First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Discuss how to and whether you should renovate your lawn
OnlyWeedsNoGrass
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First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 5th, 2019, 4:32 pm

Hi All,

After spending way too much time and effort in trying to wrestle my yard into shape without a plan and getting nowhere, I'm turning to you to help steer my first attempted renovation.

My Background:
  • Location - Southeast, PA
  • Corner Lot, approximately 10.3k sqft of yard space
  • Completely new to lawncare as of December 2018
  • I have basic lawncare tools (e.g. push mower, hand pump sprayer, broadcast spreader)
  • No sprinkler system, just a garden hose - my area usually gets between 1 - 1.5 inches of rain per week
  • Existing soil seems to be mostly clay
  • Targeted reno area (see attached picture) comprises only crabgrass
Objectives:
  • Renovate only the backyard (~2.3k sqft of pure crabgrass) to keep scope manageable
  • Not go bankrupt in the process as the list of home expenses are large enough as it is
I haven't done anything since I bought the house in December except for
  • 1 application of Scott's pre-emergent (which seems like I incorrectly timed due to how much of my lawn is crabgrass, ground ivy, and other misc. weeds)
  • 1 application of Scott's GrubEx
  • 2 applications of lime in back yard in an attempt to reduce soil acidity (suspected acidity due to significant growth of moss before crabgrass took over entirely, and confirmed with a pH meter)
  • Mow (mulching, not bagging) twice a week @3.75" for the existing grass

I want to do a complete renovation of just my back yard and attack the front/side yards in a later season to keep the work manageable. After lurking through quite a few posts in ATY, I've decided to do the following:
- Aug 25: Glyphosate the entire reno area
- Aug 28: Mow reno area in lowest possible setting
- Aug 29 - Sept 3: Water lawn frequently to promote weed growth
- Sept 4: Glyphosate any new growth
- Sept 7: Spread a 1/4" layer of leaf compost
- Sept 14: Spread SS6000 Shady Mixture from seedsuperstore, then spray a layer of tenacity on top, lay down milorganite at bag rate, and roll over to ensure seed/soil contact
- Sept 14+: 3x daily, 5min watering to keep soil moist


Any advice for the new kid on the block?


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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 6th, 2019, 8:24 am

I also forgot to mention that the reno area is very bumpy, so while I have the chance I'd like to level it out. Considering my soil is mainly clay, I'd like to avoid sand as I've heard this essentially creates concrete. My plan was to order about 4 yards of screened topsoil (to cover ~2300k sqft), focusing on areas with larger depressions as needed, prior to spreading compost & seeding. Does this make sense?

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by JHazzardB » August 13th, 2019, 11:17 am

I'll take a stab at this one.

1) Soil test is best. You guys can totally use that line, I just made it up. The soil guys over in the Soil sections will help you get your soil in tip top shape if you get a test done at Logan Labs.

2) How bumpy are we talking here? Roll your ankle bumpy? Screened topsoil might work for you. I have zero experience in the large leveling projects though. But you are correct, it is best to level the lawn before you put down your seeds. And please don't rototill it trying to level it.

3) Compost addition: Adding compost to seedlings might not have the desired effect. I think...Andy?...might have said something about certain composts "running hot" for seeds. Personally, I'd nix the compost and top dress with peat moss.

4) Soil Moist Seed Coat. I've used it before and I think it helps. I think it has some magical properties where it puts something on the seeds, seeds get wet, and its retains the moisture. Helpful for little seeds.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by HoosierLawnGnome » August 13th, 2019, 5:26 pm

Yeah do a soil test thi coming spring. You'll be surprised. Post it in the soil forum per instructions. Youll be surprised how off assumptions can be.

Moss is usually due to shade and dampness. Rake it up for the renovation.

How long ago was the pre emergent application? It may inhibit germination.

Put down compost at seed down but hold off until its mature for another application. And personally I'd use peat moss instead of compost for top dressing to avoid adding weeds.

You're a month behind optimal seed down time. See if you can get seed down sooner. You can apply the day after glyphosate is applied so long as it dries off. A few weeks makes a big difference if there's a problem.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 14th, 2019, 10:39 am

HoosierLawnGnome wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 5:26 pm
How long ago was the pre emergent application? It may inhibit germination.
I put down an application of Scott's Triple Action Weed/Feed back on April 14th - would this really impact germination in September?
HoosierLawnGnome wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 5:26 pm
Put down compost at seed down but hold off until its mature for another application. And personally I'd use peat moss instead of compost for top dressing to avoid adding weeds.
That's a good suggestion, would you still recommend a blanket spray of tenacity at seed down (incl. Peat moss, no compost) to avoid further weeds? Is this even necessary then?
HoosierLawnGnome wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 5:26 pm
You're a month behind optimal seed down time. See if you can get seed down sooner. You can apply the day after glyphosate is applied so long as it dries off. A few weeks makes a big difference if there's a problem.
I think the earliest I could pull off seed down is September 2nd, considering the earliest day when I can first apply glyphosate is on August 25th. Hear me out:
- Aug 25: First application of glyphosate
- Aug 25 - 28: Wait
- Aug 28: Mow/bag on lowest setting (this is where I am most concerned, since I've seen that it takes at least a week for crabgrass to start browning after applying glyphosate - am I mowing too soon after the initial app?)
- Aug 28 - 30: Frequent, shallow watering to promote additional weed growth
- Aug 31: Spot spray glyphosate for new weeds
- Sept 1: Spread 4 yards of topsoil; rake & roll to smooth out ankle rolling bumps
- Sept 2: Seed down (incl. tenacity), top dress with peat moss, drop milorganite at bag rate, and roll

On a related note, are you really suggesting that the optimal seeding time would have been mid-August (now)? Temperatures are expected to be in the mid to high 80's the entire month, only seeing mid-high 70's in September in my region.


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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by turf_toes » August 15th, 2019, 7:55 am

In Southeastern PA (Chester/Lancaster counties), the optimal time for seeding is Aug. 15 - Sept. 15. Being on the early side of that window is best.

1) you need to allow time for the grass to get established before winter. Doing it mid August is ideal.

2) Assuming you keep the soil/seedbed moist (water 2 or three times a day), the air temperature isn’t that important. The soil temperature is key.

I used to live in the East Nottingham area. I would see people seeding in late September and October. Their lawns never looked very good. I’ve done quite a few Renos in Southeast PA and seed down was always as close to Aug. 15 as possible (one year, it was Aug. 10).

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 15th, 2019, 9:47 am

Hey turf_toes, thanks clarifying. Looks like I'll be smack in the middle of that time frame, so fingers crossed.

Based on the feedback so far, I've moved up my seeding time to September 1 or 2 depending on how long it takes me to spread 4 yards of topsoil by hand.

I already have the glysophate, the seeds. I only have to put in the order for 4 yards of screened topsoil, and get the peat moss (instead of compost).

To be honest I've never even looked at peat moss before - any guidance on how many bags I should be expecting to buy (I have a very limited trunk space), and what a correct application at seeding looks like? I don't want to over/under do it and risk all of the work...

Also - any suggestions on how to keep the birds/rodents from eating the seeds? Or do you guys just account for the loss?

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by JHazzardB » August 15th, 2019, 12:36 pm

I'm not doing any mental math right now but I feel like ~2.5Ksqft. you'll be using about 4 bags/bales/packages on the peat moss. Aim for a light dusting over all the seeds. I usually aim for 1/8" dressing of peat. You're gonna get dirty spreading it. I cut the bags open with an X shape on the ground, shovel in, throw peat, spread any clumps out with a rake after.

Birds/rodents probably won't be too big of a concern. Especially if they can't see the seeds under the peat.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by turf_toes » August 15th, 2019, 12:40 pm

I previously have used peat. But I don’t think it necessary.

Here’s what I normally do. Feel free to adjust to your own yard/conditions.

1) make sure you do NOT buy the long lasting glysophate.

2) kill the grass. Then water it for a week like you are trying to grow something; you are. You want to get weed seeds that already exist in your soil to germinate.

Ideally, you’d give yourself two weeks for this step. But you are running out of time.

About four days after applying glysophate, scalp your lawn. You want to leave about an inch of grass stubble. Bag your grass clippings.

Hit anything green sprouting up with glysophate. Wait three days and drop seed.

The grass stubble should eventually flip over and provide cover for your grass seed.

Keep extra seed on hand. There will be bare spots after germination.

I’m assuming you haven’t dropped any pre-emergent herbicide during its effective window, right? If you have, you should not Reno this year.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 15th, 2019, 1:16 pm

Hey Turf_toes,

I honestly didn't know there was "long lasting" glyphosate - I thought the only thing that mattered was the % concentration so I ended up buying the Compare-N-Save Concentrate Grass and Weed Killer, 41-Percent Glyphosate off amazon.

What you outlined is almost 1:1 with what I was planning, so thanks for the confirmation.

My pre-m application was back in April, and judging by the amount of new crabgrass/other weed growth in the yard, i'm well outside the effective window...

I forgot to mention - I need to order tenacity as well. Maybe I'm overthinking it, but on the day of, what would be most effective?

A) Seed down --> Roll --> Milo --> Peat moss --> Tenacity
B) Seed down --> Roll --> Tenacity --> Milo --> Peat moss
C) It doesn't matter, just get it down.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by andy10917 » August 15th, 2019, 1:38 pm

I vote (strongly!) for "B". Tenacity applied after peat moss may be soaked up by the peat moss, and be less effective.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 15th, 2019, 2:35 pm

Thanks, Andy - I made a slight adjustment to my playbook. Good to know.

I just placed an order for tenacity, surfactant (to apply with the glyphosate, not tenacity), and now working on finding the right supplier for topsoil.
Slightly concerned about the overall quality of the topsoil, but I'm hesitant to get any that's pre-mixed with mushroom compost or anything like that because I'd rather work on leveling out the yard first.

Hoping I can compensate the potentially nutrient deficient topsoil with the milo & peat moss, then do a soil test in the spring to get the soil in top shape...

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 19th, 2019, 12:11 pm

Hey All,

So I'm still waiting at the moment until August 24th to nuke the back yard, but in the meantime, I tried a few experiments and it raised more questions which I'm hoping you have some guidance on...

1. I did a "test run" of mowing my yard on the lowest setting. Even then, the crab grass was easily 1.25" tall. Can you consider this a suitable "scalp", or should I look to borrowing a different mower to scalp after applying the glyphosate? For reference, I'm using a Ryobi 40v electric mower.

2. I've called around all of the local places that supply screened topsoil. Not a single one of them could provide any type of soil test analysis so I'm really not sure what the quality is like. Regardless, I need to place the order so that I can level the yard, so are there any precautionary measures you would take when leveling the yard with questionable soil?

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by flyingfish88 » August 23rd, 2019, 12:26 pm

Hi,

Glad to see another member from southeast PA, I'm in the west chester area. Good luck with your upcoming reno!

I dont know if my situation is typical of most, but be careful with the topsoil. I used a supplier just recently and actually had them come out and take most of it back. It was severely clumped up, hard to work with, dense and heavy.

You might want to visit the supply yard first and see what you are actually getting. The supplier i used was great in terms of customer service and taking it back (said they got a bad load from a new supplier), but I learned that I will be much more selective in the future.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 23rd, 2019, 12:51 pm

Hey FlyingFish - great tip. I'm actually in the West Chester area myself, so your advice on the supply yard is hugely helpful!
Not sure if it's against the rules of this forum, but any chance you can drop the name of the supply yard? I've called all the ones within a 20 mile radius and to be honest none of them were confidence inspiring...

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by andy10917 » August 23rd, 2019, 1:05 pm

Not sure if it's against the rules of this forum
It's not against the rules of the Forum, unless it's obviously just blatant hawking of products. Helping another member is good...

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by flyingfish88 » August 23rd, 2019, 8:37 pm

Hey, it was “mulch and more”, believe they are in Malvern

They came out and took the soil back, but I’m still waiting on refund.

Believe it’s a family operation. Spoke to Jay there and initially offered to replace with a better load of soil, but I was already seed down for my oversees after giving up on leveling.

He did say to call him next time and that maybe his garden soil would have been a better fit, but be careful if that contains mushroom compost as Andy advises against that for seeding.

Would recommend you give him a call and describe what you are doing and see what he would recommend or could mix up for you.

Good luck!
Dan

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 25th, 2019, 8:42 pm

Ok - as per the plan, I started today by spraying glyphosate at the recommended "renovation" rate. Even though it was only 2300 sqft, I must have spent at least 4 hours with a gallon hand pump sprayer.

The biggest time killer was constantly running back and forth to refill on water, measuring out the glyphosate, the surfactant, and the coloring dye.
I underestimated the amount of fatigue spending that many hours bent over spraying. I'm borrowing a larger backpack sprayer next week to spray tenacity...

At least I got it down though... (the light stripe is when I tried experimenting with less dye)
Image

My dog's go-to pee-spot didn't need much herbicide
Image

In 3 days, I'm going to bag-mow at the lowest setting 1.25". I'm going to skip the second application of glyphosate, and instead drop a few yards of screened topsoil, even out the bumps best I can with a landscaping rake, then seed will go down on Saturday.

Question for you guys -- is tenacity at seed down enough to prevent most weed (particularly crab grass, and some broad leaf weeds) growth even when I'm watering 3-4 times a day? My biggest concern now is that I've nuked my entire yard, and I'm essentially germinating a new crop of weeds in time for fall. I guess I'm expecting the tenacity to lose it's effectiveness as a pre-emergent after the first few waterings. Thoughts? Advice?

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by flyingfish88 » August 26th, 2019, 1:43 pm

Hey,

Was just reading through your thread here and see you are putting a shady mix down. Does it contain a lot of fine fescue?

I am not 100% sure and do not want to cause unwanted alarm, but I've seen lots of mentions how tenacity can impact fine fescue.

Hopefully one of the experts can come along and provide more guidance. my apologies if I created any unnecessary concern, but would rather call out and have an expert chime in than see you proceed down this path if it could go wrong.

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Re: First time home / lawn owner - first reno attempt

Post by OnlyWeedsNoGrass » August 26th, 2019, 2:18 pm

Hey Dan,

So the SS6000 mix has the following:
- Zodiac chewings fescue
- Radar chewings fescue
- Cardinal II creeping red fescue
- Beacon hard fescue
- Mazama Kentucky bluegrass

Thanks for the call out - I'm going to see what I can find in the other threads; I didn't even think that would be a concern to watch out for... Glad I posted here!

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