Clumpy Lawn Renovation Advice

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Darryl G, Apr 30, 2010.

  1. Darryl G

    Darryl G LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,033

    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
     
  2. rcreech

    rcreech Sponsor
    Male, from OHIO
    Posts: 6,046

    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.
     
  3. Darryl G

    Darryl G LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,033

    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.
     
  4. rcreech

    rcreech Sponsor
    Male, from OHIO
    Posts: 6,046

    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!
     
  5. Darryl G

    Darryl G LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,033

    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!
     
  6. rcreech

    rcreech Sponsor
    Male, from OHIO
    Posts: 6,046

    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!
     
  7. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 6,776

    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?
     
  8. bigslick7878

    bigslick7878 LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 809

    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.
     
  9. LawnSolutionsCP

    LawnSolutionsCP Sponsor
    Posts: 907

    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
     
  10. Darryl G

    Darryl G LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 8,033

    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.
     

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