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New lawn installation want to do it right

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by GWhunter, Jan 15, 2009.

  1. GWhunter

    GWhunter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 380

    Hello, I'm going to install a new lawn in my yard once spring arrives. When we bought the house new the lawn was ok but soon after moles and not enough topsoil took it's toll. After the lawn was dead the crab grass came in full. I own a tlb an decided to clear another small section and strip and regrade the entire area. I live in New England so rocks seem to pop up almost daily. I first used a box blade with the scarifiers down to break things up. Next I used my rake to collect the bulk of the larger rock. I stock piled all the spoils and rented a screening plant. With the rocks separated from the little topsoil I hauled the rocks off to the pit. I noticed that there's still alittle more rock than I'd like and I really want to get the grade as leval as possible. So I will rent/buy a harley rake in early spring to remove the remaining rocks and get the grade where I want it. So my question is what's the next step? I'm thinking of bringing in good quality topsoil to a depth of 6"-8". How do I proceed from there? Should I do a soil test before I bring in the soil and make any needed changes then the soil? After that what type and brand of seed? It's about a 1/2 and acre in size. I was thinking of hydro seeding. Is this a good idea? The area is a shaded in the morning and full sun till dusk. Futher complicating things is tha fact I have two dogs. There both pretty good about doing there business in the woods. But they do run around and tear thing up abit. Now I realize this is abit long winded but i'm trying to get a solid game plan to ensure a beautiful heathy lawn by fall. I realize that this will take time to get full and lush I just want to ensure the money and effort aren't wasted. Thanks

  2. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,717

    Hydroseed is fair--but you will not get the best seed. If you are interested in top quality--install underground sprinkling. Then have it sodded with top quality sod. Try to find someone who suppplied the sod for the nearest baseball stadium. You will pay a little more, but, weed free, already grown, and better quality seed that you can get at a store.
    If not, get top quality seed--premium elite disease resistant blugrass cultivars like America, Limousine, Northstar, Midnight. Mix in about no more than 15 percent top quality disease resistant ryegrass (otherwise it takes over). A rye grass like Manhattan IV, Palmer IV, Derby Xtreme, or Amazing.
  3. GWhunter

    GWhunter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 380

    What about the topsoil? Is the prep the same for sod? I have quite a few sod farms in the area. The do supply turf for Fenway Park and Gillette staduim. How much more is sod that seeding?

  4. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,972

    Riggle, you hurt my feelings here. :confused:

    Since the landscaping part of my business is totally hydroseeding and since I am pretty heavily involved with the International Association of HydroSeeding Professionals I can't say I totally agree with what you said. I talk to hundreds of hydroseeders all over the country and with the exception of a few fly by night guys we don't use junk seed.

    Most of us guarantee our work and make sure we use an excellent quality of seed. As a mater of fact at our last New England meeting the speaker was the Professor at U of Mass telling us exactly what the absolute best seeds were for seeding in New England and based on the comments I heard the seeds she was recommending were what a lot of the guys were using. I think for most of us if a customer specif ed a particular seed blend we would be more than happy to accommodate him.

    I do agree the seed varieties you mentioned are good ones. Personally I would go with a Bluegrass, Fescue and Rye blend where he is and with some shady areas.

    Sod will be about 4 times more expensive than Hydro Seeding. I won't knock sod. It is instant and usually quite good. Hydro Seeding is actually a healthier lawn because it is grown on your soil where sod is grown on a different soil, the roots are clipped and it has to adapt to your soil. The prep is pretty much the same and both require a good watering followup.

    Riggles suggestion of underground sprinklers is a good one if you go sod or hydroseeding.

    6" of dirt would be fine.

    Another suggestion might be organic hydro seeding which is pretty new but will build soil fertility and probably give you a healthier and better lawn than sod. This is still new but the results have been amazing. I only know a few people in New England doing it now. It is about twice as expensive but still half the cost of sod.
  5. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    With rocks being a problem, covering them with topsoil is probably a good idea. With seeding you will be fighting weeds from whatever is in that topsoil. 1/2 acre will definately require irrigation system for lush green lawn that you need.
    The dogs can make a mess of things quickly, which besides the expense, will be the drawback with sod. For either one start as early as you can so it gets established b4 summer heat wilts it back. The ground should be about 50 degrees F. for the seed to germinate.
  6. GWhunter

    GWhunter LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 380

    Turbo, how would I find a good hydro seeding outfit in my area? As for the irrigation this isn't the first time I've heard this. Does that go in before the topsoil? Is it something I can do myself? What about soil testing? Will the hydroseeding contactor do that? I really want to get my ducks in a row before the winter's end so I'll be in good shape by summer. I really would like to grow the grass rather than sod. Not so much due to price but because I feel that the grass will be healthier if it's grown in my soil as aposed to grow else where.

  7. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Not True. Sod usually always comes from a farm with good soil, and excellent chemical structure as they are putting out the best product possible to produce the best results.

    Sodding gives you instant erosion and weed control out of the gate. If you seed, you might spend the same amount of money in weed control and re-seeding over the next 5 years to acheive the results you're looking for.

    If you truly want to get rid of the rocks without the effort, skip the Harley rake and go rent a Toro Dingo with the Soil cultivator. It will till deep enough and bury any rocks left over.

    After you've done the prep work, definitively do a soil test. It takes all the guesswork out of amending the soil.
  8. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,972

    Actually I didn't say sod farms don't use good soil. I will agree that they do their best to make a quality product. What I said was that sometimes it can be on a different soil. Amounts of sand, clay, loam etc will vary a lot. I will agree with some of what you said White Gardens.

    Sod is instant and usually weed free. I don't consider it 100% guaranteed successful though. I see some parts of the country where it is usually more successful than other parts. I have seen sod lawns that had been installed for a long time that looked like you could roll them right back up if you wanted. I have seen sod lawns that were not properly installed and shrunk leaving gaps between the pieces of sod. I have also seen some really beautiful sod jobs.

    I have been hydroseeding for a long, long time and have seeded as much as 2 million square feet a year myself. I will agree that you can have more problems with weeds when hydroseeding. This usually happens in two circumstances. One is when the customer doesn't take care of the new lawn. Watering properly will bring the grass up faster then any weeds in the soil and the grass will crowd out the weeds. If the homeowner does not water the weeds will get a head start and there could be a weed problem. Also lawns hydroseeded in the hottest part of summer can have more of a weed problem because the soil may be hot enough that the grass may germinate more slowly but the weeds love those temperatures. Done properly and cared for properly weeds will not be a problem.

    A Harly Rake is a good choice for getting rid of the rocks but you might want to keep in mind that it rakes the rocks into a windrow and they must be picked up. Another option might be something on the order of a rockhound that actually picks up the rocks. I am not sure exactly what White is referring to as a soil cultivator so I won't comment but that may also be a good choice. There are lots of ways to do it and they all work.

    Something a friend of mine said that I thought was funny and true to a degree was that Hydroseeding was like Sod except you eliminate the middle man.

    The irrigation would be best installed after the top soil is brought in but before seeding or sodding. There are do it yourself kits. There are some advantages to having a pro do it but if you study up on what you are doing you should be able to do it yourself.

    Some hydroseeding contractors do soil tests on every job, some do it on request and some don't do it. The only thing you need to be aware of is that it does take a few days to get results. The do it yourself kits you see at home depot don't work well and the more expensive meters and tests also don't give full results. The best way to do it is to send the sample of to a university or soil lab and they will quickly put the results on line for fast response. The information you can get doing it this was is the best way to go.

    As far as finding a hydro seeding contractor one way is to look on line but the hydro seeding association does have a list of their members on line and most of them are the best in their fields. There should be one or more close to you and you can go the hydroseeding associations main website and follow the link to "Find a contractor" and check it out. The site is at www.hydroseeding.org
  9. hseeder

    hseeder LawnSite Member
    Messages: 49

    Depending on where you are in New England as was mentioned will determine your seed. I install ball fields and lawns on 750k homes. The points:

    Do not under any circumstances prep with a york rake, you get noting but dust and will lose it with a good rain. Spend the money either rent or purchase a Harley. The carbide tooth unit only. This will not only dig down as far as you want to cultivate, but the one I used to run on my M5700 which was a full cab, loader, double wheels weights with loaded front and rears would get pulled backwards. After you get the depth you are comfortable with, you adjust the unit to skim and can windrow the rocks right out. Now one of the major benefits of the carbide toothed Harley is that it creates pockets for the seed to settle into hence if you get a rain or over water, it has more of a fighting chance to stay put. There are other factors to save or diminish washout as need be.

    Have your soil tested, if it doesn't meet your desire, then a good quality topsoil at a depth of 2-3 inches is more than sufficient. A DOT approved company will have good quality material. In this area of New York, I use either Warren Fane or Troy Sand and Gravel.

    Watering is an issue. You have got to keep it moist regardless, not drenches but moist. The mulch (green looking stuff) will hold the moisture and serve as a indicator of the moisture content. The lighter it is, the drier it is.

    The mulch will compost out as it turns to hummus so don;t worry about that. There are specifics that are required for fertilizer and mulch amounts as well as seed per 1000 sf, this info is available on the IAHP website. THe amount of seed changes with the type of seed, and also ensure that the seed is with the latest possible inspection date, we use seed strictly from Grassland and Irrigation, usually has an inspection within 30-60 days. I have used different suppliers over the years and found Grassland to have a better mix, more productive and more reliable. I usually seed heavily, so for every bag of fescue,blue etc I add about half a bag of rye. Fast germination on a bunch grass, and not only stabilizes your soil but also cuts down on your weeds. I generally mix enough for 10000 sf at a time.

    Sod is instant gratification, but to do it right, the prep is the same, soil test new soil etc. You have to install your fert as well instead of it being mixed. The seems have to be staggered, and the sod must be stretched when you lay it down. Staple it in place and then get it watered. Now something alot of guys here do not do, get yourself a lawn roller and make sure you get the soil contact in place, or it will create air pockets and cook itself from bottom up. You will get some yellowing at the seems if you don;t keep it sufficiently watered, it can be temperamental, where hydro seeding is more forgiving. Installing either is not rocket science, but the sod application is time consuming and labor intensive, however produces instant gratification. IT depends if you needs to see the results tomorrow or down the road a stretch of 5-7 days and what you have to invest.
  10. Turboguy

    Turboguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,972

    Nice post hseeder! I agree with you about the York rake. I don't do prep work, only seeding and I have done a lot of lawns that were prepped with a york rake and will agree with you totally. The grass turned out fine but there are better tools to use.

    I think your comment about Grassland sort of reinforces what I said in the beginning of the thread about guys who hydroseed being very particular about using a top quality seed. Our reputations are on the line and seed is the last place we want to cut corners. I don't buy from Grassland but have heard good things about them and have been to their place. Actually one of my former salespeople was working for them the last I knew. They are an excellent source.

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