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Need to plant a durable lawn this spring

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Badfish740, Feb 19, 2013.

  1. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    We've lived in our house since 2008 and the grass in the backyard has always been a problem. For many years there were five large trees in the backyard which provided a lot of shade. The previous owner had them all cut (and didn't have the decency to leave me the wood! :p) on the advice of the realtor because it was too dark in the backyard, too many leaves, etc... The grass that was there was very thin and spotty because of the lack of sunlight. It slowly filled in over the course of the next two years or so but never really took hold. Then we got a dog... :) Between the urine and the ball chasing the grass really took a beating and now we have more mud than grass which is a real PITA most of the year. Now that my little one (the human...lol) is running around I need a yard that will take a beating.

    I don't really know where to begin, I have read a little about "overseeding" (cutting the existing grass really short, raking out the dead stuff, applying seed) and think that maybe that's the ticket, but I'm wondering about what I should be doing to prep the soil and what kind of seed to use. What should I look for in a grass seed that speaks to durability? I just want a nice thick lawn so that when kids and dogs run around/fall down on it they get covered in grass stains and not mud. I live in New Jersey so the grass will see freezing temps as well blazing heat, but it should get plenty of rain. Any ideas?

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  2. abrucerd

    abrucerd Member

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    I can't really recommend the following, because I haven't gone through a season of trial and error yet, but this year I plan on introducing clover into my lawn:
    http://cloverlawn.org/

    Basically, clover stays green during droughts, requires less watering and maintenance, and is resistant to pet stains. The only downside I've read about it is that it's flowers attract bees, which is only really a downside if you're worried about kids (I have one, and I'm sure he'll survive :)).

    Anyway, I plan on frost seeding (http://www.versicolor.ca/lawns/docs/clover.html#spring) clover in the next few weeks, and hopefully it will start overtaking my standard grass (and crabgrass) over the next few years.

    Best of luck!
    Scols and Badfish740 like this.
  3. Beetle-Kill

    Beetle-Kill Minister of Fire

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    You could try Zoysia grass plugs. They worked for me even though they're rated to grow only to 5900 ft. elev., and I'm at 8200.
    Dog pee areas, well,...you have to "thatch the piss" out of them. I did, then stuck some zoysia plugs in those areas and it all came back.
    Zoysia has been around for years, it might work for you.
  4. loadstarken

    loadstarken Member

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    You beat me to it! Hehe
    I have been wanting to do this for the last couple of years because there are a bunch of rentals in the neighborhood and the dandelions are out of control.

    The last couple of years I spent most of the time building a hops and vegetable garden so this might be my year to get my clover lawn going. I mentioned it once to a friend that is anal about his lawn and he freaked out on me because he said it was a weed and I was stupid for considering it. Oh well! Hehe

    I was at a golf course last year and noticed that there was a ton of clover so I talked with the grounds keeper about it. He said it is the only thing that has lasted in high traffic areas and lives thru droughts. I asked him what he does with the flowers that attracts bees and he said that he drops the mowers down a notch and puts a high suction pick up blade on when he see's them to cut them off.
    abrucerd and Badfish740 like this.
  5. blujacket

    blujacket Minister of Fire

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    Loc:
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    Turf Type Tall Fescue
  6. billb3

    billb3 Minister of Fire

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    Clover isn't the greatest for going bare foot or toddlers on all fours. ( bees)
    It can stay green though and even help crowd out and cool the soil for weeds like crabgrass.

    It's possible and likely you still have a majority of fine fescue shade grass barely surviving in the heat of Summer.

    Sometimes you're better off rototilling, raking out as much of the crap you've got now and just plain starting over.
    Fall is usually best, but if you have to do it in the Spring it's usually best to get started ASAP.

    There are tons of sites out there with recommendations -this one touches on some of the problems with mixing grass types and over-seeding.
    http://www.lawn-care-academy.com/overseeding-lawns.html





    edit: One possibly important note on rototilling. If your lawn was soil engineered for constant watering and fertilizing and is constructed of several inches of sand under several inches of soil, you might want to be very careful on the rototiller depth so as not to mix the two up if you are going to plant a grass type that prefers that drainage and constant watering.
  7. nate379

    nate379 Guest

    I agree!

    keninmich likes this.
  8. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    If it's thick, green, durable, and will keep my yard from becoming a mudpit when it rains I'm in. I keep the grass in the front of the house nice and kill the clover when it comes up because it makes the house look nice, but the only person who has to care about how the backyard looks is me.
  9. Shane N

    Shane N Feeling the Heat

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    Core aerate your entire lawn (rent the unit or pay a pro to do it). Go to your local seed store and find out what grass will grow best with your local soil and overseed with that. Mix with some free black dirt if your soil is really bad. Rope the area off from kids/dogs for the first growing season.
  10. Bocefus78

    Bocefus78 Minister of Fire

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    There are a few ways to do this. If you simply want to thatch and overseed, use TWICE the recomended rate on the bag of seed. Half of it will never make it to the dirt. I prefer to use a slit seeder. It puts the seeds just under the dirt for optimal soil to seed contact. Before you do anything, get a soil test (about $10) and do the proper lime and fertilizer applications for the best results. Whatever you do, do NOT cheap out on grass seed. There is a difference. I second the tall fescue. Bluegrass is great, but OMG is it expensive. There are mixes available. do your homework...each type of grass has its positives and negatives. Bottom line is keep the dog out while you are growing grass. If you have to, do it in sections and only allow the pooch half of the yard at a time.

    For you people who want to plant clover in a lawn....if you lived next door to me, you would recieve a free chemical application of 2,4-D, trimec, or the like in the middle of the night. No joke at all. Ive done it before, and I'll do it again. Clover spreads worse than dandelions. I work too damn hard on my lawn for the neighbor to screw it all up. If indeed you think it's the neighbors dandelions blowing into your yard, then put down some quality pre-emergent this spring and let em blow. Proactive treatment is way better that reactive in the case of your lawn. The best defense against weeds is a thick 4" tall turf.
    keninmich, woodgeek, Trickle and 2 others like this.
  11. Delta-T

    Delta-T Minister of Fire

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    my mom had me put zoysia in parts of her lawn 20 years ago..is very durable, but is terrible on bare feet...blades are seriously dense..is like walking on bamboo shards. she has clover in another section which is quite nice to walk on, and in the many years we played on that none of the lot of us ever got stung by bees (could be luck).
  12. abrucerd

    abrucerd Member

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    You sound like the type of neighbor that gives out apples on Halloween.
    Scols likes this.
  13. blujacket

    blujacket Minister of Fire

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    West Carrollton,Ohio
    Zoysia is a warm weather grass, it looks like crap in the North except in the Summer months. Plant a cool season grass.
    Butcher likes this.
  14. Trickle

    Trickle New Member

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    Loc:
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    I live in Missouri and seem to have all the same issues in my back yard. I want Zoysia and think its the best durable grass out there. I am a bit lost on where I can get it. There are a few local folks but wow is Zoysia sod expensive.
  15. Butcher

    Butcher Feeling the Heat

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    Gonna chime in here. Any thing I say might not work for you as it is what I do as a landscaper here in the midwest where soil conditions and climate are maybe not the same as yours. First of all, if you are expecting alot of taffic on the lawn, look for a seed mix called 'sport mix.' If you cannot find that look for a mix that has a high % of perinnial rye, fescue and some annual rye. Blue grass is cool but dont stand up well to overseeding in high traffic areas. It sounds as if you have a very sparce lawn to start with so I wouldnt get to carried away with dethatching. Actually, some amount of thatch is important to the health of the lawn. If you know someone or have a lawn sweeper you could set it at it's lowest point and run around the yard several times to clean up any loose stuff off the top. If you have the time and energy a good going over with a hard rake is good too. Slit seeding is 1 option but I do not 1 I use very often. Another option is if you can get some sifted topsoil in your area it can be spread very lightly over your exsisting lawn before seeding. I would stay away from a complete tilling of your lawn as you will disturb what is already growing and will likely start a good growth of weeds. Your lawn prep will be depend on the conditions you have. I usually find each job to be different depending on moisture, shade and soil. I wouldnt waiste any $ on a starter fertilizer as I have seen homeowners mis apply it and actually hinder the germanation of the seed they applied. Next, dont go to your local big box store and buy the cheapest seed you can find. If you have a nursery or farm coop nearby I would buy there. We, like most nurserys buy seed in the spring for what we need and sell thru out the comming season. Seed if not stored properly does have a shelf life believe it or not. Most importantly, water, water, water. Seed takes just as much water if not more than sod to get established. I'm also going to add MHO on the posts saying to plant clover and (are you freaking kidding me?)zoysai grass. DONT DO IT!. Clover is 1 thing but unless you live in a very warm climate where the turf really never goes dormant I would never plant zoysai grass. I've seen good nieghbors get into fist fights around here when 1 planted some in thier yard and it spread like wildfar into the 3 adjacent yards and then turned to deadest looking yeller come Sept. then didnt green up till about July. And trust me, it's a groan to get rid of when it gets established. 1more thing to add. If you live in an area that has a good snowfall in the winter months like I do, I like to put off seeding till the last part of fall. Get your ground preped, seed bought, and just before you think the first snow is gonna fall go out and seed and lightly rake it in. The premise of this is that the seed will lie dormant under a good cover of snow, the birds wont eat half of your seed and come spring there will be a good moisture level to your soil to get the seed started.
    save$, Trickle, heat seeker and 2 others like this.
  16. fishingpol

    fishingpol Minister of Fire

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    I've read a few organic lawn care sites in the past few years. Have your soil tested by a local extension and see what it needs. Core aerate and rake compost/seed into the holes. Compacted soil is a problem for me, but the aerating helps. I used to aerate in the fall and mulch all the leaves into the lawn, but others here and on sites recommend aerating in the spring. Ask this old house has a good short segment on lawn care:

    http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/video/0,,20051898,00.html

    I may try compost tea this year. Ask T.O.H. has a few segments on it. I've read that letting the lawn grow taller can help choke out weeds.
    Shane N and abrucerd like this.
  17. Lighting Up

    Lighting Up Feeling the Heat

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    Before you waste money on seed think of it this way...if you had 5 trees in that yard my guess is your soil has no nuitents in it because of those trees. I have put in many lawns, it's easy, start by getting a soil test first and look at where your not growing grass either because of the dogs or the past trees...if the soil is compacted in those areas you need to add soil and or losen those areas up by rototill. Add organtic matter or just a good top soil and fertilizer (You can do this by hand if it's not a hugh area). Leave the areas that have grass, it will blend in in time and that grass will help by spreading out with added fertilizer and keep moisture. Once your soil is right then seed...seed...seed....water...water...water. Buying seed make sure it's a Perennial seed not annual seed...and seed seed seed and water water water...Keep in mind as you fertilize the roots of your grass will spread and fill in eating up those nuitents you added and every spring and fall, hell even summer, seed seed seed. Do this and your next post will be "I'm tired of cutting my grass" or "My grass won't stop growing what should I do"...Good luck!
    save$ likes this.
  18. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    This is primo, grade A, quality advice. (Thumbs Up smiley really needed here!)

    Ain't that the f-n truth. My closest neighbor doesn't give a flying flip about his lawn and it shows....

    BadFish - You have lots of sunlight, plenty of water, not too much area? Bluegrass would probably do alright. I have 2 dogs and my lawn holds up just fine (about 1/2 acre they have regular access to) with the usual 4 step program. Bluegrass and certain types of fescue grow on runners rather than in bunches like ryegrass. The lawn eventually fills in and repairs bare spots on it's own. Doesn't mean I don't help out from time to time tho. ;)

    Golf course I work for uses Perrennial Ryegrass for all areas other than greens and that is typical for this area of the country. It's cheap, it holds up to traffic reasonably well and is readily available anywhere. We have clover in the rough and you can find it in spots on fairways (although it's not as desireable there) but the superintendant said this of it: "I have so many other issues to address, that if the clover stays in the rough, I am at peace with the clover."

    Overseeding in the fall will give the best results since the weather is the most predictable. But it's doable in the spring, pay attention to soil temps and don't let things flood/dry out. Cut it short, power rake/thatch it, and then plug aerate the snot outta it. We break up the plugs with a drag mat (kinda like HD chain link fence) seed, and drag it all again to knock the seed/soil into the holes.
    keninmich and Shane N like this.
  19. loadstarken

    loadstarken Member

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    I probably won't mess with doing a clover lawn anyways because to me its just a huge waste of time and resources. As I get older I've realized I have 1000' s of other things I'd rather be doing than screwing with a lawn. All of that time mowing, watering and fertilizing is time taken away from stuff that I enjoy doing.

    My ideal grass would be fake grass because there's no maintenance and it will always be greener than the Jonses lawn. Hehe
    abrucerd likes this.
  20. jebatty

    jebatty Minister of Fire

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    Working on a lawn is something like moving marbles from one container to the next until they are back where you started. Takes a lot of time, accomplishes nothing. Fertilize, cut because you fertilized, cut, water, cut because ou watered, repeat until you die. Most people only use a fraction of their lawn space, the rest they and others just gawk at. A better word for lawn might just be gawk, noun form of course, not the verb.
    Grisu, Scols and abrucerd like this.
  21. Scols

    Scols Member

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    If you killed my clover I would set your car on fire, thats no joke
    Grisu and abrucerd like this.
  22. Badfish740

    Badfish740 Minister of Fire

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    I'm of the same mindset to an extent, but the mud is what's killing me. I just need some kind of ground cover that will be dense enough so that my dog doesn't bring half the dirt in the backyard in on his paws. Same for the kids once they're big enough... Lots of good advice here-thanks!
  23. Scols

    Scols Member

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    A plain green lawn is boring to look at. Give me dandelions,buttercups,clover,and those fluffy things you pick and then blow on and make a wish. An all green lawn is a very aryan concept and way more trouble than what its worth.
    Grisu and abrucerd like this.
  24. Shane N

    Shane N Feeling the Heat

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    I like a nice lawn. It is nice to look at and I enjoy trying to perfect it. It is the same reason when I stack splits, I want them to be straight and level. Will they dry better? No, but it looks nicer to me :)
    abrucerd likes this.
  25. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    Having a nice lawn (doesn't have to be sod-farm perfect but more grass than weeds is preferrable) and presentable (Dex and Zap take it to a whole new level, I still want to see their stack of "uglies".) wood stacks say "I live here and I give a chit!". I have a hard enough time keeping the mess of lawn and garden equipment that runs through here under control. The last thing I need is to add wood piles and a lawn that make the place look like an abandoned hobo camp.

    Plus, the nice lawn (especially my back lawn) gives my wife, son, and dogs a nice place to play in the warmer months. Distracts them from the disaster that is my shop/garage and the side driveway. ;em
    Shane N likes this.

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