Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

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Dargin
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Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by Dargin » June 13th, 2019, 10:17 am

For the past few years I've had trouble with about a 150 sq ft area of my northern mix lawn. The area tends to dry out quicker than its surroundings, leading to very visible signs of drought stress. Last year it looked like this from mid June through July:


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I thought these spots were toast but they managed to bounce back pretty well; didnt need to spot seed.

I think I'm improving on my watering routine. I'm -slowly- getting a better feel for how the soil holds/drains. I did the tuna cans thing to figure out my timing/water output. It's a pretty sandy soil with decent OM. I'm shooting for an inch of irrigation every 5 days followed shortly by a serenade app. I'm at 3" HoC, and rising.

We've only really hit the high 70's into low 80's so far, and the area in question is already showing signs of stress. The surrounding areas are holding up fine.

I'd say I have moderate compaction throughout the lawn. I'm doing SLS twice a month. I've noticed the problem area is particularly hardened. The area is also about 8 feet from a big thirsty maple (now scheduled to be removed) on the public sidewalk. I posted about the maple last year, and based on suggestions I looked around and found fibrous roots less than 2 inches down, but I'm still not sure if they extend throughout the entire affected area.

I guess the maple is likely to be a problem for the time being, but I think the compaction might be a big factor too.

I'm trying to figure out a plan to best address the problem.

A few things come to mind. Would really appreciate feedback.

Are there any negative consequences to upping the frequency of SLS apps to 2-3 times per week in this problem area? Or using a slightly higher application
Rate? Or both?

Might this issue warrant some more investigative digging?
If so, what should I be looking out for, aside from roots and rock I suppose?

Are there cases when a soil isn't...umm...fully compacted , but might have some kind of thin hardened top layer, like a crust, causing water to just run off?

Thanks a bunch.

Dargin
Posts: 149
Joined: September 29th, 2017, 12:42 pm
Location: Worcester, Ma
Grass Type: NoMix
Lawn Size: 1000-3000
Level: Novice

Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by Dargin » June 15th, 2019, 8:50 am

I decided I'm just going to move forward with weekly SLS apps and spot water as needed. Will be a challenge to see if I can at least get less uglier results than last year, until the soil improves.

Now I'm really wishing I understood the importance of Serenade earlier. Hehe... there it is. Already seen plenty of rust, red thread, and something else that I haven't ID'd yet. The extra watering should liven up that party. I'm gonna avoid synthetics and just ride things out, building up the good guys with serenade whenever I can, and not expecting instant imperviousness to outbreaks.

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Dchall_San_Antonio
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Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by Dchall_San_Antonio » June 17th, 2019, 3:36 pm

When you did the sprinkler test with the cans, was this area getting as much irrigation as the rest of the lawn? It could be that over the long term of not getting enough water, that the soil biology has suffered. Or, since you have mentioned Serenade, repeated use of fungicides can do damage to the important beneficial fungi needed in the soil. One way or another, I'm thinking the area is suffering from poor soil microbe health.

You can apply the sls as often as you care to. When you apply the sls, do you follow it up with at least 1/2-inch of water? Part of the idea is to send the benefits of the surfactant deep into the soil so that every time you water, the water goes deep down. Deeper moisture sets up a better environment for the beneficial fungi to thrive in the soil. Those good fungi are what will soften your soil for you.

Are you fertilizing with organics at least once per year? That should help everything, too.

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andy10917
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Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by andy10917 » June 17th, 2019, 7:47 pm

Or, since you have mentioned Serenade, repeated use of fungicides can do damage to the important beneficial fungi needed in the soil.
Not so with Serenade. It **is** a microbe, and not a synthetic chemical. It is a strain of bacteria (Bacillus subtilis QST713 strain) that preys upon pathogenic fungi). It's a strain that is unusually aggressive about its job.

Dargin
Posts: 149
Joined: September 29th, 2017, 12:42 pm
Location: Worcester, Ma
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Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by Dargin » June 17th, 2019, 8:24 pm

Well, I hose water, no sprinklers. I did the cans this spring, placing 6 cans across 100 sq ft in an X pattern, and timed it until they were full. I tried to be consistent with motion/coverage. They all filled up pretty evenly. So I base my watering off that time now. Not perfect, but i think it's progress.

That being said, I'm pretty certain that for the past few years the entire lawn was under-watered (by me) and this particular area even less so due to the water just not penetrating the surface. It's really been a problem area since day one. I'm just now beginning to understand/address it.

Your point on fungicides seems very appropriate given my history with this lawn. Propiconazole was my go to, and I realize I went to it far more often than I needed to; even for mild cases of rust. No more of that. And I had one slip up where I accidentally put down double rate of...I believe Disease-ex, for what I now believe was nothing more than a case of drought stress... That must have been a fungi apocalypse. I'm probably paying for it now. It's Serenade all the way from here on out. Been reading a lot of the earliest threads on it and I love the philosophy behind it. Building up the good guys.

I've only been using SLS since this spring, and probably 95% of the time I applied it just before rain. I can't say it was always a 1/2 inch, probably not, but I have a couple rain gauges now to monitor rainfall more efficiently and adjust my watering from that. I totally get what you're saying about working it in deeper. I try to apply it a few days before KH and/or Milo apps, hoping that will help infuse the soil with microbial goodies.

Milo (soon BSF) has been my go to for nitrogen for the last year and a half or so. I'm doing bag rate every 20 days, and plan to continue straight through the summer. And I just got started on KH this spring as well. Mulch mowing all the way. I've used cornmeal a couple times, but measly amounts based on what I've been reading here. Literally like 5lbs/k. I also spray extra molasses whenever I'm bored.

Maybe I need to throw a little corn meal and compost party for the herd? I'm pretty sure I've read you mention the combo before, although that might have been 10 years ago...hehehe

Thanks a lot for the insight, Dchall.


Dargin
Posts: 149
Joined: September 29th, 2017, 12:42 pm
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Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by Dargin » June 17th, 2019, 8:30 pm

andy10917 wrote:
June 17th, 2019, 7:47 pm
Or, since you have mentioned Serenade, repeated use of fungicides can do damage to the important beneficial fungi needed in the soil.
Not so with Serenade. It **is** a microbe, and not a synthetic chemical. It is a strain of bacteria (Bacillus subtilis QST713 strain) that preys upon pathogenic fungi). It's a strain that is unusually aggressive about its job.
Thanks, Andy. Definitely beginning to appreciate Serenade's potential. I've got the larger ~2 gallon container on my short list. I can already see how quickly I might be going through this stuff.

Dargin
Posts: 149
Joined: September 29th, 2017, 12:42 pm
Location: Worcester, Ma
Grass Type: NoMix
Lawn Size: 1000-3000
Level: Novice

Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by Dargin » July 5th, 2019, 9:07 pm

Well, I went with synthetic fungicides (azoxystrobin and propiconazole). Some un-ID'd disease was spreading everywhere and I think the slight drought stress of this specific area made it particularly susceptible, taking the worst of it.

I figure a lack of water penetration probally equates to nitrogen deficiency, which would make sense of the isolated redthread. Whatever other fungus that was turning blade tops into thin tan wicks just had to get treated. It was looking scary.

Been continuing with extra SLS/KH, spot watering, and serenade. Hit the area with some cornmeal and a sprinkling of compost as well; trying to bring some life to the soil. I think things are bouncing back now, even through these pretty high temps.


A few days ago:
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Today (not the greatest pic)
Image

Might be hard to see, but things are greening up and fungi seems to be backing down, for now.

So, aside from dropping the ball on early preventive fungicide apps, and not monitoring soil moisture of this area closely enough, and early enough, it's at least looking better than it was at this time time last year. Although we had way worse heat in early/mid June last year...

Lessons learned. Get on an early preventitive fungicide program and stick to it (still waffling on which way to go). And this area's soil moisture has to be monitored like it's in ICU until the soil improves to at least the health of the surrounding soil. It's the weakest link.

Will see how things go when it REALLY heats up. Hoping if I stay on top of the watering, intelligently, then maybe I can keep this area healthy and lower infection risk.

Not exactly celebrating, but it kinda feels satisfying having observed, investigated, made a decision, acted, and now seeing some positive results.

Bittersweet.

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andy10917
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Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by andy10917 » July 5th, 2019, 11:36 pm

Nice! AN excellent story of opening your eyes and learning quickly.

Dargin
Posts: 149
Joined: September 29th, 2017, 12:42 pm
Location: Worcester, Ma
Grass Type: NoMix
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Re: Problem area: compaction and drought stress.

Post by Dargin » July 6th, 2019, 10:34 am

Right on. Hoping the story has a happy ending. It would probably be more of a Tragedy if I didnt have access to the ATY community. :amen:

I'm pretty confident that I can keep up the watering and improve the soil biology of the problem area.

But I guess I'm still just operating under faith that in the future, properly timed synthetic preventitive apps will get me out of this cycle; that the hit to the beneficial fungi won't keep me going in circles regardless. I'm going to continue with frequent apps of serenade as well. Indefinitely I suppose.

As an aside of sorts:
If anyone happens to have bookmarked any particularly compelling studies on just how much beneficial fungi populations are reduced via synthetic fungicides, I'd definitely appreciate the link. It's just another 'unknown' that's bugging me.

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