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Looking for help renovating a lawn

Discussion in 'Organic Lawn Care' started by TMGL&L, Apr 17, 2008.

  1. TMGL&L

    TMGL&L LawnSite Member
    Posts: 243

    I want to offer a lawn renovation to a new client of mine. I know he would be interested if and when I offer the service to him.

    His lawn is patchy and bare. Suprisingly, he doesn't really have any real weed problems. In the past I think he used Chem Lawn (which probably burned it and killed it in the first place) and therefore, I get to be the first to try to build some life in his soil.

    I put down corn gluten meal three and half weeks ago and it should be wearing off in a few weeks. My schedule will free up some time in the middle of May which is when I want to start work.

    I want to salvage what he has and topdress with compost and overseed with a sunny grass seed mix. Obviously I have several questions before I start and I know you guys can provide some valuable input.

    1. How long do I have to wait to seed after using cgm?

    2. Is it too late to seed if it's late May? ( The location is Lancaster Pennsylvania) ...Should I wait until the Fall?

    3. I'm thinking about spraying compost tea when I'm done. Should I do this immediately afterward or should I wait until later in the season to do that? (I can fit it in the budget so that shouldn't be an issue)

    4.What type of seed would be best to use? Should it be a mix or a straight species? (The area is in full sun)

    ...Of course I have more questions but I don't want to overload anyone. I really want this place to look great by the end of the year so any valuable tips and input are greatly appreciated.
  2. NattyLawn

    NattyLawn LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,643

    1. Control longetivity with CGM varies.

    2. Wait until fall. Soil test, fix any soil deficiencies, kill what needs to be killed, slice seed late August early September. Ask your customer if he wants to water his lawn all summer and he'll wait.

    3. Apply fert, slice seed....Spray tea a few weeks later. What type of brewer are you using? Compost tested?

    4. I like TTTF (Turf Type tall fescue) for full sun, high stress areas. Will not go dormant in the summer, handles stress better than blue/rye, but many customers love the blue!
  3. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    If there is no irrigation system then I would mostly agree with NattyLawn. If water is no problem I believe in - why not give it a try :)

    We actually have grass greening up now in our location. I will be putting down seed under the spring compost app. That app. I am timing after the first mowing this year.

    Reason being, the good seeds may possibly, germinate before the bad seeds and are growing strong b4 the weather gets - 'too' hot. That could happen by early August 2009!
  4. TMGL&L

    TMGL&L LawnSite Member
    Posts: 243

    I still need to get the soil tested to determine what the soil is lacking I'll try to be doing that as soon as I can. For now I'm just going to keep pulling the dandelions as they come up and hope it will all be over soon. (like a bad dream)

    Shouldn't I use a mixture of grasses to avoid monoculture. The drawback of that I geuss is that it won't look as clean and uniform. What I'm thinking is that the correct grass types most ideal for the location and seasons will peak during the cool and hot conditions presented throughout the year.

    ..Oh and I'm not going to be making compost tea anytime this year I don't have the time or experience to make anything. I'm probably going to buy some when I get the chance (probably Bill's product).

    It wouldn't hurt to seed in early June would it? Now I understand that it isn't the best time for grass, but top dressing with compost that is loaded with beneficial microbial life and overseeding can't be a bad thing. I geuss if the grass browns out and dies right away because of dry conditions and looks bad that could create an uglier problem than what I started with.

    He doesn't have an irrigation system but I know I can trust that he will keep it watered everyday...He isn't a lazy customer. I geuss the main drawback is that the seed costs more. On the other hand, the property is very small (were talking 3500 sq. ft...maybe) so thats only a 25 dollar investment.

    What I'm getting at here is why not compost and over seed?
  5. jeffinsgf

    jeffinsgf LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 641

    You left out core aerate. I would do it. I don't see any reason to wait until fall, if the guy is willing to water. You might have CGM stunting as late as mid-May, which could be a reason to wait. However, with or without overseeding, if you aerate and topdress and water as needed, you'll see a marked improvement.
  6. TMGL&L

    TMGL&L LawnSite Member
    Posts: 243

    The lawn has been fertilized with store bought synthetics for years now I believe and is pretty patchy as is. Aeration will run about 70 bucks (for rental, time, and gas) and will kind of tear up the little bit of lawn that exists.

    If my grass seed won't be germinating very well (because of the little bit of remaining cgm that may be in the soil and the fact that it will be late may) don't I have a chance of actually making the lawn look worse than before I started? I mean until Fall when I aerate, compost, and seed again that is.

    I am really worried about the weeds stealing the real estate between the grass patches especially over the long summer months in the sun. This is the main reason I want to start seeding now.
  7. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

    No irrigation and synthetics for years is suspiscious, in the sense - If he has followed the 4-6 steps programs with synthetic ferts and cides, he is probably the one that killed the grass. Making it patchy. No pre-m and lots of annual rye and permanent grasses. Dandelions are a killer but - pre-m will do more harm than good as far as getting a lawn growing in the spring.

    Think about it. Patchy lawn with no weeds or full lawn with some weeds? For a whole 'nother summer. I choose the mowing (some) weeds option over mowing dirt, every time. :)
  8. TMGL&L

    TMGL&L LawnSite Member
    Posts: 243

    I agree the chems killed the lawn. He has no soil structure at all. Just looking at it I can tell no water ever soaks in. He waters often and it doesn't really stay in.

    Let me re-phrase that...its dirt, he has no soil.

    I think I'm gonna topdress compost next weekend or the following for sure. Whenever I get my hands on tea I'm gonna use that on at least a monthly basis. Treegal has been urging me not to go for the seeding. I'll do some more research to determine if thats the route I'm going to take.

    Should I be thinking about using cgm again for the weeds and the N to help the grass fill in some more?

    (By the way I know now I need to get a soil test I'm going to take care of that as soon as I can.)
  9. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 10,081

  10. TMGL&L

    TMGL&L LawnSite Member
    Posts: 243

    ? Is the cgm a (root pruner/pre m, I understand) going to keep the grass from spreading by stolons and rhizomes? shouldn't the extra N and microbe food encourage the grass to spread?

    I only mow on an as needed basis by the way.

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