Patchy Lawn Need Advise

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by rcooper, Jun 14, 2010.

  1. rcooper

    rcooper LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    I am a first time home owner and our lawn looks bad!

    I live in North East PA, have a mix of Kentucky Bluegrass and improved rye. I have Clover and plantain weeds in the lawn. Our soil ph is 5.8-6.0
    (according to lawn Dr report)

    Our lawn is very patchy. From afar it looks OK
    but once you are on it it looks bad..

    My question is... Is it worth paying 600 + tax to the lawn dr to "power seed" the lawn or will de-thatching, aerating and seeding myself do the same thing. Renting a dethatcher and areator would cost me 60 ea for a day and cash is tight!

    I posted some pics of the lawn: 6-14-10/

    Thanks for any and all input!

  2. Scott99999

    Scott99999 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    It's impossible to know who you're going to use, but here's my experience in NY:

    Overseeded in the fall with a quality tall fescue mix (Pennington - Justice, Greystone, creeping fescue in the shade), made a huge difference. In the spring, we called a bunch of lawn guys and they told me "for $1,000 - $2,000, we'll overseed, dethatch, aerate and fertilize." They said, "we'll get somewhere, but it's not going to be a golf course." I said, "screw that, I'll do it myself."

    Spent about $300-$400 on seed, $60 on Scott's Organic fertilizer, $60 on an aerator rental, and another $100 on compost and topsoil. I aerated and overseeded again in the spring, covered it with a light layer of compost. I kept the soil lightly moist (but not drowned) at regular intervals the first week of germination. Most grass germinated, but there were definite patches.

    Every time I see an open patch, I seed it and cover it with a light layer of topsoil. I use a mulching mower and leave the grass at least 3-inches long (I use a bag if any weeds have gone to seed). I didn't have much of a problem with thatch, so I only de-thatch when needed with a special "de-thatching" rake.

    I've done a little bit every weekend for a month.

    The result? The only 100% green lawn in the neighborhood.

    All of our neighbors pay a service to do it - a bunch of guys throw some cheap seed and straw down. Then they come in on riding mowers and basically scalp the lawns so they will look "neat" and tidy for the week. Everybody's lawn is brown. Would those guys have come back every week to re-seed bare spots? Nope.

    Does it take some work? Yes. But in my opinion, you get a much better job than someone who just drops seed and forgets it.

    You need:
    - The right seed
    - The right amendments
    - The right amount of water
    - The right time of year

    Don't be surprised if you do a better job than the "pros" with a little research. They've got an incentive to do it cheap - you've got an incentive to do it right.
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2010
  3. rcooper

    rcooper LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    Scott thanks for the info! I really want to do it myself partly because hiring someone is so darn expensive and partly because I get a sence of pride doing it myself and having it look great!

    I have to agree 100% with "They've got an incentive to do it cheap - you've got an incentive to do it right."

    You said you spend $300-$400 on seed. What size lawn do you have. I think my total lawn size is around 12000 sq ft. A big bag of scotts seed says it treats 8000 sq ft? Should i be using twice as much to overseed?

    Also is the early fall the best time for me to take on this project?

    What can I do in the meantime to get the lawn ready?

    Thanks! Ryan
  4. Scott99999

    Scott99999 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6


    I have an acre of land, about half of that is lawn and half is woods. Of that half an acre, about 60% is in the shade. I probably bought more seed than I needed to because at first, I was just putting seed down. I find that to really be successful, you should cover it with a very thin layer of good topsoil or compost (or a mix). And then, make sure there's a few days of rain or make sure it gets some water that first week or two. If it gets too dry, it might not germinate and if it gets too wet, it might rot. But so far, I've had success.

    I buy Pennington and not Scott's. You have to look at the label. Scott's might have some good cultivars, but Pennington uses Justice, Rebels and Greystone fescue in theirs, and Seven Seas Chewings Fescue. Those aren't "the absolute best" grass cultivars, but they are strong contenders and well-known.

    If you want the "absolute best," then you need to do research online at places like the Super Seed Store:

    To learn more, I suggest buying the "Organic Lawn Care Manual" or reading on sites like:

    What I don't like about Scott's is that they throw in Perennial Ryegrass and other seeds that give you quick results under a variety of conditions, but might not be what you ultimately want for your lawn. I'm more concerned with keeping the lawn green in the summer and in the shade, so I avoided bluegrass and ryegrass in favor of tall fescue, creeping and chewings fescue. You really have to pick the right grass for your situation. Some grass does better in the heat, and some does better in the winter.

    I avoid the general mixes because they probably target the consumer who just wants to see anything grow. I'd rather pick the right grass for my situation, instead of wasting seed.

    Tall fescue requires some overseeding, but I'm happy to have a lush green lawn while everyone else's is brown. ;) I've already got neighbors telling me "you're making us look bad."

    This is what I use as a shade mix:

    And I've used a few variations of these pennnington tall fescue mixes for sun:

    The fall is the best time to get the project going and then again in the spring (I kicked back in around April and trailed off in May). Many lawns go dormant or struggle in the summer due to drought, so your mileage may vary. This is my first year, so I defer to the pros. But we had all moss and mud in our yard last summer, and seeding in the fall definitely kick-started the process.

    I'm still filling in patches now in June, but that's really just spot-seeding. Most of the work was already done.
  5. rcooper

    rcooper LawnSite Member
    Messages: 3

    Scott Thanks for your help! I am going to dive into those sites to suggested and have made up my mind that I will do this job myself come this fall! Thank you for your advise! I will post some pics to document how the job is coming.

    Thanks!! Ryan
  6. Scott99999

    Scott99999 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    Also - one other thing.

    Something to also keep in mind with the different types of seed is color and texture. Some of the shade-tolerant seeds and tall fescues can have fairly fine blades. These are sometimes mixed with Kentucky Bluegrass.

    The "Dense Shade" mix can be even finer. I don't mind the fine blades - our lawn looks a little like green velvet at a distance - but it's really a matter of personal preference.
  7. Scott99999

    Scott99999 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 6

    And here's a guide to some seed mixes requested from Super Seed Store:

    The comments will help you identify what advantages different species and cultivars will have over others.

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