Should a lawn be dug up, or not?

My neighbor's lawn looks very sad and neglected. It is full of dandelions and about 30 percent is missing any grass. Also, it is not level. He is thinking of having the entire thing dug up and laying down sod. Is this overkill, or can he find a way of first killing the dandelions, and then somehow leveling the lawn and planting seed?
Sherwin D.
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What zone? How big of an area?
In my area Z5b many lawns were lost to the drought last year (that BS about never watering as the lawn will come back is well, BS). Currently I see both reseeding bare spots and completely digging up and reseeding. I haven't seen anyone go the sod route yet, but I've only looked in a two block area. Eight new lawns or partial reseeding going on. Looks like a minefield around here LOL. As for me, I'm digging up and reseeding the parkways (corner house). Had 4 trees removed, 6 put in and the lawn was a mess before hand. Much worse afterwards. I'm starting from seed, not sod. In the fall the front yard will probably be sodded. Getting kind of late to start from seeds, but I lucked out with some extended cool/rainy weather. Now to dig up another 4 or 5 wheelbarrows full of old tree roots on the remaining section of the parkway.
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This is zone 5, just NW of Chicago.
The lawn is a front yard about 40 feet by 25 feet. My neighbor has neglected it for several years, which includes not watering it last year. It's amazing that he even has any grass left, at all. His biggest problem are dandelions (also my problem, as they blow their seeds onto my lawn). The rest you already know.
Sherwin D.
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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Based on location, it's approaching the tail end of the best time for starting grass, which would be MY first choice. If it works, it's much cheaper than sod. But, it would require cultivating the soil and weeding, followed by judicious watering. Grass seed should be kept moist pretty much all the time. Another option would be to use that fluffy stuff - the mulch mixed with seed that you see road crews use after construction. As far as the dandelions, if you wait 24 hours after a good rain or watering, they're not so hard to remove by hand, if you have the right tool.
I'd avoid chemicals entirely, but that's just me. That crap goes into the ground, and into someone's water eventually. Not "no place", as some believe.
wrote:

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You wouldn't believe how many dandelions are in his lawn. Removing each one is an option, but not a pleasant one.
Doug Kanter wrote:

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one
nonesense, piffle and nonsense. Hours of entertainment out hand weeding dandelions.
rob
if you think you lack motivation to do that I suggest you really piss your wife off one weekend. Finding the motivation to hand grub weeds for hours will not be hard.
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If you think it is so much fun, I offer you an opportunity to come over here and get all the kicks you want, for free.
"George.com" wrote:

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I know. It's less fun than cleaning toilets. But, I've seen weeding tools with long handles, so you can at least do part of the job standing up.
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sherwindu wrote:

I'm in a SW Chicago burb and if you're area is getting the same rains we are the soil will be quite muddy right about now. The only quick suggestion I could give yah is to at least cut the dandelion flowers off, although most have most likely gone to seed. At this point of the game you may want to wait until fall for the lawn, given the soil may not be workable for another week or so. I'm in a bind on the remaining parkway as the grass has already been dug up but the soil hasn't been tilled (still way too many surface (tree) roots). No way could I till the mud anyway but will at least try to seed and hope ma nature doesn't through sunny skies and 90 degrees at us within the next two weeks. I do have straw to throw over the seed to protect it somewhat.
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wrote:

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Don't worry about the dandelion seeds blowing your way... you've already got a 75 year supply or so in your soil, waiting to germinate. Keep your lawn in good condition (mow properly, overseed, fertilize and lime as needed), and you don't have to worry. The big secret to weed prevention is canopy closure. You could spread 5 lbs of weed seeds on an established, well-taken-care-of lawn with good, dense sod and really not have to worry.
As for your neighbor, I would wait till fall to fix the lawn. You're really out of the good seed/sod establishment times; late August to late September is a much better bet. If he should till and try to sod this summer, he should figure out how he's going to keep it watered all summer, because he'll be doing it again if he doesn't water (an inch of water a week, 800 sq ft, let's say for 15 weeks (assuming you don't have a drought this summer) is 1000 cu ft or roughly 7500 gallons of water). Seed would also need to be watered this summer, but your soil temps are probably getting high enough that Ky bluegrass is out of optimum germ temperature by now (Iowa girl, now out in PNW).
What I'd do now with a lawn in this shape is to get a soil sample sent off for analysis, and consider how much to spend on it. Cheapest total overhaul is to till, lime and fertilize and reseed with a well-adapted type* this fall water as needed, and overseed more next spring if needed. Next cheapest is to till now, solarize this summer, seed, lime, fertilize and water next fall (if he's paranoid about the weed seeds in his soil). More expensive options are to sod with either of these scenarios.
What I'd probably do, though, were this mine, would be to renovate unless it was *so* bumpy I really felt I had to till and rake areas. That involves soil test now, proper yard care this summer with some hand weeding or spot spraying of perennial weeds only, and starting to fill in the low spots with a mixture of sand and compost or sand, compost and topsoil, 1/4" at a time, over the next few years. If there's a major low spot, I'd till that only and spot seed that this fall, along with overseeding the entire lawn this fall.
*well-adapted grasses. If this is a sunny lawn and you don't want to mow often or water, I'd consider buffalo grass, Buchloe dactyloides, for this lawn. Once established, it'll get along just fine, but it is a warm season grass, green in the summer, dormant in cool seasons (opposite the more commonly used Kentucky bluegrass or fescues.) If this route is unappealing, I'd talk to extension, local parks, and local botanical gardens for their recommendations for cultivars of low maintenance cool season grasses. I'd also consider "high endophyte" fescues, because they are naturally disease resistant.
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Thanks for your extensive and informative reply.
Don't worry about the dandelion seeds blowing your way... you've already

That sound pretty scary, like a bomb ready to go off if I slip up on lawn maintenance.

I like to think that my lawn is well taken care of, but I still have to do a morning patrol
and pull a handful of dandelions, some days worse than others.
Thanks also to hob for his lengthy reply,
Sherwin D.
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I don't know about scary, but here's a couple of articles on weed seed banks (the technical term for the seeds in the soil already): http://www.weeds.iastate.edu/mgmt/qtr00-1/seedfate.htm http://newsroom.msu.edu/site/indexer/672/content.htm http://amos.indiana.edu/library/scripts/seeds.html
And yes, slipping up on lawn maintenance does lead to weedy lawns. Lawns as envisioned here in the US are these perfect green carpets with nary a weed in sight... and they're terribly wasteful of time and energy and typically propped up by fairly heavy chemical use and watering. Choosing well-adapted grass species (like buffalo grass) reduces all those inputs greatly. Here's a buffalo grass lawn, for instance: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1912a.html
Kay
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Your question sounds like six of one thing - a half dozen of another;-) Both will take a lot of work one way or another, have an expense, and hopefully a result.
I must say that rolled sod looks so beautiful when completed though. Also, I've seen people go through all the trouble of leveling killing weeds, reseeding, only to have more weeds come up as lawn. Sod is more of a guarantee!
Myrl Jeffcoat http://www.myrljeffcoat.com
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