Advice and FAQs
Mushrooms are generally not an indicator of poor lawn health and do not present a threat . Typically, they are the fruiting bodies of beneficial fungi that are growing after a rainfall. They can also be an indicator of over-watering or poor drainage. If they occur after especially wet weather,physically removing them with a rake or broom is probably the best way to deal with them. If it has not been raining, adjust irrigation.
The main difference between conventional synthetic lawn fertilizers and slow release organics is solubility, or how quick they dissolve in water.
Synthetic fertilizers dissolve rapidly, releasing nitrogen quickly into the soil. They promote quick "green up" and shallow root systems. They do not last very long, and quickly leach into ground or surface waters after a rain event, preventing most of the nitrogen from actually being absorbed by your plants. This causes pollution that can lead to algal blooms.
Slow-release organic fertilizers, along with compost and compost tea, work by providing food to microbes living in your soil. These in turn produce nutrients for your grass. They are less soluble than synthetics, leading to less leaching of nutrients, and lessening the need for frequent fertilizer applications.
Corn gluten is often used as an "organic" crabgrass pre-emergent. Studies on its effectiveness have been mixed. Precise timing seems to be the most important factor in using it successfully. Because it is expensive and not reliably effective, we do not generally recommend its use.
The best way to get rid of crabgrass is to crowd it out with healthy turf. Crabgrass is opportunistic and needs bare patches in a lawn to get established. It is an annual --it spreads seeds and dies every fall-- and then germinates in warm weather, i.e. late spring/early summer. Typical lawn grasses germinate in cool weather so it is easy enough to get a jump on crab grass by planting turf grasses in the fall so they are well established before the crabgrass has a chance. For this reason, turf grasses are best mowed high 3.5-4” to provide more coverage of the soil.
If you already have crabgrass, and can’t bear to wait until fall to get rid of it, you can pull it out and overseed the bare patches with rye. Starting in the summer by getting rid of crabgrass before it goes to seed does give you an advantage. You can also remove small patches with boiling water or with toxin-free, vinegar and citrus-based products available in stores.
In the fall, cut lawn short, aerate, compost , and overseed with grass seed suited for your conditions.
Moss is a pretty good sign that your soil is too acidic. Liming is the easiest way to deal with this, but composting with the lime will help improve the soils retention of the lime so it is most efficient. Liming should be applied as guided by a soil test.