Lawn Problems

Hi,
I moved to a house a few years ago and decided to try my hand at making a lawn. Got some reading material and when I thought I undersoood how (big mistake) started. I put down approx 5 or 6" of double mix topsoil and toped it off with 2" of triple mix soil. I used a starter fertilizer and lime and seed mixture gaurenteed (probably another mistake) to grow in local conditions.
Anyway the first year the lawn was impressive but it didn't overwinter very well and by the fall I could tell it was in trouble. I tried fertilizer and lime with no apparent results. The following spring the lawn was almost completely dead. I searched for the cause and found an abundance of crane fly larva in the lawn. Got a soil test done and results showed the ph was very low 4.6. I applied the recommended lime and fertilizer, sprayed to kill the crane fly larva and reseeded the lawn. After reseeding the weather turned cold but after a few weeks delay the seeds germinated although there was a high kill rate. Again the lawn grew well at first but by the fall I knew it was again in trouble.
This spring approx 30% was dead. I collected soil for another soil test and the results shocked me. The ph was 4.2, and while I wasn't expecting it to be where I wanted, I didn't expect it to go down. I again applied the recommended lime and fertilizer. It's been 6 weeks now and the lawn isn't responding very well at all. Diging into the lawn didn't reveal any insects or larva but I noticed that the roots aren't very deep into the soil.
Any suggestions... things to look for ... anything would be a help and greatly appriciated.
Thanks Dave
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wrote:

My brother in law maintains golf courses. Let me share a few things and see if any of this helps.
They water heavily (about 30 - 45 minutes) twice a week. Fertilize every two weeks and mow the lawn to about three inches. I tried this and got great results. The heavy watering and fertilization schedule gave me deep roots and eventually choked out almost all the weeds. I still have some oxalis growing here and there but for the most part, my lawn is looking pretty decent.
Also, I had TruGreen inspect my lawn and tell me if I had any fungus growing. It's a decent little report they run for free while they're trying to sell your their service.
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Thanks for the advice, but I've ruled out lack of water as a problem. I do water regularly and we've had a very wet spring here. Th lawn didn't get a chance to dry out. Now fungus is a possibility. How can you tell? Can fungus cause the expensive problems that I have?
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wrote:

The most obvious problem is the PH is very low. Frequently when you have topsoil that has been scooped up and trucked in, the PH will often be low and need to be raised. A PH of 4.2 is very low and if you apply the typical limestone to try to raise it, this will take many months to treat it successfully. For a PH that low, I would have used a fast acting contractor type lime and tilled it into the soil. Obviously you have to be careful with this approach, as if you applied it to an existing lawn, it would kill it. I'd get the PH fixed BEFORE planting anymore seed. Are you sure you calculated the amount of what you did apply correctly to raise the PH? It would take a hell of a lot of limestone to raise the PH from 4.2 for a decent size lawn.
Did the soil test give any indication of anything else wrong? Did you have it interpreted by someone knowledgable, like a local agricultural extension service? It's also important to know where the problem lawn is located, what type of grass was used, etc, as the problems with bermuda grass in Fl are going to be different from those of fescue in NY. Fungus certainly could kill off a lawn this way. The best thing to do would be to take about a sq ft sample of the good turf and the failing turf, right at a boundary and bring it to an agricultural extension service, if available. There really is no substitute for actually seeing the problem.
I'd also advise that fertilizing every 2 weeks is asking for big trouble. Excessive nitrogen, lots of water and high temps are a prescription for fungus and disease. Golf courses do use a lot more fertilizer than the typical home lawn and apply it in varying weather conditions due to their special requirements. But to go along with it, they also use a ton of chemicals to ward of fungus, either pre- emptively or at the first sign of trouble.
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I also applied supplemented with Ironite. I'm doing this to get deep roots. My lawn looked dead prior to this. My bro in law's advice was to basically get the lawn strong and slowly back off of the excessive fertilization and watering schedule.
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nightrider.36 said:
[...]

BS. All the iron does is make the grass "greener". The fertilizer in Ironite is 1-0-1. That ain't gonna do a thing for your roots. All it does is give you a shot of iron, to make the blades a darker green.
[rest snipped]
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LOL -- thanks. Actually I knew that. I wrote that reply in a hurry.
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You're probably right about it being mostly a low ph problem. The recommended application from the soil test was 16 lbs/ 100 sqft. I have approx 2000 sqft and applied 320 lbs. I used peletized lime and I believe it takes a long time to get results.
The type grass used during seeding consisted of the following: 30% Top Gun Perennial Ryegrass 25% Nublue Kentucky Bluegrass 15% Audubon Creeping Red Fescue 15% Lochsa Kentucky Bluegrass 15% J-5 Chewing Fescue
I live in Newfoundland, Canada...... Long winters, Spring is usually cold with lots of Rain, drizzle and fog. Short summers.
Think I'll take your advice and bring some sod samples to the agriculture lab.
Thanks for your Help

The most obvious problem is the PH is very low. Frequently when you have topsoil that has been scooped up and trucked in, the PH will often be low and need to be raised. A PH of 4.2 is very low and if you apply the typical limestone to try to raise it, this will take many months to treat it successfully. For a PH that low, I would have used a fast acting contractor type lime and tilled it into the soil. Obviously you have to be careful with this approach, as if you applied it to an existing lawn, it would kill it. I'd get the PH fixed BEFORE planting anymore seed. Are you sure you calculated the amount of what you did apply correctly to raise the PH? It would take a hell of a lot of limestone to raise the PH from 4.2 for a decent size lawn.
Did the soil test give any indication of anything else wrong? Did you have it interpreted by someone knowledgable, like a local agricultural extension service? It's also important to know where the problem lawn is located, what type of grass was used, etc, as the problems with bermuda grass in Fl are going to be different from those of fescue in NY. Fungus certainly could kill off a lawn this way. The best thing to do would be to take about a sq ft sample of the good turf and the failing turf, right at a boundary and bring it to an agricultural extension service, if available. There really is no substitute for actually seeing the problem.
I'd also advise that fertilizing every 2 weeks is asking for big trouble. Excessive nitrogen, lots of water and high temps are a prescription for fungus and disease. Golf courses do use a lot more fertilizer than the typical home lawn and apply it in varying weather conditions due to their special requirements. But to go along with it, they also use a ton of chemicals to ward of fungus, either pre- emptively or at the first sign of trouble.
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Yes it can but I thought fungi were hard to identify--I lack the experience. I had to have someone help me do it. On my lawn we identified some slime mold that was leaving a black, powdery substance in the grass blades
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Slime_Mold_DP2.jpg
and read that this is harmless and does not hurt the lawn.
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Hopkins, Dave said:

Don't ask the Google Groper, they're clueless. ;) Golf courses (well, public ones might) don't water all zones that long, twice a week, as a "set schedule". They most certainly don't fertilize every two weeks. There's much more involved in maintaining a golf course than watering heavy and fertilizing. It's amazing how having a relative-by-marriage in a specific industry, somehow makes one an expert in that industry, willing to "share a few things".
You've left out some very pertinent information, and without it, there's not a person here that can help you.
Your "guaranteed" seed blend contains *what*, exactly? It could be mostly Lolium multiflorum Lam., for all we know. ;)
Is the area mostly shade? Sun? (morning, afternoon, etc)
Is it a high-traffic area?
Your geographical location would be quite helpful.
Are you always trying to establish the lawn by seeding in the spring? You know that summer can be the most stressful time of the year for plants, right? If you're in a warm region, those tiny grass seedlings are spending almost all of their energy merely trying to survive. You can't really expect them to have much left, to over-winter, can you? =P
Without knowing what you've actually been trying to grow, and where you're trying to grow it, how could anyone offer any worthy advice? =)
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