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Redone lawn, Crabgrass took over, back to square 1

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by TotalNewbie, Apr 10, 2008.

  1. TotalNewbie

    TotalNewbie LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5


    As my sign-in suggests, I'm a total newbie at this stuff. I'm a homeowner who's dealing with the kind of crap I've only ever heard about, and I feel like I'm getting a million different directions on what to do. So, here's the deal:

    • I had a really hard, lumpy lawn. The kind you turn your ankle in with every step. (Maybe because of too much mixed seed?)
    • Last year (mid-Spring) I roto-tilled the whole thing. Fluffy down to 5 inches.
    • I put down a grass seed mix, and watered profusely (timer and everything)
    • Grass came up, everything was looking good, until...
    • Late June came along and so did the crab grass. By the end of August, the whole yard was a sea of crab grass.

    For reference, I live in Mass., 45 minutes northwest of Boston.

    So my tentative plan includes:
    • Getting rid of the now dormant crab grass (thatching? weed control? service?)
    • Seeding new grass (probably a Rye/Kentucky Bluegrass mix: 50/50)
    • Making sure I never endure an ugly lawn again

    My question is: what order, and what approach is the best way to accomplish this? I've heard that I should pull it up. I've heard that I'll never get it all up. I've heard to roto-till it (again), and then grab all the crab grass roots. I've heard use a weed killer to get it while it's wet, wait two weeks, then plant the grass. I've heard plant seed now, and then spray for crab grass in late June.

    Your thoughts?

    Thanks in advance.
  2. mngrassguy

    mngrassguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,167

    I'f it were my lawn....I would start by applying a good pre-emergent crabgrass control like dimension. I would do it now and again in 4 weeks. Be sure to read and follow the directions. I would follow that with a good fertilizer every 4-6 weeks throughout the summer/fall. I would use a liquid weed control with the second and fourth applications such as weed begone, ect. If crabgrass reapers (usually mid July) I would treat with a good post emergent crabgrass control such as Aclaim or Drive. If you are not experience with the proper handling of such materials, hire it out. Use a "local" lawn care company as apposed to a large "national" co

    As far as dethatching, re tilling, reseeding...absolutely not this time of year. Aeration would be ok if you can do it spring and fall but if you do it once, fall only. Do nothing invasive this time of year. Best, and only, time to seed is in the early fall. End of Aug.-early September.

    Crabgrass plants die each year and will not come back, nor will the dead plants/roots hurt anything. Problem is they each drop thousands of seeds in the fall when they die. Pre-emergent will stop them from growing as well as any grass seed you put down now.

    Good Luck
  3. MarcSmith

    MarcSmith LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 7,157

    I had a similar problem with Bermuda in my home lawn....it kept creeping in....I ended up using roundup on the areas that had bermuda and killed everything. and then used a tiller to turn it all, and then reseeded with tall fescue. two years still no bermuda.

    But the point of putting a preemerge down is good, but only do a preemerge if you sod. if you put a preemerge down and then throw seed down, you wont get anything to come up...
  4. Marcos

    Marcos LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,720

    Live in Mass, huh?

    You're more than likely "swimming upstream" by doing all this in the spring.
    Renovation work like that is best accomplished by starting the process in late August / early September, ideally.

    But a lot of people (maybe not you) don't like to hear that sort of advice...because it often conflicts with their vacation plans...and/or they're afraid of watering restrictions that may be in place in certain areas...or it's too "hot" to work outside :cry: at that time of year; there's all KINDS of excuses !

    But good seed germination is all about the right kind of soil temperature, period. And spring seeding in the East and Midwest is hampered CONSTANTLY by the nose-diving of soil temps to levels below that of which seed will germinate...
    (...no problem with this in late summer...whatsoever!)

    And besides, in the spring, what weed, especially, do you have to fight up here, while seeding, in the north...that's simply not a problem in the late summer ?

  5. TotalNewbie

    TotalNewbie LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Yeah, I totally know I should have planted in the fall. It's killing me, now. I tried to every weekend, but my wife had us booked up through Christmas. I'm putting dates down on the calendar now for this coming fall.

    Anyway, I've had two main suggestions from lawn-care services (one local, one national):


    (A) Spray pre-emergent crabgrass killer now, wait 120 days, then seed (which I don't like, because I have a waste land for a lawn right now... I raked this morning, and it's more dirt than plant by a LOT right now...


    (B) Plant now (and again in the fall, of course, but at least it gets something on the ground), and then spray for the crabgrass when it starts coming in in the summer. Which of course could cost me a lot of money for the service to possibly not even work.

    Does either of these sound reasonable?

    Thanks again for your help. The responses have been great so far.
  6. DArmfield

    DArmfield LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Something that has not been talked about yet is why the Crabgrass got so out of control in the first place. I spent a week this winter at NCSU for an intensive week long Turf Management course. I spent $500 on the course and another $500 on room and board. On the third day we went out to the farm where they had 30 acres of grasses. We went to one plot where they had Fescue in 3' by 3' squares. The spring before they had over seaded the Fescue with Crabgrass seeds. They did NOT use pre emergent. That summer they cut the plots at different heights from 2 inches to 4 inches. From 3 1/2 inches to 4 inches there was almost no crabgrass.
    **To sum this up raise your cutting height, and get on a regular fertilizer schedule. **
  7. TotalNewbie

    TotalNewbie LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Very interesting about the height of the grass... particularly because the crabgrass seeds were sown in... I might have to try that, because I don't think I have many other options.

    So you all could see my agony, I took a few shots:






    My 2 year old daughter loves playing in the yard. Um, except I don't really want her out there when it's like this.

    I think I'm going to seed new grass, and then just try to reset in the early fall: spray the crabgrass (if the 3.5" tall grass doesn't choke it out), and overseed then, too. In the mean time, I have to have something down other than dirt, even if weeds overtake it.

    The yard just looks horrible. I grew up helping my dad take care of the lawn, and I got more into it than he did, but I've never had to rebuild a lawn... it was always just there.

    Thanks again to everyone for your advice/thoughts.
  8. DArmfield

    DArmfield LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    The fescue grass will choke it out. Cut at 3 3/4 to 4 inches. Even at 3 1/2 crab grass seeds can get sun light. Good luck.
  9. TotalNewbie

    TotalNewbie LawnSite Member
    Messages: 5

    Hey, it's totally worth a shot. Thanks.
  10. mngrassguy

    mngrassguy LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,167

    Total waste of my time. He will be back on here next year asking the same questions. Guess my 20 years experience doesn't count. I know what comes next, my mower won't go that high. My wife says I need to cut the lawn day after I cut it. Went on vacation and didn't water and it all died, ect, ect

    1. Control the weeds first AND FORMOST

    2. Feed and grow the grass that is there. yes, there is some grass there


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