Lawn repair/renovation questions

We recently bought our home in the Pacific NW and during the inspection time it was discovered we needed a new storm drain system. The previous owner agreed to put this in place as long as we repaired the lawn. They did an excellent job with the storm drain but they also did an excellent job of tearing up what was once a beautiful lawn with a backhoe.
Approximately 50-60% of the lawn was damaged or destroyed. Being that I have little/no lawn care experience I was hoping that I could get some pointers from some folk out there as to how to tackle this.
Currently there is upturned dirt (which they compacted and smoothed out) surrounding the house and the back lawn had a backhoe repeatedly driven over it. My understanding is that we are fast approaching grass seed time and I'm looking for some direction?!?! Any help will be appreciated.
Thanks,
JM
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Well, the best season for seeding is early fall -- around the time that Mother Nature starts to help with the watering, but not so late that the soil has cooled too much for effective germination. But since that's six months off, you'll need to settle for the second best.
The first thing I would do is consider how big of an area you want to remain as lawn. Lawns are expensive. Lawns take a significant amount of labor to maintain. Lawns are essentially just a blanket of green -- one color. There are other alternatives that are less expensive, require less labor, and are far more interesting to look at. I'm not saying you shouldn't have any lawn. I'm just saying that now is a good time to decide how much you really want.
Optimally, you're going to want to level the ground, with a slight slope away from the house. When it rains so much that the lawn is saturated, and can no longer absorb any more water, you don't want it rolling into your foundation, or forming big lakes in your yard. Nor do you want to cause a flood on a neighbor's property. You're probably not going to need to do any major grading changes. Just be aware of which way water will flow.
It's hard to say whether or not you need to bring in a lot of new soil or not. But where the backhoe ran over, you almost certainly will need to rent a plug aerator to make some holes in your lawn. Some nice fertile soil and/or some compost spread over the lawn afterwards would be a good idea. (BTW... Don't use the aerator on wet soil. You'll destroy the soil structure, and set-up an environment better suited for weeds than lawn.
Soil temperatures need to be at least in the upper 50's, which won't happen until the sun has been out a bit. Depending on how far north or south you are in the PNW, this could be in a few weeks, or more than a month from now. Shady areas might not warm-up enough for effective germination until June!
After seeding, use some "starter" fertilizer. Don't go over the recommendation on the package. More is not better. If anything, less is better. (Manufacturers tend to recommend the maximum so you'll buy more.) Then lightly rake the surface, being careful not to burry everything. You just want to loosen it up a bit, and get maximum seed to soil contact.
Keep the surface damp. Not too wet, but don't let it dry out. Keep that up for a few days after you see a lot of sprouts. Then water less frequently, but deeper.
Now here's where the expense comes in big-time. In much of the PNW, July and August are very, very dry months. You may find your water bill will rival your mortgage payment if you want to keep the lawn green. But a young, first year lawn may not survive going dormant so soon. Either way, you're probably going to have to start over again in the fall -- the best time to start a lawn. You'll have a little head start, and the attempt at a lawn you put in this spring will keep the weeds down (compared to not seeding at all).
Personally, I only water my front lawn (which is rather small), and I let my backyard go dormant. And still my water bill in summer is as high as my heating bill in winter. That's why I suggest thinking about whether or not you really want to restore the whole lawn, or whether you'd like something else better.
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Warren H.

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I'd put down mulch this time of year, and decide this summer how much you want of lawn, whether you intend to install sprinklers, etc. If you do, do the sprinkler work over the summer. Tree companies can be a source of cheap mulch... you'll just have to spread the woodchips -- they'll bring it to you free. The guys trimming branches over power lines usually have the cleanest chips.
About the first of September, start working up the soil in the areas you intend for lawn, seed it, and supplement the fall rains as needed. It'll be looking pretty good by December, and ready to mow next spring. If you're in the city, consider using a "high endophyte" seed source; these have fungi in them that make the plants naturally disease resistant.
I concur that water prices and our very dry summers make spring an incredibly expensive time to start a new lawn out here.
Soils out here tend to be clay, compacted, fairly acidic. So get a soils test in there, too... you'll probably want to add gypsum and lime as well as NPK.
Handy reference: Sunset Garden Book; also the garden calendar section of Sunset Magazine e.g.: <http://www.sunset.com/sunset/garden/article/0,20633,1153110,00.html
Kay, S of Portland
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