Renovation. Which approach would you take??

Discussion in 'Homeowner Assistance Forum' started by dschribs, Apr 18, 2011.

  1. dschribs

    dschribs LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    Need some help from the pros.....

    I'm more a less a novice when it comes to lawn care but I do try to mow as high as I can and stick to a regular fertilzer schedule.

    Last fall, I "attempted" to overseed my front lawn with a slit seeder. The slit seeder brought up TONS of thatch - which I didn't know I was supposed to remove. So - basically - I got ZERO germination from all the work I did in the fall.

    So, I'd like to try again. I do know that Spring isn't the best time to do this type of operation but I'd like to at least give it a go. I'm not looking for miracles; I just want to do what I can to help it look better.

    So, having said that, what do you guys think would be the best way to renovate this area?

    Should I:

    - Mow the grass down short, slit seed and apply starter fertilzer. I can rent a slit seeder from my local rental place.

    - Aerate, overseed with a spreader then apply starter fert. If I aerate, what do I do with the plugs? Just let them sit on the lawn?




  2. jbc1013

    jbc1013 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 23

    I don't consider myself an expert, but have renovated a bunch of times with fescue/bluegrass turf. I have had the best luck with aerating and seeding. I leave the plugs where they lie. Go heavy in the bare areas. I would add a straw mulch covering for the seeds to help retain moisture. You are correct that spring is not the best time. It will need to be watched closely and watered. I also wonder if you have a lot of grub damage. That typically produces dead brown grass that pulls up easily at the soil level (the grubs basically shear it off at the roots). They are easy to spot by elevating up some spots looking for the grubs. I certainly would add some fertilizer, and probably some lime. A soil test is best, but I admit to not doing it often as I should.
  3. joshua

    joshua LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,226

    aeration with an over seeding. what type of seed were you going to use? now when you aerate i would go with 4 passes on the lawn.
  4. dschribs

    dschribs LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    I don't have a particular seed in mind. I would appreciate a suggestion. I'm in CT.

    So in terms of aeration, I run the machine over the lawn 4 times then just spread the seed??? Is that all there is to it?? What happens with the plugs - they just break down? Also, wouldn't alot of the seed be sort of wasted since it doesnt have direct soil contact???

  5. lotsagrass

    lotsagrass LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 783

    I do a lot of gardening at home and as a 'gardener', I have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to get seeds going. Grass seed will come up extremely well in nothing more than scratched up dirt. But, contact with the dirt (and even a tiny bit of dirt covering the seed) is key. I've got an area I scratched up a few weeks ago where I had thrown seed down and then raked it around so the seeds get covered a little and it's growing like crazy.

    What I would do if I had my choice and it was only me doing it is...

    1. Mow the grass very short.

    2. Rent something to de-thatch the lawn well. I'd de-thatch the crap out of it so the dirt gets scratched up really well.

    3. Rent a Lawn Solutions brand seeder and be a little aggressive with it and drop lots of seed.

    My idea is based on my personal gardening experience knowing that grass seed wants dirt and the best way to give it dirt is dethatching well and then using that nice seeder from lawn solutions to rough up the dirt and drop the seed in. It makes sense to me.
  6. ChiTownAmateur

    ChiTownAmateur LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 386

    Always start with a lot of thought before saves a ton of time and energy and money.

    WHY is the first question. Why are there so many dead spots? We can't see all the tree tops so we don't know if shade is causing this, compacted soil or perhaps low spots on the turf, even the wrong seed potentially. But lotsagrass has the right idea and I'll share my thoughts also. BUT...until you answer why, don't move forward.

    My opinion:
    1) After figuring out why there are dead spots, you need to mow low (1" approx) and remove as much thatch as possible. Extremely tiring by hand with a metal rake, but cheapest solution. Renting a dethatcher or hiring someone to do it is a good idea if possible, unless you are young or want to really build up a huge sweat. Thatch must be removed from the lawn.

    2) Aerate. Absolutely. If you want to overseed it will help with any possible compaction issues and also helps create a healthy lawn in any event. Plugs sit exactly where they were pulled from, they decompose and disappear into the soil in a few weeks.

    1a/2a) You can easily hire someone to do both services and with their pro equipment the cost will probably be worth it.

    3) Overseed. Slit seeding is superior (can hire for this or do yourself), but even broadcast seeding is just fine which is fast and cheap.

    3a) BUY GOOD SEED. REPEAT! BUY GOOD SEED. Most likely a mix of bluegrasses mixed with a fescue mix, depends mostly upon how much sun it gets. Full sun can be all bluegrass, some shade = some fescue, lots of shade = 50/50 mix imo.

    4) TOPDRESS. Peat moss mixed with topsoil is a great mix, thinly applied. No more than 1/4 to 1/2" when putting over seed. This will help retain moisture, protect the seed, and provide some nutrients for the overall lawn health. Peat moss has the added benefit of making it easy to see when the area dries out (light brown = dry, dark = moist/wet). Read up online about topdressing. It's labor intensive and worth every minute of the work. Short version: mix the topdress, shovel in small piles across the lawn and spread it with the back of a metal rake. TIRING!

    5) Water properly. Keep it constantly moist, not soaked, not dry.

    1a-5a) Remember you can hire someone to do all this and do it relatively cheaply. That is what this site is about, pros who know their stuff, have the equipment and will do it right.

    My view is this -- I love this stuff and do it myself purely because I love it. But pros are better at it, and if what you want is a beautiful lawn and to maintain it yourself (mow, fertilize, water) don't be ashamed to shell out some bucks for someone to do this for you...because in the end you'll have a beautiful lawn.

    A pro can and will do it all in one day for you. I am not a pro, and don't know or recommend particular ones but all you have to do is ask...start a new thread asking for someone in your area to come over and give you a quote. They are experts at identifying WHY you have a problem too, which may be key here. So if you want to do it yourself, I think the steps I outlined above will get you a great result, but a pro is faster and has better equipment and therefore may be cost effective for you.
  7. jbc1013

    jbc1013 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 23

    The plugs do break down, and surprisingly don't leave a real bumpy lawn. They also add to some of the soil contact. I think the idea about the dethatching is a great one also- totally agree that its soil contact that helps germinate it. I have had good luck with straw mulch, but frequent waterings will do the same thing. The gardenweb has a lawn forum with lots of good info. Local extension agent is also valuable resource.
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    My first question is when in the fall did you slit-seed? and why did it fail?

    Thatch, is the next question... If you are talking about brown mulch over the roots, then that is no problem. Fluffing it up with a slit-seeder is also no problem... Think about it.
    People are so afraid of a half inch of brown fluff, but believe that 'straw' over the ground is good. :laugh:

    Aeration is good for compaction of heavy soils and the penetration of 'real thatch'. If you can make contact with the soil, with a broom rake, then your slit-seeder will make contact with the soil just fine.

    Your patchy lawn could very easily be some fungal problem you developed last summer, possibly from over watering and over fertilizing... those are the 2 major mistakes that people do in their lawn after pre-m being in the soil when you try to seed...

    Pull a plug or push in a shovel to get a cross-section look at your ground at least 4 inches deep... Post a picture of that and it will tell a lot. Everything is guess work when you look only at the surface... It's like saying, "Why does my truck rust, when I have such a nice paint job and it is always waxed?" :)
  9. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    A common problem I find with that is, If the soil is heavy and wet, those plugs take forever to disintegrate and the holes do not close well either... So let the lawn dry some and irrigate afterwards... :)

Share This Page