View Full Version : Lawn Help

04-18-2010, 04:59 PM
Hi there. I'm trying to whip my lawn into shape after several years of neglect. The yard has several large maple trees so it's pretty shady. A few years ago my in-laws who owned the house before us put in sod, but with very little upkeep, the yard now has a lot of small bare spots (see photo) which I would like to correct. The soil has a lot of clay in it, so about a week ago I applied gypsum. I am dedicated to turning this into a good quality lawn and keeping it that way so I have some questions.

1. I'm not sure what's more important, overseeding the lawn, or fertilizing it. It's actually probably a little overdue for the spring fertilizer, but from what I understand it's not good to plant seed for a few months after fertilizing. I was thinking my best course of action might be to overseed and just use a starter fertilizer instead of the spring fertilizer. I'll just have to spot treat weeds as they pop up. I'm just concerned that starter fertilizer won't do much to help out the existing lawn.

2. I was also wondering if I need to over seed, or will my lawn fill in the bare spots by itself if I get it nice and healthy with the fertilizer?

3. My in-laws have tried planting seed in the past, and it seems to do ok the first year, but by the next year you can't tell it was there. I read that it is common for cheap seeds to do that, so I was planning on buying Scotts Sun/Shade mix with water smart until I saw on their own website it did not get a lot of good reviews. There is also a landscape supply company fairly close who has their own blends of seeds. What is a good way to find out if the seed is of a high quality that will last for years?

That's all for now!

04-19-2010, 12:04 PM
What state are you in? I ask because it can be getting a little late to seed, plus if a pre-ermergent has been applied you wont want to seed now.

I am in Nebraska, and I had a lawn that was suffering a while back. I did all this in the fall as that is the best time to seed here in NE, weather is cooler and weeds aren't trying so hard to fill in.

Prior to any work I mowed the lawn down low and bagged it up. Then I rented a power rake, the power rake pulled out all the dead crap and a bunch of thatch. I mowed over the all crap with a bagger and got it out of the yard.

I paid my neighbors lawn service guys to aearate my yard, 3 passes.
The aerating loosened up the soil and all the cores were scattered over they yard. I left the cores on the yard because I believe when you water your new seed the cores break down and cover the seed with a little soil. Then I seeded the pi$$ out of my yard with a tall fescue blend and applied a good starter fertilizer ( a good one, not scotts). I set my sprinkler system to go off twice a day, once in the morning and once just after lunch, not a heavy watering, just enough to moisten the seed and soil. Then I stayed off my lawn for a month, tall fescur takes a bit to germinate.

After 4 weeks, i started mowing again, but I mulched so i wouldn't pull the new seedlings out of the ground. I started mowing high, and gradually lowered 1 notch a mow to a more managable height.

Since then my lawn has looked great, the next season my effort really showed results and since.

04-19-2010, 12:05 PM
BTW, fine fescues are good for shady areas. I those shady spots, I water deeper and apply fert at a lower rate.

04-19-2010, 05:34 PM
I'm in Northern Illinois, about 40 miles west of Chicago. Would you mind telling me what a good brand of Fertilizer and seed is if your not thrilled with Scotts?


04-19-2010, 05:53 PM
Check with a local nursery and get some recommendations. I get mine from a local sod/seed vendor. This place provides most of the local lawn services with their fert, so that is what I get. Do you have an Earl May around you? They have a pretty good plan as well.

I noticed a big difference when I switched from scotts. The point is these places produce a fert that has what lawns in our own local are need where scotts sells the same stuff across the us. I know ther fert I put down has iron and some other things the clay soils in my area are lacking.

04-20-2010, 09:22 AM
I agree with the fall is best time, you could seed in spring but might fall prey to hot summer stress and weeds.

For large renovations aeration / overseeding or a slice seeder in fall is best, although I have a much easier way to seed smaller areas with the Grass Stitcher (www.grassstitcher.com) you don't remove anything, you stitch directly through the dead area and leave it, it acts as mulch.

We even have a double that works amazing quick for larger areas.

04-20-2010, 09:39 AM


Not saying you need to do all this.... but it has some good info.

04-20-2010, 09:53 AM
1) Why did you apply gypsum?

2) Turf + Trees + Shade = Yearly Overseed

3) Stop throwing products at your lawn in an attempt to make it better .... because you are probably making it worse. Get a soil test done.

4) Proper irrigation management is critical with turf & trees.

04-20-2010, 05:30 PM
My soil has a lot of clay in it, and I read that Gypsum is supposed to help break down the clay. Where would I get a soil test done? I'm pretty good with watering. I have a bunch of sprinklers set up on timers. So it sounds like I waited too long for seeding. Would I be better off saving my seed until Fall and overseeding then?

04-20-2010, 05:33 PM
I would wait, hot temps can really fry out the new seed. You can contact your local extension office about a soil test.

04-20-2010, 10:14 PM
My soil has a lot of clay in it, and I read that Gypsum is supposed to help break down the clay.

Unless you are dealing with a sodic soil, it will not do anything to "break down the clay".

Where would I get a soil test done?

There are many labs around the country that will test soil. Check your local universities.

I'm pretty good with watering. I have a bunch of sprinklers set up on timers. So it sounds like I waited too long for seeding. Would I be better off saving my seed until Fall and overseeding then?

Proper irrigation is more than just a timer and some hose end sprinklers. Bottom line, if you don't get regular rain in your area, and you want a good looking lawn, you need to install a real irrigation system. This is especially true when attempting to establish seed.

10-11-2010, 10:52 AM
FYI - You can buy your Grass Stitcher at any John Deere Landscapes service center, if you don't see them in the store ask them to order some.