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help with lawn renovation

3302 Views 19 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  MikeD
When I moved in this house the home builder just put in some tall fescue mix with Rye sod, over the last 6 years I only fertilized 2 or 3 times a year with ammonia nitrate, or whatever cheap fertilizer I can find high in nitrogen. Now that I got the backyard and everything done like I wanted I started to pay attention to the front yard, I decided to go with Milorganite and go organic, but the lawn just never looked good. So I did a soil test, the results came back that I was extremely high in magnesium, sodium, off the chart... The PH at 5.26 the NPK very low.. My soil is probably about 85% clay, So I use glyphosate and killed off the lawn, I'm planning on putting at least 2 inches of humas in, I'm going to rototill it in, along with some calctic lime.. I'm planning on going at least 6 inches deep. My questions are, will the humas bring up the pH ?? is 2 inches too much ?? how can I get rid of all the sodium I'm sure it was from the fertilizer ??? Thank you in advance..
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I can offer some suggestions based off of what your results are. You're going to need a lot of lime to bring up the pH to make it to where the nutrients that ARE available to be used can actually be used by the plants. I'd also suggest adding gypsum to your soil, since this will help with flocculation, and improve the overall condition of the soil. Since you're doing a renovation, and are going to till, this would be a perfect time to incorporate these two things into your soil. Keep in mind that the amount of lime it takes to raise your pH level 1 point is logarithmic, meaning it takes a LOT more to bring your pH 1 point (as in your case) versus bringing it up 1/2 of a point, something to the tune of 4x materials required. The choice of material you use for your lime is what you have available, i.e. Dolomitic lime vs. calcitic lime. The choice should be based on availability and price, as the effects are going to take some time to become evident in a soil analysis.
MikeD said:
Thank you colonel I'm going to go with a calcitic lime, the Dolomitic lime has just has too much calcium and magnesium as you can see I'm off the hook with calcium and magnesium. I spoke to the company ancap the makers of calcitic lime. They suggested I till it in.. and do another soil test in a few months they said there's would start working within 2 weeks. Plus I figured with all the organic matter I'm adding to the soil it would help also stabilize the pH. I was thinking about using gypsum but it's just too much sodium which I'm also off the scale with and it contains too much calcium and magnesium. Which really puts me back to my first question is two inches of humas too much?? And will it help raise the pH.. I believe humus is supposed to be 7.0 ph but I cannot find a straight answer anywhere on what humas levels are.. I guess it's because they can be so many different factors and varieties
It's really difficult to tell what the chemical composition of your OM that you're going to be adding is unless the manufacturer provides the test results. Just like the 10 yards of compost that I purchased from my local supplier brought in, I asked him what was in it. They have a sod farm, and they use the clippings from their farm, as well as waste from a local cotton gin. As a side note, the stuff holds a LOT of water, which has been great considering the area that I'm in is about to get hit from the remnants of Harvey, and possibly Irma (I pray not). I digress; I asked him if he had it tested, and he said that he didn't. Common sense would dictate the supposition that there's going to be some anomaly when it comes to the composition of the OM that you're going to use. If it comes from a swamp, i.e. peat moss, it's going to have a pH that's generally in the range of 4.4 (according to Google search). That's going to really mess up your situation, and counteract any lime that you add to your soil.

Calcitic lime is quicker acting than dolomitic lime, but keep in mind, any liming that you do to your soil to raise the pH is going to take a lot of time, on the scale of 9-12 months, or longer, depending on the severity of your situation. I will say that with the Soil Savvy results are not really that good when it comes to knowing what the real results are. I don't profess to be a smart man when it comes to knowing the types of tests that are done, but when I showed the results to my extension agent, he said "Well, that's not really a good test." :lol:

What I'm going to do for you is call my local extension agent, who is a registered soil scientist who lived in CA before he moved here earlier this year. Let me see what he suggests, and get back to you.
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I wouldn't doubt what the rep from Unibest said about calcitic lime breaking down quickly, because it does. That's why I would suggest that you would apply both calcitic and dolomitic lime at the same time. Matt Martin, aka The Grass Factor has a great video explaining the difference between the two types of lime. Check out his video.
MikeD said:
Colonel, I love Matt from the grass Factor, in fact I've been watching his live feeds on Saturday last week Sunday, matter fact somebody was on their live with the name "colonel" was that you?? He's definitely a excellent source of great information. and I actually asked him that exact question about lime. He said because I had so much calcium and magnesium that I should definitely stick with Calcitic lime. I watched all his YouTube videos some two or three times he has so much information. It's hard to take in, all the info at same time.
Yep, that was me on the live stream that he had prior to his Q&A session this past Saturday with Pete! :geek: I talked to my extension agent today, and he explained a few things to me that I'll pass along to you. I explained that you had the Soil Savvy test, and where you lived. I also told him, according to your posts, that you're planning on using humus to incorporate some OM into your soil. He asked if it was humus, or compost; to that extent he said he would recommend compost over humus, because it can take "an extremely long time, on the order of decades, for humus to break down, and see any noticeable benefits from incorporation into his soil." He suggested that you look to using compost.

He also said that regarding your high Na content, the area by the bay is always going to exhibit high concentrations of Na, due to your locale to the ocean, and the measurements that are on the test aren't out of the norm. We discussed how to raise your pH, and he agreed that it would be best to use both types to bring up your pH, and since you're dealing with such a small lot, it won't take much material to affect some change. Regarding your Mg and Ca ratio, it would be something to be concerned about if your ratio dropped below 2:1, so you wouldn't see any detrimental effects by adding either source of lime to your soil.

We talked at length about a humic and fulvic acid, and he mentioned that there is a century plot, not too far north of where you live. They're on about year 30 of a century long test of this area where they're trying to study the reintroduction of carbon back into the soil, and to date, they've only measured about a 2% increase in the return with the utilization of humic and fulvic acid. It's pretty interesting stuff.

He did say that the Master Gardeners there are pretty active, and a quick search turned up that you can go talk to one at several locations through the month. This Saturday, they're going to be at the Pittsburgh Farmers Market, which would be close to your city. I'd suggest you ride over there, and beat the bushes and get face to face with someone. Keep in mind, it's your tax dollars that pay their salaries!
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