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what would you do?

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by brown thumb, Sep 29, 2012.

  1. brown thumb

    brown thumb LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    This is in Central Iowa (need to finish my profile)

    Non-irrigated 2 acre rural lawn in rough shape. Lots of dandelion and other broadleaf rosettes, birds foot trefoil, clover, etc. 17 year old lawn and it's NEVER been aerated, interseeded, fertilized, or treated for weeds. Looks suprisingly good in a few areas of high quality soil. He mows it at 4" year round.

    This drought is serious and I had 0 opportunity to do any prep work or seeding...and the clock is ticking.

    Am I limited to weed control, core aerification, soil amendments, and dormant seeding given the drought? He said to use whatever seed will be best for non-irrigated lawns....was thinking of hitting the weeds with two applications and shotgun seeding fescue blends and KBG and letting the cultivars sort themselves out. He has some hard pan clay that is currently ragweed along with a bit of turf trying to hang on, a sandy area, and some decent soil in 80%, but it's pretty patchy overall....full sun.

    Would like to walk away from this one, but the guy is as nice as can be and doesn't care a whole lot about initial looks...would just like a little more grass and fewer weeds next summer. How would you attack this job? FYI, he does have a well and is willing to do a little watering if needed:hammerhead:
  2. RigglePLC

    RigglePLC LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 13,723

    Its late. Just my opinion. 6 weeks before frost is best. But a shot of Speedzone would kill the weeds, (mostly). You can reseed in 7 days, 5 days is probably enough. Skip the soil amendments. Fertilize well, and again after 30 days. Overseed double rate to be sure enough will "take" to restore the green. Plan on more weed control in spring.

    If you want to aerate--no need to go deep when you are trying to establish seed. One-inch deep is just fine for seed, but you need more holes, so go over it two or three times.

    Apply seed before or after aerating. Seed first results in a few seeds cut in half by the tines, but more of the core soil lands on top of the seeds. Aerate and seed second results in more of the seed falling into into the bare soil in the holes. Most aeration only results in about 16 holes per sqft. Double or triple pass gives a lot more. Drag it afterwards to mix the seed and soil together.
  3. brown thumb

    brown thumb LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    Thanks Riggle, I've always core aerated and then lightly dragged the site to fill the holes up to 1/4", then seeded and dragged it out, just to eliminate seed sitting deep. Makes sense to get some down first though! Maybe I'll get half down before and half after aeration.

    Hope I can get him to keep water on it and good germination, as aerating in this scenario is going to stir up weed seed like crazy and I feel an aggressive pre and post weed treatment will be absolutely critical next spring. Which is why a dormant seeding had me concerned.

    NWS long range is calling for warmer than normal temps for us, might as well roll the dice and get it going this week.
  4. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    Aeration is not your best method for over seeding and definately a root killer in the hieght of this drought... I don't think you guys are any better off than we are and aerating is now allowed on any unirrigated properties we take care of... if aeration is actually necessary then we can do it anytime before the ground freezes, but during drought is foolishness... :)
  5. brown thumb

    brown thumb LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    Ever think about aeration in these conditions the day before a rain? Our cool season grasses don't allow water infiltration like the NWSG that we've destroyed. You're going to have major run-off on non irrigated drought stricken hard pan now if you don't do something to help with the infiltration. Do me a favor, go out to one of these areas and dump a bucket of water on it...report back on what happens.

    It's all about annual seed rain along with disturbance, many different ways to get the same result IMO. And, if I can relieve severe compaction, get water in the ground and to the roots, and get a good disturbance event with aggressive aeration then that will have to do.
  6. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    It all depends on the state of the surface, how rain will interact... on slopes around here,,, any loose material lieing atop the hard packed surface will simply be washed to the bottom of the slope...

    but then,,, your aeration hole reseviors may work just fine...

    another point to consider is: another long stretch of sun and no rain may finish off the drought damaged root zone exposed to the open clay pot formation... by next Spring you have dead zones filling up with weeds, and mud zones after you kill the weeds... haste makes waste... :)
  7. brown thumb

    brown thumb LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    So Axe would you feel better about the situation if I wait for rain, smoke the weeds as they resume heavy carbohydrate intake, and frost seed the smaller seeds of pure KBG in late Feb with no seed bed prep?

    I can see non-irrigated areas as getting off to a better start when frost seeded. And I can see KBG having better establishment when frost seeding compared to larger seed. No aerifying means no seed bank disturbance for weeds when pre emergence won't be used.
  8. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    What I'm personally looking at for overseeding unirrigated lawns is to wait and see, on lawn repair...
    right now I have fertilizer granules(no 'cides) sitting in the turf... fortunately with the new wave of drought, the grass just stopped growing and the granules can remain undisturbed...

    With decent weather patterns we would normally shoot for germination before Halloween and that turf will easliy establish before winter, with normal weather patterns...

    Otherwise, the only seeding for these lawns will be when the ground is close to freezing and a snow storm is on the way... :)
  9. brown thumb

    brown thumb LawnSite Member
    Messages: 14

    Yup I agree. Extended looks pathetic, 30% chance of a light rain Thursday, otherwise settling in for dry pattern in the 10 day. Horridly dry over here.
  10. Smallaxe

    Smallaxe LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 10,082

    I put down some seed yesterday, with no irrigation and little hope for rain, but it is in a thick layer of compost... if we get rain then it may germinate and dehydrate over winter, and I may have to add more seed with the first snow storm... the biggest issue is that the compost is down now and I expect these trouble spots to shine next year...

    BTW, I wouldn't wait till February to put seed down in that a greater amount of stratification occurs, the longer they are out in the weather and the quicker the response time in the Spring... In fact, I'm becoming suspicious that seed may even be germinating under the snow cover as light begins to get through... that is only a supposition at this point, but I wouldn't be surprised to see new seed immediately after snow melt... :)

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