). This in turn triggered the pathogen known as Necrotic Ring, a soil borne fungus. Given that this lawn often had standing water and that we had a very wet spring, right around August to September it comes alive and creates pock marks in the lawn and really does a lot of damage. The other big reason this happened was because the soil pH was wildly off, about 7.8 (it needs to be around 6.5) which is alkaline. Elements in the soil, including Copper which happens to suppress this pathogen which was having its way with the grass. Really it had no chance at all and all of the fertilizer in the world would not help this as the lawn was basically choking itself out. The lab prescribed some corrective actions which will adjust this circumstance and in a couple of years the soil should be able to impart nutrients properly into the plant and everything should work much better but it will take time and there is no quick fix for this.
I am going to attach the soil report from another lawn. While this person is no longer a customer I wanted you to see what a report looks like and what some of the elements in it mean. This report is below, please feel free to look it over.
Ok, the big one is that the pH is 8.1, very, very bad! The soil cannot metabolize any nutrients from the soil.
The Organic Matter (Carbon) is at .1%. Again, very bad! It needs to be at least 5% or better. This soil cannot hold any water at all. Actually it is clay city so it will repel the water from getting in and if it could infiltrate into the soil it would precipitate out as it has no mechanism to hold it in the soil (Water Carrying capacity, or Holy grail #1).
The only reason this lawn doesn't completely implode is because there is minimal thatch surprisingly otherwise it would be a prime candidate for necrotic ring or at least a major water bill as this lawn is basically a cement block with grass growing in it. The last I looked they were feverishly attempting to water it to get it to look halfway decent. Unfortunately this lawn will probably be lost the next time there is a horribly dry winter. This lawn is however correctible but the customer decided to wing it and try their method instead.
The corrective action for this lawn included a massive dose of Sulphur which can only be applied 5Lbs per 1000 ft² at any one time or a maximum of 10lbs per year per 1000 ft². As you can see this lawn is going to need a LOT of work which has to do with the soil and not the mowing or fertilization. It is an inherent issue that was inherited and given to us. The water bill is going to be very large at this residence for many years to come - unnecessarily and it doesn't have to be.
I had had many customers, a few very recently who made it a point to mention how their lawn is looking better and how it has never looked this good before. This is a testament to the power of our program and what it is doing for the soil and for your wallet! You should notice a gradual improvement in the overall integrity of the lawn (if you are watering right!) with a sooner emergence out of dormancy in the spring. Thank you for those who have taken the time to recognize this. I really appreciate it!
We really want your lawn to not just look better but BE better. This will mean better use of water and a lower need for nitrogen as we empower the soil, the microbes and enable the Holy Grail #2 which is the use of Atmospheric Nitrogen (another letter).
With all of that being said, we are going to heavily promote the testing of soil from here on out as it gets us to where we want to be a LOT quicker than "winging it"
Keep up the watering this week. For those of you who participated in our Weather Bender program, ROCK ON! If not, please consider watering. It is going to be 70° for the next couple days which means the lawns are getting stressed. Remember If You See Brown, the Lawn is Going Down! Let us know if you have any questions but if things look dry, THEY ARE! Please give it some water to save yourself some money down the road.