How to repair entire lawn?

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by skoehler, Apr 13, 2006.

  1. skoehler

    skoehler LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    Owned my home for 3 years in Lebanon, CT, and have never done anything with lawn other than mow. Various construction projects, some rain shortage last year, and 2 dogs have turned what was there into a mess. I've decided this is the year to revamp the landscaping, and I'm at the misfortune of this being an area of expertise I know little to nothing about.

    Current situation:
    - What "green" there is in most areas doesn't look like regular grass. Dunno if it's crabgrass or something else..
    - I have tons of divits from a concreate truck and excavators both in the front and back where we've done various projects.
    - I have a couple semi-small areas where there's a good amount of gravel/rocks mixed in with the dirt (again, due to a project).
    - A worn down (almost all dirt) where the dogs run the same path into the very back yard.
    - I *THINK* there's enough information here in this forum and other places where if I get the ground "prepped" properly, I can figure out the right approach for seeding/fertilizing/whatever else. However more than happy to take advice there as well. :)

    My questions:
    1) I thought I read somewhere that unless I'm looking to preserve existing grass, rototilling the entire area may be best, and would also make life easier in leveling out the ruts. Seeming how none of it looks like "good" grass that I'm familiar with, I don't think I want to preserve anythign that exists today. Is this true?
    2) I have free equipment rentals at my disposal for just about anything you'd see at a local rental shop. Whether or not I rototill, I still have the problem of getting rid of baseball size or smaller rocks in various places. Is there any machine that helps with this, or am I stick using a shovel and bow rake?
    3) Should I be laying down topsoil? I'd rather not add any height to existing ground, but if it's the right thing to do, so be it. Dunno if laying topsoil also gets me out of having to remove rocks.

    I did some browsing through this forum without finding much info on this kind of if anyone has any good keywords I can search for that would be perfect as well.

    Thanks in advance for any help.....

  2. blaze347

    blaze347 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 101

    I was in the same situation, I had to renovate an old 4 acre farm field. Since you have the tools available, it won't be that hard, just a little time consuming. Here's what I did/or recommend:

    -between now and July,pick up what rocks you can.
    -kill everything with glyphosate(go to a local co-op) in July
    -take a soil sample and get whatever you soil needs
    -adding good topsoil never hurts
    -Around the middle of August,till in top soil and/or amendments to about 4 inches
    -let soil settle for a couple rains
    - grade out smooth with a grader box , make sure you grade with proper fall to keep water away from your foundation.
    -pick up leftover rocks
    -put down a starter fertilizer
    -seed per directions.The best time is between Aug15-Sept15 in your area. Just make sure to seed right after grading, don't wait more than a couple days.
    -roll the yard with an EMPTY roller, this establishes good seed to soil contact.
    - lighty rake the seed into the ground(just barely, because if you get the seed to deep it may not germinate) this is a critical step.
    -you can check into using a slit seeder, this will cut out the previous step

    -keep soil moist (hopefully mother nature will take care of this for you)
    -once grass gets to around 1.5-2 inches, cut back on the frequency of watering and water more deeply
    -sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor

    If you have any questions, drop me a line.
  3. skoehler

    skoehler LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    Thanks a ton for the informative response Blaze.....

    I do have another question. After I entered my original post, I talked to someone who previously owned a landscaping business, and got a slightly different recommendation. Just curious as to your thoughts on his vs. your advice.

    This work would be done in a manner that would allow the timing of the seed and starter fertilizer to be laid down either real soon (early spring) or fall (around the time you recommended).
    - Rototill entire area
    - Use a tow behing york rake to pull out rocks and clumps of existing turf (sounds like this will also help me level out any minor ruts/mounds/etc).
    - Touch up with a hand rake, as well as pull out any visable rocks/turf/weeds/etc.
    - Roll with a filled roller
    - Spread out a mixture of seed and starter fertilizer. He specifically stated that I didn't want to use that machine that pokes holes in the ground and lays seed (sorry, don't know the equipment terminology).....however not sure why.
    - Lay straw (better than hay).

    For whatever it's worth, I'm trying this first on the far back lawn (we have a small back yard, then an inground pool, then a larger "back back" yard). I'll eventually do the smaller immediate back yard, sides, and front.....but I think everything is graded properly away from the foundation. So I think that aspect is already addressed.
  4. blaze347

    blaze347 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 101

    Sounds ok,it will work, but it is not optimal and you will cause yourself more work in the future. A couple things that I would definetely do different:
    -Seed in fall:Germination rates are better(up to 30%) because of temperatures,moisture,and hardly any weeds for the seedlings to contend with. A well known lawn product company rep told me why they sell a particular item for spring/summer that relates to seeding.."we sell it, because consumers still think they can seed in the spring/summer and get away with it"

    -Total kill of area: Why rototill exsisting weed seeds into the ground and not kill the perinnial weeds?
    -Do not roll with a filled roller: let ground settle naturally to avoid excessive soil compaction. Things grow better in non-compacted soil.

    -If you lay straw, get weed free straw, or all you are doing is introducing weed seeds into your yard. Straw is to keep area moist, you can do that in the fall without much trouble. Some will say straw keeps birds away from seed:confused:, but what do birds make their nests with:). To keep birds away, use rubber works

    I'm sorry if I come across as trying to be a know-it-all, but I have experienced the hardships and headaches by doing it the wrong way, just trying to save you work/money /time for next spring.

    If you have 2 small areas, do an experiment. Do it my way on 1 and his way on the other and let me know next spring which as fewer weeds and denser,greener turf.

    I'll try to get a picture uploaded of my yard in the next couple of days(seeded in August), and my neighbors yard which was planted last spring.
  5. skoehler

    skoehler LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    No worries on coming across as a know-it-all.....given my question and self admission of knowing next to nothing in this area....I welcome the advice.

    I planned on starting with a small area initially just to make sure I knew what I was getting into, so I will give this a try.

    Thanks a TON for the info!
  6. LarryF

    LarryF LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,181

    I'm one of those confused consumers, but I don't believe that by seeding in the spring that I've been trying to get away with anything. The fact of the matter is that it doesn't seem possible to seed in the fall in an area with lots of trees. During the fall, the ground is covered with leaves, tons and tons of them. And after one removes them, there are more the same day and a lot more the next day. And by the time the leaves stop falling, it's usually December. I've tried to seed in the fall right after removing the leaves with the hope that maybe the seed will germinate under the next leaves to drop, but I've never had success. When the following spring comes, there is never any evidence of the money and work I had put into "fall" seeding. As far as I'm concerned, leaves on the ground represent a strong impediment to grass seeding, but I guess you know how to do it, so would you please elaborate?
  7. blaze347

    blaze347 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 101

    I don't know if you just took a stab at me or wanted me to answer a question:) but I'll answer the question:)
    How many trees do you have, and when are you trying to seed? Most trees don't drop their leafs until October, which is way to late to seed to get the grass ready for spring. If you seed between Aug15-Sept15, the leafs shouldn't impede the seedlings from growing, it takes about 30 days to get a good strand of grass started.
    If you are trying to seed under a forest of tree's, it's hard to get grass started no matter what time of year it is. Sunlight is one of the most important parts of a plant's growth cycle, if they don't get enough, the plant will be weak.

    Anyone can seed in the spring, you just don't get optimal germination rates and root growth established before you go into a harsh summer. When you seed in the fall, you get two seasons(fall,spring) of growth before heading into summer. Have you noticed how most yards look good at the beginning of spring and towards the end of fall? Conditions are conducive for grass(moisture,temperature, etc..) during these times of year. When hot, harsh summers arrive look at some of those same yards....different picture. If it is hard for existing grass to thrive this time of year, how can seedlings stand a chance?

    Whatever you decide to do, the most important step not to forget is to fertilize in mid November(check this date with your local extension) with a fast release N. The plant takes the N and stores it in the roots and not in the "top growth"; therefore establishing a great root system for winter.
  8. LarryF

    LarryF LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,181

    Thanks for the quick reply, Blaze, and no, I wasn't trying to take a stab at you. I haven't had any luck at all trying to plant grass in the fall of the year, even though I've been advised to do so many times and it failed when I tried. But the date range you referred to (Aug 15 - Sept 15) isn't fall, it's late summer with about still another week left to go. I suspect if you had specified those dates, your comments probably wouldn't have even attracted my attention. And yes, I do have a lot of trees, and a few are very big and, I suspect, more than a couple of hundred years old. The lawn isn't under all of the trees though; most are at the perimeter of the property, but the leaves don't stay there after they drop. They seem to be attracted to the lawn area like a magnet to steel. So now I must say that I agree with all that you said, providing the caveat that you meant late summer and not fall.
  9. blaze347

    blaze347 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 101

    Cool..Didn't mean to accuse, you know how writing is much different than talking face to face...I apologize:)

    In my neck of the woods, once September gets here we unofficially consider it Fall.

    My original post actually listed the dates, my last post to Skoeler didn't. I should have listed again. Anyway, good luck and I hope you get the grass growing so well that you get to complain about having to cut it so
  10. LarryF

    LarryF LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,181

    You're right, you did specify Aug 15-Sept 15 in the original post, but I hadn't noticed that, only the plant-in-the-fall advice that came in the later one. But because I believe I had been misguided by others with those exact words and wasted a lot of time, money and effort following that recommendation, I had the urge to raise my hand and protest. It's clear in my mind now, and I hope the same is true for all others reading this. As a matter of fact, I'm going to copy your original advice in that 4/13/06 post to skoehler and keep it in folder with other lawn info that I have for myself, even though I hope what I'm doing this year for my lawn will enable me to avoid ever having to plant another on this property I currently own.

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