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Old 04-19-2017, 04:08 PM
 
1,010 posts, read 610,610 times
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Kind of hard to tell from the photos, but it looks to my eye like you might have poa annua (a broadleaf weed ... the clumps of "grass") in there. Kind of tough to tell, so closer pictures would help.

But if that is what I am seeing - among other things that are not grass - you are in the right time of the year to go after them. First, figure out if that is the case. If it is, see the article on "The Triangle Approach" at http://aroundtheyard.com/index.php?o...d=9&Itemid=117.

That will attack the weeds, which are competing with grass for resources.

On to the grass itself. A good lawn is more about soil management than anything.

Get a soil test before you start adding soil amendments. If you use Logan Labs (Ohio) for the soil test, the online community at the Northern Grasses forum (https://aroundtheyard.com/forums2/vi...746a249db6a188) will enthusiastically take you under their wings to offer guidance (note - they suggest the Logan Labs because they are very familiar with and trust Logan Labs ... if you get a soil test from, say, University of Illinois Extension, this particular group of people will won't comment because they have not worked with UI data regularly).

As for fertilizer, I am a big fan of milorganite (from the fine people of Milwaukee ... literally). It is non-chemical and slow-acting, but will not burn the grass, even in high temps. And, you can eat it (again, literally), though I would not. But I like that my dogs and kids are not running through a lawn treated with chemical-based fertilizers.

Again, though, it is the soil that matters. Even the best fertilizers do nothing from the soil itself, which feeds the grass blades. That is the long game. As someone suggested up-thread, you may have compacted soil and there are ways to loosen it up, which helps get amendments to the grass roots as well as water.

And there are techniques that will help:

- Mow high for the grass type you have (the longer the blade, the deeper the root needs to go to support it; taller blades also shade the root and hold more moisture in the plant; mowing high also cuts the weeds at the head for many varieties)
- Mow with a sharp blade (cuts rather than rips, which is healthier for the plant)
- Mow when the grass is dry and cool (it is easier on the plant to recover)
- Alternate mowing patterns to avoid creating ruts and compacted soil
- Water deep and infrequently (instead of three or four times a week, water with the weekly sum amount once a week; this forces the plant to push roots deep and wide to support the plant)
- Water early in the morning when it is cooler so that there is less loss to evaporation
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Old 04-19-2017, 04:43 PM
 
214 posts, read 122,215 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wit-nit View Post
Willow trees suck up water like crazy, plus the shade therefore probably your problem. Willows and grass are not really compatible.
Yep you probably right, never conected the two just that it maybe due to shade from it, so we trimmed it.
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Old 04-19-2017, 04:54 PM
 
214 posts, read 122,215 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WoodburyWoody View Post
Kind of hard to tell from the photos, but it looks to my eye like you might have poa annua (a broadleaf weed ... the clumps of "grass") in there. Kind of tough to tell, so closer pictures would help.

But if that is what I am seeing - among other things that are not grass - you are in the right time of the year to go after them. First, figure out if that is the case. If it is, see the article on "The Triangle Approach" at http://aroundtheyard.com/index.php?o...d=9&Itemid=117.

That will attack the weeds, which are competing with grass for resources.

On to the grass itself. A good lawn is more about soil management than anything.

Get a soil test before you start adding soil amendments. If you use Logan Labs (Ohio) for the soil test, the online community at the Northern Grasses forum (https://aroundtheyard.com/forums2/vi...746a249db6a188) will enthusiastically take you under their wings to offer guidance (note - they suggest the Logan Labs because they are very familiar with and trust Logan Labs ... if you get a soil test from, say, University of Illinois Extension, this particular group of people will won't comment because they have not worked with UI data regularly).

As for fertilizer, I am a big fan of milorganite (from the fine people of Milwaukee ... literally). It is non-chemical and slow-acting, but will not burn the grass, even in high temps. And, you can eat it (again, literally), though I would not. But I like that my dogs and kids are not running through a lawn treated with chemical-based fertilizers.

Again, though, it is the soil that matters. Even the best fertilizers do nothing from the soil itself, which feeds the grass blades. That is the long game. As someone suggested up-thread, you may have compacted soil and there are ways to loosen it up, which helps get amendments to the grass roots as well as water.

And there are techniques that will help:

- Mow high for the grass type you have (the longer the blade, the deeper the root needs to go to support it; taller blades also shade the root and hold more moisture in the plant; mowing high also cuts the weeds at the head for many varieties)
- Mow with a sharp blade (cuts rather than rips, which is healthier for the plant)
- Mow when the grass is dry and cool (it is easier on the plant to recover)
- Alternate mowing patterns to avoid creating ruts and compacted soil
- Water deep and infrequently (instead of three or four times a week, water with the weekly sum amount once a week; this forces the plant to push roots deep and wide to support the plant)
- Water early in the morning when it is cooler so that there is less loss to evaporation
Thanks for the links , I guess now i have a starting point figure out how much due to soil composition and how much is due to the tree. It just rained again so I'll go identify grass/non grass/ weed grass situation when things dry out.
Maybe ill just have a rock garden. ... but joking aside the lab offers standard test and saturated paste which looks to me is additional soluble salts. Would i get both or just standard soil test?
Thanks
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Old 04-19-2017, 05:00 PM
 
Location: S.W. British Columbia
4,357 posts, read 4,694,793 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by allsunny View Post
Most of the soil looks like this. We do have some clay but i have to go down about 10-15 inches to find some. maybe drainage is the issue as the yard is not leveled its kind of like the motion of the ocean all over the place.
It is a very big willow tree but the part that was shadings the lawn was removed.
And no i have not added any humous but will look into it

Yes, in that picture that appears to be all sand that compacts easily. It needs amendments added to it.

Regarding that appearance of wavy motion of the ocean all over the lawn - those waves are probably what are called willow heaves. The heaves are created by the roots of the willow tree. The roots of willow trees grow very close to the surface and they spread out great distances and create the wavy surface pattern called heaves. Willows will suck up lots of excess moisture but they will also cause soil compactions and hollows and deplete nutrients from the soil that other plants need, including grass.

I'm not suggesting you get rid of the tree, if it is very well established and healthy I think it would cause more expense and structural damage to the property than it would benefit you if you were to try to remove the tree or its roots. So I'd say leave the tree be. But I do think the tree and your entire lawn and garden areas would benefit from having plenty of organic humous material mixed into the gardens and as a top dress on the whole lawn. You might have to apply top dress to the lawn every couple of years until grass growth is much better and until it evens out and fills in the willow heaves.


.
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Old 04-19-2017, 05:14 PM
 
214 posts, read 122,215 times
Reputation: 187
Thanks I would love nothing more than remove this tree it is very messy blooms, sticks, leaves, all the squerrels in the county that eat my lily's. ... but you right it will create more problems than solution. So i will start on soil, and maybe another tree trim.
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Old 04-19-2017, 08:32 PM
 
Location: Bloomington IN
4,747 posts, read 6,054,547 times
Reputation: 10568
Trimming the tree really won't be a long term solution. It's the roots of the tree that will take the water away from the grass. Although you were joking, your best option is to live with the reality that beneath your lawn are some very thirsty tree roots. That means either a lot of effort and money to try to grow grass there or another solution such as the rock garden or some smaller flower bed with plants that do well in drought conditions. Look for some native type plants for the area. Often they do better under difficult conditions.

Don't know where you are in the Chicago area, but I used to visit a native plant nursery near St. Charles. Sorry I don't recall the name.

And put some mulch in those flower beds, not that you asked, but something I noticed.
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Old 04-19-2017, 08:48 PM
 
Location: a primitive state
9,040 posts, read 18,202,097 times
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It also looks like the area near your tree is low and that you may have drainage issues there.
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Old 04-19-2017, 09:23 PM
 
214 posts, read 122,215 times
Reputation: 187
Quote:
Originally Posted by rrah View Post
Look for some native type plants for the area. Often they do better under difficult conditions.

Don't know where you are in the Chicago area, but I used to visit a native plant nursery near St. Charles. Sorry I don't recall the name.

And put some mulch in those flower beds, not that you asked, but something I noticed.
Im bordering city of Chicago itself. Trimming the treee i mentioned due to mess it creates.
Thanks everyone for suggestions I really thought it would be a progect but not a complete overhaul. Somme soil mending, right grass mix....... but at this point i am really calling this tree many names.
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Old 04-19-2017, 09:30 PM
 
1,010 posts, read 610,610 times
Reputation: 1623
Quote:
Originally Posted by allsunny View Post
Thanks for the links , I guess now i have a starting point figure out how much due to soil composition and how much is due to the tree. It just rained again so I'll go identify grass/non grass/ weed grass situation when things dry out.
Maybe ill just have a rock garden. ... but joking aside the lab offers standard test and saturated paste which looks to me is additional soluble salts. Would i get both or just standard soil test?
Thanks
I am fairly sure I have only done the basic test ($25) both times I have - once to get started and again a few years later to see if there was progress in my (admittedly lazy) efforts.

Six years ago, I needed a hammer to drive tent stakes into the yard (new lawn/new constuction on what had been farm land ... most likely crops). Very compacted, loamy soil (Twin Cities, near the WI border). Since joining/reading the AroundtheYard forums, I have been using milorganite frequently May/June and Sept/Oct/Nov and adding soil amendments as advised by them (mostly Andy, on the site), plus pre-Em in the fall and occasionally a post-Emergent when needed (new lawn, so that has only been spot treatment where just digging it out did not work).

The soil has loosened up considerably, but again it has been six years.

There is a soil conditioner recipe on the site that I have been wanting to cook up but just got lazy that folks there rave about.

Back to the soil test .... take a look at this sticky in the Soils Forum (https://aroundtheyard.com/forums2/vi...hp?f=11&t=9339). Note that it is dated (for one thing, Private Messaging is disabled now due to spamming that occurred). Andy noted some of the changes in the last post of that sticky. It looks like they are having folks post their soil tests in individual threads in the Soil Forum now (in the past, it was through PMs) plus posting a link of that individual thread in the Queue thread to get a spot in line, so you can actually take a look at some of those submitted and the recommendations. Might be worth a lurk.

I have been very happy with the advice given on that site and in the forums. YMMV. Good luck!
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