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View Full Version : Clumpy Lawn Renovation Advice


Darryl G
04-30-2010, 10:35 PM
Ok, I've never run across a lawn quite like this one. This is primarily a snow plowing customer but I have done their leaf cleanups for them the last two seasons. They approached me about renovating their lawn. The grass that is there is healthy and weed free, but in areas it's very clumpy. It looks fine from a distance but probably only has 60% coverage. It's a mix of bluegrass and fescue, some of which may be native type fescue which I know have a clumpy growth habit. I think the lawn got this way because they get a LOT of leaves and prior to me doing the cleanups they sometimes didn't get picked up settled into pocket in the lawn and killed ares. They also tend to let the grass get pretty long and matted.

I was originally going to truck in some topsoil and fill in the spaces between the clumps to even it out and then overseed. However, today I was there to prep the lawn and cut it pretty close (2 inches) and dethathed it. After seeing it without the thatch and matted grass, it's apparent that there are literally hundreds of bare spots in the 1 to 4 inch diameter range. I'm thinking a better approach would be to aerate the hell out of it (it is compacted) and then overseed it, without putting down any topsoil except in a few depressions where tree stumps were. The grass that's there looks good, I can't see starting over and it would take a hell of a lot of topsoil to level everything. The soil itself is level, it's just the clumpy growth habit of the turf that gives it the uneven appearance.

So am I on the right track? I've never dealt with a lawn that was so healthy yet so sparse and clumpy at the same time.

Oh, I was going to overseed with Lesco's Team Mates plus, a mix of turf-type tall fescues, KBG and perennial ryegrass, which I've already purchased.

Thanks,

Darryl

rcreech
05-01-2010, 09:46 AM
If it is really rough...I would recommend killing it, leveling it and starting over.

If it isn't rought then you could core aerate the crap out of it and seed it.

Best way would be to core it then slice seed it.

But if it is rough...it doesn't matter and needs to be leveled first. If a lawn is rough it won't get any better with time.

Darryl G
05-01-2010, 10:14 AM
Thanks for the reply. The "roughness" is almost wholly due to the clumpy growth. I think I'll go ahead and aerate and slit seed it. I can't see killing it off when there is so much healthy turf. I've giving them a head's up that one aeration and seeding event may not totally correct it; they're leaving it up to me at this point. I think if I do it now and hit it again in the fall we'll be good.

rcreech
05-01-2010, 12:28 PM
Thanks for the reply. The "roughness" is almost wholly due to the clumpy growth. I think I'll go ahead and aerate and slit seed it. I can't see killing it off when there is so much healthy turf. I've giving them a head's up that one aeration and seeding event may not totally correct it; they're leaving it up to me at this point. I think if I do it now and hit it again in the fall we'll be good.

This is a good route to go if it isn't too rough. I agree it is hard to take out a good lawn...but sometimes it is the only choice if the homeowner is tired of beating their teeth out when they mow.

I would ask them to mow it as short as possible (SCALP IT) before you start. This will set the turf back, allow you to penetrate the existing turf better which will allow better seed to soil contact...and also you will be able to see if there are truely some "low places" that could maybe be addressed before seeding.

Good Luck!

Darryl G
05-01-2010, 01:46 PM
Yah, I actually took it down to 2 inches yesterday which is as low as I dared go. Also dethatched it...it was pretty matted. I think between being matted and having leaves left on it is how it got to this point. If you let it get matted like that it literally starts choking itself out. Then leaves start settling in the hollows and it's a self perpetuating course of destruction after that.

Spent the morning messing with my trailer lights...grrrr. DOT has been cracking down around here lately and lost all but my turn signals last nite...traced it to a short in the 3-light bar on the rear...blew the truck fuse. Fun stuff...now I can get to work!

Thanks again!

rcreech
05-01-2010, 02:06 PM
2" cut should work good!

Now aerate it 2-3+ times and make it look like crap and slice it 2 twice in 2 directions and you are good to go!

Have fun!

White Gardens
05-01-2010, 02:37 PM
The only other process that I would recommend is killing off the law and renting a toro soil cultivator on the front of a dingo and pulverize the soil and re-grade.

Then either sod or over seed the entire thing and then come back in the fall and do an over-seeding to fill any areas.

Aerating would work but you mentioned that the lawn was super compacted. If it's that bad then a good 6 inch tilling would yield better results.

Even though this process is more expensive, they will be saving money in the long run as the natural conditions of the turf will make for less aerating, de-thatching, fertilizer, etc.....


One other thing that stuck out in my mind is you said there were tons of leaves on the lawn originally. Is it shaded there, and if so what type of trees is the area under?

bigslick7878
05-01-2010, 05:20 PM
Unless you are planning to sod it, I would not kill off the existing grass if it is weed free.

This sounds like the perfect case for a aerate/slit seed course of action.

Might want to think about just a little top soil if the budget allows it.

I would have gone with a straight TTTF seed but if you already bought other seed I guess that is not an option.

LawnSolutionsCP
05-01-2010, 08:53 PM
Can you post a picture? If your definition of clumpy is clumps of tall fescue in the lawn...I would kills off the clumps at a minimum and put down TTTF or blue grass given how far north you are.

David

Darryl G
05-01-2010, 09:44 PM
The only other process that I would recommend is killing off the law and renting a toro soil cultivator on the front of a dingo and pulverize the soil and re-grade.

Then either sod or over seed the entire thing and then come back in the fall and do an over-seeding to fill any areas.

Aerating would work but you mentioned that the lawn was super compacted. If it's that bad then a good 6 inch tilling would yield better results.

Even though this process is more expensive, they will be saving money in the long run as the natural conditions of the turf will make for less aerating, de-thatching, fertilizer, etc.....


One other thing that stuck out in my mind is you said there were tons of leaves on the lawn originally. Is it shaded there, and if so what type of trees is the area under?

I was there filling some holes and ripping out some shrubs today as they got from Florida. We discussed it and I'm going to aerate and slit seed on Monday. They really don't want to start all over on the lawn.

There are a lot of trees, mostly oaks, but they're trimmed up pretty tall and the lawn does get sun. The trees are all along the borders of the property. Basically there's a wooded buffer on all sides. Some of the areas on onee side along the edges are heavily shaded and are mossy but I'm not even gonna fuss with them. I'm concentrating on the more visible priority areas.

Darryl G
05-01-2010, 09:53 PM
Unless you are planning to sod it, I would not kill off the existing grass if it is weed free.

This sounds like the perfect case for a aerate/slit seed course of action.

Might want to think about just a little top soil if the budget allows it.

I would have gone with a straight TTTF seed but if you already bought other seed I guess that is not an option.

There really isn't a budget. This is a time and materials client that's pretty easy to deal with but they don't want to spend a fortune either. I did put down a yard of topsoil to fill some holes and the worst of the uneven areas today. I don't like the straight TTTF because of the long germination time especially in spring; I'd like to get some cover ASAP. Customers tend to get a little anxious when they don't see anything coming up for 3 weeks!

I did notice that Lesco changed the blend a bit this year, swapping the percentages of two of the TTTFs. Not sure what that's about.

Maybe I'll snap some pictures on Monday.

bigslick7878
05-02-2010, 01:21 PM
There really isn't a budget. This is a time and materials client that's pretty easy to deal with but they don't want to spend a fortune either. I did put down a yard of topsoil to fill some holes and the worst of the uneven areas today. I don't like the straight TTTF because of the long germination time especially in spring; I'd like to get some cover ASAP. Customers tend to get a little anxious when they don't see anything coming up for 3 weeks!

I did notice that Lesco changed the blend a bit this year, swapping the percentages of two of the TTTFs. Not sure what that's about.

Maybe I'll snap some pictures on Monday.

The faster it germinates the faster it grows!

Darryl G
05-02-2010, 02:24 PM
I don't mow it unless it's incidental like for cleanups and I like fast growing grass anyway, means weekly mowing and maybe even an excessive growth surcharge, lol.

White Gardens
05-02-2010, 10:53 PM
What is popping out in my mind is that there are oak trees around the yard and the leaves were still there when you started mowing the property.

Not only does it sound like competition from the surrounding trees and surface roots, but also a potential for the PH to be off.

Oak leaves are known to turn a lawn acidic, especially if you mulch too many of them back into the lawn. Makes me wonder if that is the root of your lawn issues.

I's like to see some pics.

Darryl G
10-24-2010, 03:16 PM
Well, I never really followed up on this post. In the spring I brought in a little top soil for the worst spots, aerated the hell out of the place and then slit seeded it. It came out pretty well but some areas died out from the drought. I went back about a month ago and aerated it again and slit seeded selected portions. Used 70% blend TTTF, 20% rye and 10% bluegrass both times. I just did a fall cleanup and mow yesterday. The customer usually does the mowing and had done some of the cleanup but couldn't finish it so called. Here are some pics. Not exactly a perfect lawn but way way better than it was and the customer is delighted that I got it looking this good without doing a full "do over." I wish I'd taken some before pictures but never got to it. Note that the mow was incidental to the cleanup so I didn't trim or get picky about my stripes. I threw in a picture of my mowing setup.

RigglePLC
10-24-2010, 03:45 PM
Aerate or slit seed it or both. Clumps are caused by grass forming clumps and no grass in the dirt areas. Get grass to grow everywhere and problem solved. But...first consider what caused the tihin grass problem--it will probably happen again.

CHARLES CUE
10-24-2010, 09:30 PM
My suggestion would be to top dress in the holes where there is no sod and slit seed the hole yard so it match's. I find if you just seed it does not come in smooth it will be bumpy.

Charles Cue

Darryl G
10-24-2010, 10:22 PM
My suggestion would be to top dress in the holes where there is no sod and slit seed the hole yard so it match's. I find if you just seed it does not come in smooth it will be bumpy.

Charles Cue

Yes agreed and that was orginally going to be my approach until I gave it a close cut and dethatch in the spring and realized that there were literally hundreds of hollows that would have been very time consuming to fill. Yet the areas of grass that were there were pretty nice and healthy and they didn't want to start all over with the lawn. So I filled in the worst ones, aerated and slit seeded the whole yard to "find" those areas that really had to be filled. The plan was to do that this fall, but they decided it was good enough for them...the main and most visible areas of the lawn look good. So I just did an aeration of the whole lawn and slit seeded selected areas that had gotten burned out instead. And I broadcast seeded those areas that had only been aerated.

The original problem was that leaves had been allowed to accumulate on the lawn and killed off the areas where they settled, resulting in the clumpyness. It's a self perpetuating cycle. You get hollows and then leaves settle in those and they just get larger and larger. As you can see, there are lots of trees surrounding the lawn.

Anyway, they're happy with the result and the price, so all is good.

bigslick7878
10-29-2010, 06:47 PM
Aerate or slit seed it or both.

Agreed.

It will look perfect with one more go around.

Thinmint
12-22-2010, 12:19 AM
the clumpy ness may be due to the growth habit of the tall fescue,
as the grass is ripped and torn more rhizomes form and it leads to this growth common on fescue

Barefoot James
12-22-2010, 01:04 AM
the clumpy ness may be due to the growth habit of the tall fescue,
as the grass is ripped and torn more rhizomes form and it leads to this growth common on fescue
Uh TTTF does not have rhizomes - it is a bunch grass. Unless it is the new breed of TTTF with rhizomes but I doubt it as this is very new and not very common.

In terms of the clumps just dormant seed it this Feb and cover with some compost and it will be fixed.

Darryl G
12-22-2010, 11:23 AM
Correct James. That's why I use a blend with 10% bluegrass. It helps to spread and fill in.

After the second aeration and seeding I did in the fall this lawn is looking good. Not perfect, but the customer is happy. Hopefully it will get established enough to make it through the summer. My experience has been that once you get TTTF established, it's almost drought proof. Getting it through the first summer is the trick.

Darryl G
10-22-2011, 11:38 PM
I just wanted to follow up on this old post. I was driving buy this lawn today and saw the homeowner out there blowing leaves so I stopped in to have a look at the lawn. I hadn't seen it since I did a mulch job for them in the spring and it looked pretty good, having been selectively slit seeded for a second time and the rest of it aerated and overseeded.

Well, it looks better than it did originally but it has largely reverted back to it's clumpy look, and now I think I know why. The homeowner mows it somewhat infrequently because he is out of town a lot and when he does he mows it fairly tall with a 21 inch mulching mower. The grass is long and matted and laying over. My experience is that mulching mowers tend to do that. It doesn't look long until you get down and stand up and it's like 8 to 10 inch long grass. So basically I think that long grass is laying over and smothering the grass next to it. I suggested he instead discharge to try to get it to stand up, but unfortunately the damage is already done.