patching a stubborn lawn

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by Will1987, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. Will1987

    Will1987 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    I'm doing some work for a woman who has a very new house. She's been in it less than a year. Among other things she wants her lawn patched. There are numerous spot where equiptment was lying and just general patches with no grass. She said she had to reseed her lawn after the construction because not all of the grass that the crews had planted grew.
    Now enter me, doing various landscapiong tasks for her. my area of emphasis is more on remodelling and carpentry type work though I do landscaping from time to time. But I'm trying to get some ordinary kentucky bluegrass to grow and it it just doesn't seem to want to.
    I tried it out on some patches - tilled them as best I could (they were sorta dry and crumbly) wetted them down, and even added a peat moss/manure compost, and seeded them.

    1. how long is it supposed to take before you see the new grass coming up? I did all this over a week ago, maybe even as long as 2 weeks. There's no discernable growth yet.
    2. any recommendations on how to amend the soil, fertilize it, compost it, whatever to encourage quick grass growth. This soil is ok but in these patches its usually dry. She'd put her sprinkler on it but its got a wide range and would soak the driveway in this particular area. is it really important to have a sprinkler on it all the time? I've been watering it at least once and sometimes twice a day.

    Give me the primer on grass patching, anybody that knows. it'd be much appreciated.

    thanks a lot,
  2. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Watering in midday is usually necessary because if the sun bakes the seed and it dries out when getting ready to pop it could be killed. That is why a good covering of compost is desirable. Straw works too.
  3. jbturf

    jbturf LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,502

    under ideal conditions, it can take up to 3-4 weeks for
    KBG to germinate
  4. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    All remnants of thatch must be removed first. Makes a huge difference.... get down to bare soil. Then fill with topsoil to level. Then.... and feel free to take target practice, but I stand by this... seed, and put down a 1/4 to 1/2" of Scotts seed starter soil. The stuff is a mix of peat, top soil and compost, and has starter fert in it too. For small patch jobs, it works great.

    Why did you select a straight bluegrass seed? Most lawns have a mix of rye, BG and fescue. Is the existing lawn a pure bluegrass mix? If not, a mix of rye, BG and fescue would be best.

    Once seed has been watered, it is IMPERITIVE that it NEVER gets dry until it germinates. That means at LEAST two 10 minute waterings per day, morning and evening, at a minimum. Enough to keep the seed moist, but not enough to cause erosion and channeling. If possible, 10 minutes in the early am, again at noon, and again in the early evening. If you see the top dressing (whether it be peat, seeding soil or top soil) get dry.... not good, and the germination rates will be greatly reduced.... a waste of expensive seed.

    Most homeowners see the rye come up in 7 days, and stop watering.... the BG and fescue take 2 to 3 weeks to come up. That means wtaering at least twice a day for at least 2 weeks, preferably 3 weeks. These homeowners end up with a rye grass lawn.... and never can figure out why their success was limited. The lawn will be spotty. The BG and fescue, if kept wet, will fill in those small bare spots.

    Of course, leveling to prevent erosion and seed and top dressing channeling is very important. I always go back after day two to look for erosion and channeling.... if I see it, more soil and seed in those spots.

    I've found (through trial and error, and some advice) that reseeding is pretty fool proof when using these guidlines, and of course, only top shelf quality seed.... no contractor's mixes. Get 99.9% weed seed free. Buy seed for the location.... high traffic, sun/shade, etc. Buy a mix of rye, BG and fescue, unless you KNOW the lawn is a pure strain. Then, match the strain as closely as possible.... even a pure BG lawn can looked patched if a different strain of BG is used for seeding because the blade color can be noticably different.
  5. Will1987

    Will1987 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 2

    thanks for that great advice everyone. Whitey4, when you say get rid of all the thatch, do you mean any loose soil? I just basically dug it all up and wet it down and put a manure and peat moss compost mixture in there. I'm telling the customer to keep it constantly moist. But maybe I'll try that scotts seed starter soil in other spots. I only did a few patches so far. But do you really think I need to put fresh topsoil in all the spots if its relatively ok dirt (which it seems to be) and I add compost or that starter soil you're talking about?

  6. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    Thatch is tough, old, clumpy dead turf roots and some dirt, basically. I don't think I have to describe what soil is like! LOL... many people try to seed over dead debris like thatch, and it never works, all I am saying is be sure it's been dug out enough so that there is only top soil in the area to be seeded. Then add more top soil only if by digging, you created a small trench. Adding top soil before seeding is just to prevent the lawn from having an uneven surface after the grass fills in. In other words, don't leave a hole in the lawn that someone could turn their ankle on once the grass fills it in.

    Manure and peat moss should work.... I use peat on my larger renovation type seeding jobs along with a starter fertilizer. I often put down some composted manure along with top soil and regular compost when I re-level these yards before putting down seed, so there is nothing wrong with that... at all.... it's just that the Scotts starter soil is cheap enough for patch seeding, and has a nice mix of peat, soil, compost, and most importantly, starter ferilizer. Makes it very convenient and easy to use instead of dragging a bag of starter fert along with everything else.

    Many, if not most people need to be led by the nose... explaing how and when to irrigate the same way I did here. I usually end with "If you do not follow this irrigation regimen, you will have thrown your money away." They usually understand that.... and they I say, "Hey, if you don't water it properly, no problem, I can do it again in the fall, I need the work!"

    I did a small 20X2 foot patch this spring... they left some two by fours on the ground that killed the grass.... and I forgot to mention watering.... thinking they HAVE to know to water it, right? Wrong. She actually said 'I didn't know I had to water it!" This genius actually says she has nice house plants... I asked her if she had to water them... and she said "Of course!" And I just looked at her. Then her face turned red. Looks like I went on a tangent...

    The starter fert will make a big difference. It's formulated for more root growth as opposed to most other fert formulations that tend to promote leaf growth much more. That's fine for an established lawn, but not seedlings.

    Did you top dress the seed? That is what the Scotts stuff is for. Just a sprinkling of about 1/4 to 1/2" of this starter soil over the seed. that will help the soil to seed contact, and help keep the seed moist, as it will tend to dry out and erode if left on top, not to mention the birds. When I patch, I sometimes sprinkle a bit of seed on top, just for good luck.... superstition, really.
  7. Whitey4

    Whitey4 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,448

    PS: Often with new construction, there is only an inch or two of top soil.... then sand or clay. When you soften up the patches, make sure there is at least 4''s of top soil for the turf to thrive in.... I've seen bad spots that never filled in, and it was because there was only 1" of top soil.... then pure sand.

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