New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

A forum to learn and discuss the importance of lawn care basics
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jadam318
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New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 15th, 2019, 8:39 am

Hey everybody. I'm brand new here. My wife and I just bought a new house. At our previous house II hired out my lawn care, but I decided to take care of the new place myself. I spent a lot of time on a mower when I was younger, I had some crazy allergy problems a little later in life. Thanks to immunotherapy those seem to be under control now, so I want to take care of the yard again. I can run a mower and weed eater with the best of them, but I know almost nothing about appropriate fertilizing, weed control, and the aspects of maintenance outside of keeping it cut. So, I'm looking for a little guidance and general direction.

Here's what I have: I am in Hickory, NC, which appears to be a transition zone. My lawn is currently fescue (not entirely sure which variety) and clover with some spots here and there of some much softer grass. I guess someone put out some seed of a different variety to fix some patches in the past. By my calculations, I have about 23,000 square feet of lawn. It is pretty flat with an area of slightly lower elevation that bisects the front yard and collects water. Most of that area is occupied by "flower" beds (full of low juniper and shrubs). I'm adding a picture I snapped for social media from after my first cut with the new lawn. It doesn't look too bad in the picture, and in reality, I wouldn't be unhappy with it except that I know it can be a little better.

Here are my goals:
  • Keep things simple/practical
  • Improve upon what's already here (i.e. reduce clover/weeds, improve health of the lawn
  • Eventually have a lawn that is nice to walk on barefooted (could mean a different grass down the road...I'll decide more details on that later)
I have read the triangle approach to weed control as well as the 'Maintenance Schedule for Cool Season Lawns' here on this site. Both of those seem to make good sense, and I've based my initial maintenance activity/plans on information in those.

Here are my initial plans:
1. Reduce clover/weeds using the triangle approach. It is mid June, and we have been in this house for only a few weeks now. Post-emergent seems to be the thing to do
2. Get a soil test to figure out what I'm working with what fall maintenance should look like (do I need to aerate? what should fall fertilization look like?)
3. Learn. I need to learn some basics like grass and weed identification, what the aspects of my soil are, how they affect the lawn, and what I can/should do to manipulate them, etc.

This leads me (at long last, sorry for the huge post) to my questions for this group:
  • Where can I learn more? Are there some resources (a good book, other web resources, etc.) that are good for establishing a baseline of knowledge to take me from novice to intermediate?
  • What is the best place to get a soil test? I read a post on here somewhere that recommended a specific lab instead of state extension services. I want the best bang for the buck in that realm.
  • Is the "Maintenance Schedule for Cool Season Lawns" accurate for a transition lawn? If following that exactly, should I expect to start a little soon and finish a little later? Is there extra maintenance I should consider?
  • Overseeding, aerating, and dethatching...where can I learn about these? I need to decide which of those I need for the fall so I can start planning for them.
If you have made it to this point, thanks in advance for the input and putting up with my rambling. :good:
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andy10917
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by andy10917 » June 15th, 2019, 8:54 am

Actually, we appreciate the details up front, and welcome to the zoo!

The Cool Season article may need a bit of adjustment for NC, but it's mostly timing that adjusts a bit. You'll get the hang of it quickly.

For the soil test, the volunteers can only do so many test interpretations and can't spend time figuring out 50 state's lab tests and many more private labs. We offer free soil test interpretations and an annual plan for tests performed by our preferred lab (Logan Labs). The "Standard Test" is just fine. Requests or submissions from other labs are not interpreted. See the "sticky thread" at the top of the Soils Forum for more details.

Once again, welcome!

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HoosierLawnGnome
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by HoosierLawnGnome » June 15th, 2019, 9:27 am

Search for some threads by nclawnguy, affectionately called nclg. He has maintained some really solid transition zone lawns with both fescue and Kentucky bluegrass.

You are starting on the right foot. Learning! Never stops!

Do the Logan labs soil test and post it here.

You might wait for the test, but you will want to find a cheaper source of materials than the big hardware stores. A little work one year and you are set for the future, saving time and money every year.

Right now is a great time to get down a grub preventer like merit with Imidacloprid. Highly recommended to do that annually.

Anyways welcome again

jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 16th, 2019, 6:38 am

Thanks for the input, guys.

I'm reading up on Logan Labs this morning. Can anyone tell me how they bill? In other words, if I send it two samples (one from the front yard; one from the back), do I pay for two tests or one?

Also, HoosierLawnGnome, do you recommend grub treatment for everyone across the board, or should I check to see if I have an issue with them first?Also, am I correct in understanding that the grubs themselves are not as much of a problem as the moles they attract?

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andy10917
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by andy10917 » June 16th, 2019, 9:26 am

If you mix the soil and provide it as a single test, you will get charged for one test. If you want different results for different areas, you will be charged for multiple tests.


kentster
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by kentster » June 16th, 2019, 6:13 pm

Good general article from PSU that you may find helpful:
https://extension.psu.edu/turfgrass-fer ... s-managers'

For Logan Labs (especially your first test), take 10-12 soil samples from all over your yard, all mixed together and get one test. Use the KISS principal or you may find this all overwhelming and you will tend to waste time and money.

For some context, I've been on this site for about a year and can't begin to express how much I have learned. My initial focus was triangle approach, milorganite, a soil test and I read a lot. Now I am on a soil plan with some added complexity, but I follow the plan and keep reading. This site is loaded with good information, if you learn to use the advanced search. My big take away is that this is a marathon and it is best to pace yourself.

jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 17th, 2019, 3:25 pm

Thanks again for the input and the welcomes. I've done some more digging around here and found some links to some really informative articles. My next step is definitely a soil test.

I'm still looking for more education, though. So if anyone has suggestions for books, websites, etc. I'd love some resources along those lines.

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HoosierLawnGnome
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by HoosierLawnGnome » June 18th, 2019, 7:19 am

Honestly this site is the best place to start. One thing unique here is there is absolutely no financial interest in the decisions you make from the info provided here.

The problem with books is they arent specific to your exact situation, but are often more general or academic. You have to wade through what can be distracting and know what's irrelevant, which is difficult while getting up to speed.

Applied knowledge is different.


Many universities put out short articles for homeowners.

One resource is your local, well respected agricultural school. NCSU might be good for you. Search their site for articles about your turf species and conditions.

Use the google search trick site:ncsu.edu

For my area, I read articles put out by Purdue or Michigan State. They are usually pretty relevant to my situation.

jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 18th, 2019, 8:15 am

HoosierLawnGnome wrote:
June 18th, 2019, 7:19 am
Honestly this site is the best place to start. One thing unique here is there is absolutely no financial interest in the decisions you make from the info provided here.

...

Use the google search trick site:ncsu.edu

For my area, I read articles put out by Purdue or Michigan State. They are usually pretty relevant to my situation.
That's a good point about this site, and I certainly appreciate that aspect. I guess I'm just not used to searching through a forum for information, but that's something I can figure out.

That's a great trick for Google! I never knew about that, so thanks!

As for books, I agree that they tend to be more theoretical. That works for me for some sadistic reason. If I understand the why behind what I'm doing it makes it much easier for me to remember and repeat when the situation calls for it again. To contradict myself, though, I do want to keep things simple as I get started with this.

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andy10917
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by andy10917 » June 18th, 2019, 7:15 pm

I still recommend James Beard's "Turfgrass: Science and Culture" to anyone that is interested in grass and soils. The book was originally published in 1972, and was the go-to textbook on the topic forever. While some things are so out-of-date that they are entertaining, the overall book is something I still read parts of each Winter.

You can find an old hardcover textbook copy for like $5 online.

jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 19th, 2019, 6:14 am

Cool. Thanks, Andy. I'll check out that book. I also found a ton of resources on NC State's website using the Google search trick you described.

Here is a link to that in case anyone else is in/around North Carolina: https://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/publications/. They have a page dedicated to each of more common grasses grown in the state (mountains to coast), as well as articles on weeds, insects, soil management...I'm going to camp out there for a while, I think.

I do have a question for the group. Can I get a little help confirming my identification of this grass? I've called it fescue to this point. I knew it wasn't all the same variety, though. My best guess is a mix of tall fescue and fine fescue, but will someone confirm/deny for me? I don't know that I have ever really seen KBG and known that's what I was looking at (I've lived too far south for that until just a few years ago), so if one of these is KBG I wouldn't necessarily know it.

The sprigs I picked for these pictures represent most of what is in the yard; there is slightly more of the larger (what I'm calling tall fescue). The finer of these two seems to be a little stressed lately in some of the sunnier areas of the yard, turning a little brown. It has been a warmer than average spring, so I'm assuming the warmer temps are causing that. I do still need to check for grubs, though.

I also have plenty of crabgrass :roll: So there's that.


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jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 19th, 2019, 6:16 am

More pictures for grass ID


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jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 22nd, 2019, 7:48 am

Also, I have a weed control question. I've read up on the triangle approach, and I plan to start that. The problem is, it is now summer. Air temps here are reaching the mid to high 80's pretty much every day (high today is forecast to be 86, for example). My understanding is that most, if not all, herbicides are not as effective at these temperatures. Should I just hold off on weed control until after summer? Is there anything at all that I should do to weaken or slow down the weeds between now and fall?

My primary offenders are clover and crab grass. There is some other junk mixed in there, but those are the biggest issues.

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andy10917
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by andy10917 » June 22nd, 2019, 9:14 am

You're smart to ask the questions you're asking, and I suspect by your posting that you know the answers to many of your questions, but don't like what you know the answers are.

To tell the truth, you lost the battle against broadleaf weeds and crabgrass when the Forsythia bloomed. You could still apply Quinclorac (with MSO) if you're not above 90 degrees for high temperatures yet, but otherwise you're best off waiting for September now to attack weeds.

As a novice, you're forgiven for waiting until the weeds are obvious to consider fighting them, but the biggest lesson to take away from this experience is that the war is often fought (and won easily!) when the crappy stuff isn't obvious yet. Fighting it now as the grass metabolism slows for Summer is prone to less-than-optimal results and even potential damage from herbicides. The best use of your time now is to properly irrigate (deep/infrequent) and then fight in the early Fall.

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ken-n-nancy
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by ken-n-nancy » June 22nd, 2019, 12:08 pm

andy10917 wrote:
June 22nd, 2019, 9:14 am
To tell the truth, you lost the battle against ... crabgrass when the Forsythia bloomed. You could still apply Quinclorac (with MSO) if you're not above 90 degrees for high temperatures yet
+1.

The real time to beat crabgrass is with a pre-emergent at forsythia bloom.

However, I have also had good success with Quinclorac against crabgrass in summer. Being a warm-season plant, the crabgrass will be growing well and take up the herbicide. You do need to be careful to not overdo the application, however, as overapplication can damage the desirable turf. To minimize risk to your good grass, apply in the evening on a forecasted dry night, after the temperature has fallen below 80F, at which point there should be around 8-12 hours before temps are back up above 80F again. Seems to me weather in Hickory, NC may be co-operative in this coming week.

As specified on the label, irrigate with 1/2" of water 2 days after application. Ideal situation would be no rain for 48 hours (minimally 24 hours) after application, followed by 1/2" of irrigation 48 hours (2 days) after application.

A couple applications, spread about 3 weeks apart, is usually necessary, as Quinclorac is good against small (<3-4 tillers) and big (>8 tillers) crabgrass plants, but has a weak spot for medium-size crabgrass. A second application about three weeks later allows the medium-sized plants to get larger and get wiped out by the 2nd application. As to whether or not you're able to get that next application down in mid-July is questionable, but even one application now is better than none.

As a bonus, quinclorac is also labeled for clover and provides good control, so you'll get rid of the clover as a side-effect of attacking the crabgrass.

jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 22nd, 2019, 5:16 pm

andy10917 wrote:
June 22nd, 2019, 9:14 am
You're smart to ask the questions you're asking, and I suspect by your posting that you know the answers to many of your questions, but don't like what you know the answers are.

To tell the truth, you lost the battle against broadleaf weeds and crabgrass when the Forsythia bloomed. You could still apply Quinclorac (with MSO) if you're not above 90 degrees for high temperatures yet, but otherwise you're best off waiting for September now to attack weeds.

As a novice, you're forgiven for waiting until the weeds are obvious to consider fighting them, but the biggest lesson to take away from this experience is that the war is often fought (and won easily!) when the crappy stuff isn't obvious yet. Fighting it now as the grass metabolism slows for Summer is prone to less-than-optimal results and even potential damage from herbicides. The best use of your time now is to properly irrigate (deep/infrequent) and then fight in the early Fall.
I haven't owned the place for a full month yet, so even if I wasn't a novice I wouldn't have had an opportunity to attack the weeds much earlier. Yesterday afternoon was only the second time I've even mowed this lawn. You're right about not liking the answers, though, for sure.

Still, though, lesson learned. And thanks for the input. I'll probably just get my act together for a good late summer/early fall weed attack. I'll take a closer look at Quinclorac and the weather. Our temperatures are probably low enough to pull it off if what ken-n-nancy says about summer crab grass growth is true. However, we have had so much rain lately that it would probably just get washed off.

Speaking of herbicides, I'm reading up on them lately. The article on the triangle approach recommends starting with 2,4-D. Does anyone know off hand what that would kill that Quinclorac would not? Would I be better to just start with Quinclorac, considering it is effective on the two primary weeds I want to get rid of (clover and crab grass)? All of this, of course, is assuming I wait for the right weather for either/both... I just started reading up on Tenacity, too, but I haven't read enough to really ask intelligent questions yet.

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andy10917
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by andy10917 » June 23rd, 2019, 10:22 am

Speaking of herbicides, I'm reading up on them lately. The article on the triangle approach recommends starting with 2,4-D. Does anyone know off hand what that would kill that Quinclorac would not? Would I be better to just start with Quinclorac, considering it is effective on the two primary weeds I want to get rid of (clover and crab grass)? All of this, of course, is assuming I wait for the right weather for either/both... I just started reading up on Tenacity, too, but I haven't read enough to really ask intelligent questions yet.
I'm the author of the Triangle Approach for weed control, and I'll explain the theme/intent of it a bit, and then get to why I think you may be getting off-course in your thinking a bit...

The Triangle Approach is for folks like you, who have inherited a property that has numerous weed species, and don't have a great deal of experience with weed identification and control - it is meant to start with simple, inexpensive, broad-spectrum herbicides and control the easy-to-beat weeds into your rearview mirror, and then to progress to increasingly more-focused, narrower-spectrum herbidicdes to control harder to control weeds. You learn what controls what as you gain control over the lawn while learning.

The Triangle Approach does not really specify 2,4-D as the first level of the Triangle. Instead, it recommends a 3-way or 4-way product containing a mixture of 3 or 4 herbicides, one of which is 2,4-D. Weed-B-Gon is a good example that is readily found big-box stores. There is a Weed-B-Gon product that also contains Quinclorac for crabgrass control. After a couple of applications of the 3 or 4-way broad-spectrum herbicide, the second herbicide is often an herbicide containing Triclopyr for good control of clover, group ivy, chickweed, etc. While narrower in control, it is better for those weeds.

Lastly ("Level 3") of the Triangle is specialty products like Tenacity, mopping up grassy weeds, etc.

Where I see a theme in your thinking is in your concentration of thinking about finding a single weed-killing herbicide. This is *not* the Triangle Approach's theme/intent, and I find that people that focus on a single herbicide take far longer to achieve control over their situation.

Good lawn care is a marathon, not a one-time effort with a miracle product (there are no miracles-in-a-bottle"). Now that it is Summer, spend your time encouraging the grass you have with good deep/infrequent watering while the grass's metabolism slows or approaches dormancy, and then pick up the pace around September 1st.

jadam318
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Re: New Lawn, Questions, Looking to Learn

Post by jadam318 » June 23rd, 2019, 11:34 am

andy10917 wrote:
June 23rd, 2019, 10:22 am

I'm the author of the Triangle Approach for weed control, and I'll explain the theme/intent of it a bit, and then get to why I think you may be getting off-course in your thinking a bit...

Thank you for the clarification. I'll take a good look at Weed be Gone and plan to start that (or something equivalent) in September. I think part of what got me off track is how each of the herbicides I read about are promoted as basically the only thing you need... I will admit that I'm a sucker for marketing sometimes. Anyway, thanks again.

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