Help! Overwhelmed

Discuss how to and whether you should renovate your lawn
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bethanys
Posts: 2
Joined: September 12th, 2020, 12:25 pm
Location: Piedmont NC
Grass Type: fescue
Lawn Size: Not Specified
Level: Not Specified

Help! Overwhelmed

Post by bethanys » September 12th, 2020, 7:36 pm

Hi everyone,

A year and a half ago, we moved into our house. The small backyard was mulched, so we got rid of that, pulled up the black fabric underneath, and tried to grow grass. We failed twice, then for a while, we had a beautifully green yard. Slowly but surely, the grass is dying, and we're not sure whether we should work with what we have or try to redo the whole thing. We're new to taking care of a yard, and know pretty much next to nothing.

A few notes:
1) I think our soil is very clay-y. It's hard and compacted in some places, but weirdly clumpy in others. A friend recommended we put lime on it, so I did that recently, but realized after the fact that there are different types of lime (we used dolomite). So I'm not sure if that was our best move.
2) The grass died first around our deck, so we are thinking maybe the lack of sunlight had an impact, or maybe water runoff from the patio (we keep a kiddy pool there). We used a shade blend from Home Depot (either Rebel or Penningtons, maybe both).
3) We fertilized with Milorganite when we put out seed; it's been about a year ago.
3) We'd like to stay as organic as possible.

If we start from scratch, we're thinking we will kill everything, maybe get a truckload of topsoil in to spread over our clay-ish soil, then lay our seed. Does that sound wise? Or would it be worth it to stick with what we have, try to grow grass again in the bare spots, and overseed where there is some grass already? Either way, what's a recommended grass seed for us to use in a shady, clay-y backyard?


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s3_buell_
Posts: 40
Joined: August 12th, 2018, 8:36 pm
Location: Detroit
Grass Type: TTTF, KBG
Lawn Size: 3000-5000
Level: Experienced

Re: Help! Overwhelmed

Post by s3_buell_ » September 12th, 2020, 9:19 pm

It doesn't look unrecoverable to me. I don't know if you have time to kill weeds and then over seed, nor when your seed down date is in your area. So, how about just working as many best practices as you can without seed this fall?

Get a soil test following the recommendations on this site to use the recommended lab and post on the forum. If your gut tells you that some area is very different than others, test both separately. The soil test will help you determine if you need to bring in top soil.
Start on the triangle approach for the weeds. This can make a big difference in just a few weeks.
Mow as high as you can as often as you can.
Water deep and infrequently.

Mostly organic is certainly possible and there are experienced folks here for that. With my limited knowledge, I think there will be a need to use some chemicals to get control over the weeds, but others may know more. Specifically I'm thinking of pre and post emergent weed killers.

Don't get discouraged. You've already improved a lot since your first attempts, right? Good luck.

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andy10917
Posts: 29112
Joined: February 23rd, 2009, 10:48 pm
Location: NY (Lower Hudson Valley)
Grass Type: Emblem KBG (Front); Blueberry KBG Monostand (Back)
Lawn Size: 1 acre-2 acre
Level: Advanced

Re: Help! Overwhelmed

Post by andy10917 » September 12th, 2020, 10:01 pm

+100. The first thing to do is establish what you dealing with. Putting a couple of inches of topsoil often is topsoil from a new construction homesite that is just as bad as yours, and has more weed seeds.

Also, stop right away trying to grow lawns when it's convenient to you, and do it when it has the highest probability of success.

See the "Sticky" thread at the top of the Soils/Compost Forum as a good starting point.

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ken-n-nancy
Posts: 2506
Joined: July 17th, 2014, 3:58 pm
Location: Bedford, NH
Grass Type: Front: KBG (Bewitched+Prosperity); Side: Bewitched KBG; Back: Fine Fescue Blend + Prosperity
Lawn Size: 10000-20000
Level: Experienced

Re: Help! Overwhelmed

Post by ken-n-nancy » September 12th, 2020, 10:17 pm

Most of the weeds that I'm seeing look like typical woodland weeds, making me wonder how much sunlight that section of lawn receives on a daily basis?

Does it get much direct sun without being filtered through the leaves of trees? If so, how much of the day?

It does seem that the lawn would benefit from additional fertilizer. If that was fertilized only when seeded about a year ago, it is definitely overdue for additional fertilizer, which will definitely help.

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andy10917
Posts: 29112
Joined: February 23rd, 2009, 10:48 pm
Location: NY (Lower Hudson Valley)
Grass Type: Emblem KBG (Front); Blueberry KBG Monostand (Back)
Lawn Size: 1 acre-2 acre
Level: Advanced

Re: Help! Overwhelmed

Post by andy10917 » September 12th, 2020, 10:25 pm

If you're going to do a soil test AND fertilizer, do the soil test FIRST - we don't want random fertilizer in the samples, please. There will only be a lag of about a week to know what fertilizer to use if you wait for a proper analysis before buying a random "fertilizer".


bethanys
Posts: 2
Joined: September 12th, 2020, 12:25 pm
Location: Piedmont NC
Grass Type: fescue
Lawn Size: Not Specified
Level: Not Specified

Re: Help! Overwhelmed

Post by bethanys » September 13th, 2020, 7:29 am

If we've already put down lime, would that mess up a soil test?

As far as sunlight goes, the places where the grass survived is where the sun hits most of the day. We had some trees uplifted and a few cut down a few months ago, and that's given us a little more sunlight in the backyard. We were just confused because we were able to get the grass to sprout/grow for at least a little while each time, but then it slowly died. If not enough sunlight was a problem, would the grass seed still sprout?

User avatar
andy10917
Posts: 29112
Joined: February 23rd, 2009, 10:48 pm
Location: NY (Lower Hudson Valley)
Grass Type: Emblem KBG (Front); Blueberry KBG Monostand (Back)
Lawn Size: 1 acre-2 acre
Level: Advanced

Re: Help! Overwhelmed

Post by andy10917 » September 13th, 2020, 8:05 am

As far as the Lime application goes, we can ignore weird results that would come from lime applications in the soil test if we know they are there.

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