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View Full Version : To Till or Not to Till -- that is the question!


ricsin1
02-19-2012, 01:54 AM
Im preparing for a lawn renovation in mid April. I have a fescue lawn that I'm trying to redo with bermuda seed. 3000 square feet... 5 lbs Riviera + 4 lbs Yukon = 3 lbs/1000sq. feet seed rate is the plan....some say you should rototill - others say no....... what say you??

should i kill off all the fescue, skin the lawn with the bag attachment on my lawn mower....then rototill the whole yard, then seed the bermuda...... OR...

should I just kill off the fescue...then skin the lawn with the bag attachment on my lawn mower.... then use a metal rake to scrape up the ground....then seed the bermuda....

Kiril
02-19-2012, 10:11 AM
The decision to till depends on the state of your soil. Get an in depth soil test, audit your soil, then make a decision.

RigglePLC
02-19-2012, 11:29 AM
I have not done this. But from what I have heard, if you till, it leaves big clumps of sod, that then must be raked out. You may need a dump truck.

Ideally, you should kill the fescue. Then strip the sod with a sod-cutting machine and haul away, with dump truck. Level and prep the soil. Lime and fertilize as soil test indicates. Sow seed. Rake in. But soil temp should be warm for warm-season grasses. My opinion, soil temp of 70 or air temp about 85 or 90. Irrigation should be available and generous. Be ready to combat weeds as needed. Be ready to accept brown grass in the cool weather months.

Correct the cause of the original problem or soil bad soil conditions, remove troublesome weeds, correct any drainage or leveling issues. Do not try to grow Bermuda in the shade. Ideally, use Bermuda sod of high quality, and suited to your level of use and maintenance.
http://www.seedland.com/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Store_Code=Seedland&Category_Code=BER

White Gardens
02-19-2012, 01:41 PM
80% of the time you should till. You might run into the occasional older lawn that has little to no compaction and the soil structure is in great shape.

If you till, get a mini skid and the toro soil cultivator (rhotodiron). It has the ability to till deep and it will also bury the majority of the old sod and rocks at the bottom of the till zone.

.....

Smallaxe
02-19-2012, 01:54 PM
What I would do is, broadcast the seed onto the old turf, and water it down into the muclh layer of the thatch. At the correct moment, apply the glyphosate which then dies back and cover the seed, much as a layer of perfectly applied straw might do.

Then, when everything is dried and brown, soak it down with water and let all those dead & dried, roots, thatch and blades, soak up the water like a sponge.

It doesn't have to be kept 'sopping wet'... rather a uniform level of consistant moisture than could be accomplished on "mineral soils"...

As the roots establish from the baby plants, they are more easily growing through the channels of previous canals formed by old roots... rather than fighting their way into compacted mineral soils...

In no-till gardening... you are operating from that principle... and it fits well with lawns... :)

RigglePLC
02-19-2012, 03:55 PM
Wow. This idea is amazing and creative, Smallaxe. So you are suggesting...sow seed, water it in, (no raking), and only THEN, kill the grass with Roundup. So the old grass is actually supposed die, cover the seed and then to act like straw mulch.

Hmmm...have you tried this method? Has anybody tried it and compared it to treating to kill the old grass first, before sowing seed?

I tried something similar in August 2011. However, I only had "Razorburn" which contains glyphosate plus Diquat. Results fair...there was slow fill-in from new seed.

This needs some one to try it and compare killing the grass before or after seeding.
I am thinking.

White Gardens
02-19-2012, 05:14 PM
Wow. This idea is amazing and creative, Smallaxe. So you are suggesting...sow seed, water it in, (no raking), and only THEN, kill the grass with Roundup. So the old grass is actually supposed die, cover the seed and then to act like straw mulch.

Hmmm...have you tried this method? Has anybody tried it and compared it to treating to kill the old grass first, before sowing seed?

I tried something similar in August 2011. However, I only had "Razorburn" which contains glyphosate plus Diquat. Results fair...there was slow fill-in from new seed.

This needs some one to try it and compare killing the grass before or after seeding.
I am thinking.


My local supplier has suggested this method on lawn re-seedings. Actually works pretty good from what I hear and might try it myself in a few places. They also do Lawn Care work, and said they've had some good results with this method.

My supplier though recommends spraying first, waiting until dry, and then power-raking in the new seed.

.....

Smallaxe
02-19-2012, 06:48 PM
Wow. This idea is amazing and creative, Smallaxe. So you are suggesting...sow seed, water it in, (no raking), and only THEN, kill the grass with Roundup. So the old grass is actually supposed die, cover the seed and then to act like straw mulch.

Hmmm...have you tried this method? ...

This is the ONLY method I use on CG dominated areas... Of course, I only do it in the Fall, when I can use 'frost' instead of 'gly.', to cover the seed with dead CG...

In the Springtime, it is simple enough to seed with lots of AR, then to overseed in the Fall with the desired grass and use the dead AR for mulch cover...

Basically, the Springtime is ALWAYS going to give you some kind of trouble, but this method has a lot more to offer than redoing all the soil that leaves you, with bare ground to cover the seed...

When I overseed, Spring or Fall I rarely do more than stir the surface of the soil on bare spots. On well thatched areas, I do nothing but broadcast the seed. Timing is important, but the bottom line is that, the wet dead grass is about as perfect a germination bed as you could make...

Experimenting the specifics, would be a great advancement in the industry... :)

RigglePLC
02-19-2012, 06:49 PM
I stepped out to take picture as there is no snow at the moment. Last August I sowed Scotts "Classic" seed, and then...sprayed immediately with "Razorburn" (which contains glyphosate and diquat.)

Results were a bit slow, but the seed did come up. No irrigation. Although from the photo it appears my spraying covered larger circle than I thought. New seed produced the grass in the center. Photo on February, 2012, temps have been between 25 and 38 this week.

Smallaxe
02-19-2012, 06:55 PM
I stepped out to take picture as there is no snow at the moment. Last August I sowed Scotts "Classic" seed, and then...sprayed immediately with "Razorburn" (which contains glyphosate and diquat.) ...

What is "diquat" and what/how does it do what it is supposed to do??? :)

agrostis
02-19-2012, 08:18 PM
Im preparing for a lawn renovation in mid April. I have a fescue lawn that I'm trying to redo with bermuda seed. 3000 square feet... 5 lbs Riviera + 4 lbs Yukon = 3 lbs/1000sq. feet seed rate is the plan....some say you should rototill - others say no....... what say you??

should i kill off all the fescue, skin the lawn with the bag attachment on my lawn mower....then rototill the whole yard, then seed the bermuda...... OR...

should I just kill off the fescue...then skin the lawn with the bag attachment on my lawn mower.... then use a metal rake to scrape up the ground....then seed the bermuda....

If you don't have irrigation then you might want to consider tilling. If you have standing water you might consider tilling. It's hard to say without being there. Cultivating that soil will help. It just depend's on how much work you want to put into it. Whatever you decide to do, you will be grinning come August.

ArTurf
02-19-2012, 08:55 PM
No offense Smallaxe but the method you mentioned will not be very successful with bermuda.May work on cool season grasses. I have seeded my share of bermuda grass so I will give you my opinion. Kill off the fescue. Then you will need to do something to create a lot of soil to seed contact. Tilling would be best in my opinion but as someone mentioned it may leave clumps you would have to deal with. Another option would be to cut the fescue down as low as possible after killing and then aerating the heck out of the lawn. Kind of like light tilling. Do you have irrigation? If not before is the time to install not after like I see so many do. Not sure what your rainfall patterns are but if they are like mine the chances of success are poor without irrigation. The main point I want to make is the more soil to seed contact the better.

RigglePLC
02-19-2012, 09:20 PM
Diquat is a non-selective short acting herbicide similar to paraquat. Leaves no residue.
http://www.interstateproducts.com/contact_herbicide.htm

Art, do you mean that dead grass falling on top of the seed does not work if the seed is Bermuda?

Do you believe that aeration is best before or after sowing the seed(to get the soil on top of the seed)?

ricsin1
02-20-2012, 01:25 AM
GREAT FEEDBACK SO FAR! THANK YOU ALL...

just some points I want to clarify:

1) on the "round up" it says that it is SAFE TO OVERSEED after 7 days... are you saying if I seeded BEFORE hand, then sprayed roundup DIRECTLY on those seeds that the roundup wouldnt effect seed germination??? I splurging on $220 on 9lbs of seed and I would hate to hurt it any....

2) I dont have an irrigation system.

3) this is an old yard..never been renovated in the past....just doing core areation/overseeding each fall for the last 2 years... the summer months in Atlanta, GA BAKES THE HECK out of that fescue...I'm paying $150 each fall to aerate and overseed.. plus insane water bills trying to keep it green in the summer...... I'm just switching to bermuda!

Smallaxe
02-20-2012, 10:56 AM
No offense Smallaxe but the method you mentioned will not be very successful with bermuda.May work on cool season grasses. I have seeded my share of bermuda grass so I will give you my opinion. ...

A seedbed, is a seedbed, is a seedbed...

The magic buzzwords "Soil Contact", means only soil, right?
Soil doesn't exist under the dead plants?
Bare soil stays more consistantly moist than brown dried organic matter, lieing on top of the soil?

A seedbed has certain criteria to be successful and it is universal for grass seeds all over the world. Moisture, air and sometimes light. It doesn't get anymore complicated than that... :)

RigglePLC
02-20-2012, 05:43 PM
The Roundup people are being conservative. Other experts say that Roundup is inactivated when it contacts the soil. Considering the high cost of the seed--its probably best to wait the full 7 days. 9 pounds for $220?

Landscape Poet
02-20-2012, 07:47 PM
A seedbed has certain criteria to be successful and it is universal for grass seeds all over the world. Moisture, air and sometimes light. It doesn't get anymore complicated than that... :)


Do not forget Temp!!!! All seed needs Oxygen, Proper Moisture, The correct Temp and sometimes light.

agrostis
02-20-2012, 10:56 PM
Yes you can spray roundup over seed. But why would you ? That really is if you can't have any brown. I spray at 2 oz. per 1000 sq. ft. wait 3 day's and then seed. If the label say's 7 day's then wait 7 day's. But don't think you hurt the seed. Bermuda can take 3 weeks to germinate, and i'll bet in early spring it might take even longer.

superintendent
02-21-2012, 01:19 AM
If the yard has the layout you want then you can either spray the yard several times with roundup. Do them about 2-3 weeks apart. IF you have a harley rake then use it to get rid of the dead grass. Then seed the area and water. If you don't have a harley rake after you have sprayed the yard several times and mowed it as low as you can you can use a slit seeder to seed the yard. You want no grass or anything covering the seed. If you cover the seed it will not germinate. Bermuda likes the sun. I have done the slit seeding method several times with great success.

Smallaxe
02-21-2012, 10:32 AM
Do not forget Temp!!!! All seed needs Oxygen, Proper Moisture, The correct Temp and sometimes light.

I knew there was one more that I was missing at the time. Thanks for the reminder...

Kiril
02-21-2012, 10:34 AM
I knew there was one more that I was missing at the time. Thanks for the reminder...

More than one, but I suppose we will leave that to the inquisitive.

Also while I'm here, seeding into significant thatch is a bad idea IMO.

Smallaxe
02-21-2012, 11:00 AM
More than one, but I suppose we will leave that to the inquisitive.

Also while I'm here, seeding into significant thatch is a bad idea IMO.

That would depend on which that you are referring to and whether or not the seed can be adequately covered.
When the entire lawn is going to be killed, the 'living thatch' will die as well, leaving opportunity for seedling to root through once its ready.

I really am surprised that no one can see that the seed will continue to descend into the many layers of debris, and don't have any faith in the root to make its way through the "thatch", but believe good soil contact with bare clay doesn't present any hardships.

Yes, there are more requirements for seed. But if LCOs are able to understand how those 4 relate to planting, they may actually be able to make things work sensibly and cheaply.
When I see all the things that people do to plant some seed, I just wonder... :)

Of course, my favorite seedbed, of all time, is plugging for a couple of passes first... That's Classic!!!

Smallaxe
02-21-2012, 11:23 AM
... You want no grass or anything covering the seed. If you cover the seed it will not germinate. Bermuda likes the sun. I have done the slit seeding method several times with great success.

If there's to be "no grass or anything covering the seed", Why are you slit seeding? Wouldn't broadcasting be quicker and easier?

Not covering the seed in your mind = burying the seed with a seeder with great success, doesn't really raise a red flag anymore.
2 conflicting ideas are both true... Were you 'educated' in the gov't system, by any chance? :)

Kiril
02-21-2012, 11:39 AM
That would depend on which that you are referring to and whether or not the seed can be adequately covered.
When the entire lawn is going to be killed, the 'living thatch' will die as well, leaving opportunity for seedling to root through once its ready.

I really am surprised that no one can see that the seed will continue to descend into the many layers of debris, and don't have any faith in the root to make its way through the "thatch", but believe good soil contact with bare clay doesn't present any hardships.

Yes, there are more requirements for seed. But if LCOs are able to understand how those 4 relate to planting, they may actually be able to make things work sensibly and cheaply.
When I see all the things that people do to plant some seed, I just wonder... :)

Of course, my favorite seedbed, of all time, is plugging for a couple of passes first... That's Classic!!!

Well Axe, there is the crackpot amateur methods, and there are the professional tried and true methods. I'll leave it up to the readers to decide which one applies to your theories.

ArTurf
02-21-2012, 01:50 PM
Diquat is a non-selective short acting herbicide similar to paraquat. Leaves no residue.
http://www.interstateproducts.com/contact_herbicide.htm

Art, do you mean that dead grass falling on top of the seed does not work if the seed is Bermuda?

Do you believe that aeration is best before or after sowing the seed(to get the soil on top of the seed)?

Riggle,
It is my belief/experience that this method of seeding with Bermuda or other warm season grasses would not yield much success. If there were dead grass shading the seed it would hinder germination. Bermuda needs max sunlight. From my limited experiences with cool season grasses (rye) this method would be fine. Not trying to argue with anyone just trying to give the OP the best chance of success from my actual experience with the specific grass he is asking about.

I believe aeration would be better before broadcasting the seed. Bermuda really does not need or want much soil on top of it.

Ricsin,
If you do not have irrigation and your climate in similar to mine, which I suspect it is, your chances of achieving a quality lawn are marginal. Also if there is not significant sunlight then Bermuda is not the way to go.

Smallaxe
02-21-2012, 06:19 PM
Well Axe, there is the crackpot amateur methods, and there are the professional tried and true methods. I'll leave it up to the readers to decide which one applies to your theories.

I once believed as you do, and spent time and money tilling up and eliminating the "Clumps" or shaving the sod off, buz of the living thatch layer...

Once I started thinking sensibly I realized that I could've overseeded w/compost and had a successful planting, at a cheaper price...
It is not the best option all the time, but a Professional LCO would understand when it would be called for... A 'Poser LCO has limited options, because they have limited understanding... Sometimes people learn, but usually they wait to be told by Universities what to think... That's just stupid, and,,, as 'Creative' as Stalinist Russia...

BTW, my comments aren't my 'theories' they are my experience... People can only make an informed decision if they know all sides to a discussion. Your turn to explain how thatch is more difficult to germinate seed in than bare clay soils... That's the question and it's the only question I'm discussing at the moment...

Answer the question, with a well thought out response, [/b]that actually explains why we should eliminate the OM at the surface because we should prepare a seedbed with raw clay[/b]... preferably when wet, and with a bobcat... :laugh: ...I'm a pro becuz I got me a big, big bobcat...

I expect that you will rather resort to hyperbole of the nastiest sort... Very common practice of those who has just run out of ability to make a point...

Kiril
02-21-2012, 08:05 PM
1) doesn't have the water holding capacity of clay
2) dries out faster than clay
3) Harbors insect and disease detrimental to turf
4) Produces weak turf
5) Lowers germination rate
6) Increases time to establishment

If you have significant thatch then it needs to be dealt with mechanically.

superintendent
02-21-2012, 08:26 PM
My bad. With a slit seeder you are just loosing the top layer of dirt and then broadcasting the seed on top. You got to have some lose soil for the seed to grab ahold of. Like you said if you slit seed the bermuda in you are covering the seed up and waste of money. Believe me at the course I was at we seeded a fairway and the board demanded I cover the seed with straw and I told them that is not how you do bermuda. Well, let say it was there way or the high way and nothing came up but who do you think got the blame.

Smallaxe
02-21-2012, 08:32 PM
1) doesn't have the water holding capacity of clay
2) dries out faster than clay
3) Harbors insect and disease detrimental to turf
4) Produces weak turf
5) Lowers germination rate
6) Increases time to establishment

If you have significant thatch then it needs to be dealt with mechanically.

Thanks for the honest dialogue... :)

So from your POV, clay does not need OM to protect its surface from baking, in sunshine?
When, if ever, would straw be a beneficial covering for grass seed on a bare soil?

I am probably pushing it by trying to get 2 more questions answered, with intelligent discourse, but.. let's see... I think it is an important issue of soil management... Pros should have a working knowledge of soils, IMO...

Smallaxe
02-21-2012, 08:42 PM
My bad. With a slit seeder you are just loosing the top layer of dirt and then broadcasting the seed on top. You got to have some lose soil for the seed to grab ahold of. Like you said if you slit seed the bermuda in you are covering the seed up and waste of money. Believe me at the course I was at we seeded a fairway and the board demanded I cover the seed with straw and I told them that is not how you do bermuda. Well, let say it was there way or the high way and nothing came up but who do you think got the blame.

OK, it is true... Thanks...

Interestingly enough I'll be going South into Bermuda Grass country later this Spring and if I can help match growth habits with environments, that will help the family... :)