Help with redoing the lawn (sod on bad, rocky ground)

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My lawn is ~6 years old, was new when I bought the place. It looked pretty good initially, but later I realized that the ground where the sod was placed didn't have good soil at all. Pretty rocky, and had a heck of time planting a small tree (which looks sickly and isn't blooming much flowers at all).
The lawn now has a lot of dandelions, I mean, a lot. I used one of those extraction tools from Home Depot. It does a decent job, but the roots are rarely taken out completely, and there are just too many. Too many to even use weed-b-gone selectively.
So, I'm thinking of redoing the lawn, probably in the fall, and need your help. I'm thinking I need to - Till up the ground - Kill the existing dandelions/weeds with...? - Put in good soil - Put in new grass (hydroseed? sod?) (I know I need to do more studying on it, but need to discuss it with a neighbor that shares the lawn in this 2-family home, so basics would be sufficient for now.)
My questions are... - What tools do I need, if I do it myself? I only have basic gardening tools. Rent a rototiller? - Is there a way to get rid of existing weeds without using chemicals, once the lawn is dug up? Cover it up to choke it? We've got dogs and young children. - If not, how long would it take for it to be 'safe' for dogs and children? It'd still be a dug up ground, but you know how kids are... they love dirt! - Would I be better off hiring someone? (I know that's a very subjective question...)
I'm in New England and the lawn get a lot of sun. I don't think I'd need the soil analyzed, since whatever is there is just almost rocks, and I'd be putting in new soil.
I'd appreciate any help.
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You go crazy and put in a new lawn, but I'd try just spraying the weeds and fertilizing first. If you're worried about the spray hire someone and have everyone stay off the lawn for a couple of days.
Peter H
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Thanks for your response. Either I wasn't clear or you only noticed the subject and a few lines of description, but we're trying to stay as much away from chemicals as possible. It involves the neighbors, so I don't have complete say in the matter. Of course your idea was considered at first, but is a no-go at this point, until we understand all other options.
So, back to my original questions - if you or anyone else can help, that'd be much appreciated.
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On Wed, 12 May 2004 08:03:43 -0700, FGreen wrote:

Good day FGreen. Sorry to hear about your poor quailty lawn. It can be a real bummer to have a weed patch instead of a lawn. Before we get too far, I have some questions: What is the mowing hight of the lawn? 1", 2", 3"..? What have you done in the past 6 years as far as fertilizer? Do you water the lawn in the summer? Do you let the lawn go dormant in the summer? Have you ever aerated your lawn? Do you re-cycle your lawn clippings (multching mow)?
On to fixing the lawn.......... If the soil quality is poor, then I would start by trying to correct that first. You can compensate for poor soil quailty by using fertilizers and multch mowing. Over time (possibily a long time) the soil quality wil get better. If the organic matter (humus) is very low, it would be best to add new soil / compost. If you find this is the case, then you could overlay the lawn with compost and till it. Look at my post to FardinA on 5/8/2004 at 6:54 pm. I goes through the refurbishing of a lawn with costs and tool requirements.
There is no need to hire out for this type of a job. The average home owner can do this, although the amount of labor required may be too much for some. If the lawn is somewhat large (1500+ square feet) then you would want to rent a tractor for the day. Rent one with a bucket on the front and a tiller on the back. This can cost up to $300.00 a day, but it's worth every penny. You can till the whole area in a few hours and the bucket will make the huge pile of dirt spread a lot faster 80) . I personaly would re-seed the lawn with locally available seed. This means seed for your area. Beware of name brand seed from big box stores. Just because they sell brand X seed at home depo doesn't mean it's correct for your area.
More question etc... just add to this thread.
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Timothy, thanks for the response.

mowing height depends - where there is grass, ~2-3", on bare spots, 0", on dandelion spots, 8+"... ha... sorry for being a smartmouth. I try to keep it high enough to block the weeds, but the situation has reversed itself. We put fertilizers in the fall, once a year. We water infrequently in the summer (to let it go dormant..?) aeration hasn't been done since it was sodded (I know, a mistake) Yes, we use mulching mower. We haven't been very deligent about keeping it up, I have to say.

Yes, I have read that post from you before posting my question. It was probably the closest to what I was looking for and most helpful post I found in search. The only difference would be, we already have a lawn (weed lawn). Do I till it up, or just put new soil on top? Do I need to use chemicals to kill the existing weeds?
My situation is, we're planning on selling the place, and want to make the lawn look good in short timeframe. Don't have the time to wait for seed to germinate, etc., because I need to act quickly once . I don't want to spend too much money, but then I don't want do a non-even-a-half-ass job like the builder did, either.
Is it ok to till up the existing lawn, add some soil, till up some more, and lay down the sod, without adding any weed killers? Again, there's quite a bit of weeds, but I'm trying not to use chemicals if at all possible.
My lawn is ~1000-1100 sq.ft, by the way.

Posting this very late, so I might have left some questions out... I really appreciate your help.
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The first thing I would do is figure out what kind of soil you have, beyond the fact that it is rocky. Grass won't grow on rocks. If you have some half way decent soil with rocks mixed in, you can till and remove the rocks, especially since you only have 1000 sq ft to worry about. You can also till in some humus type material, or additional good topsoil. You should also have the soil tested to establish the correct PH.
On the other hand, if what you have is mostly rocks and gravel, then you need at least 6 inchs of decent top soil, preferably 9 inchs. Whether this can go on top of what is there becomes a grading issue. If it can't then you need to have what's there removed.
If you wind up tilling what is there, I would use Roundup to kill all the existing plants. Roundup is one of the safested chemicals and you can reseed a week after application. Since you're in a hurry, you're going to have to go with sod.
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Well, if you're looking for a short term fix to sell the house, I'd probably patch it with top soil and lawn patch mix, the stuff that is seed + mulch + fertilizer in one, and water it a lot. Can't guarantee any short term fix though, good results will take some time.
Or you could just spray paint everything green!

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On Thu, 13 May 2004 22:05:01 -0700, FGreen wrote:

Good mowing hight....

I would tend to fertilize twice a year. I would use half in the spring and half in the fall. It's good to boost the grass in the spring when the nitrogen is low in the soil. Nitrogen is a non-fixed element that moves with water. After the run off of winter, nitrogen is at it's lowest.

With the short time frame, non-chemical requirements and price range, your situation is a bit difficult. No matter how you spin it, sod isn't cheap. If you were to do sod, you could just over lay the native soil after letting a non-selective herbicide do it's work. You would be able to spray and lay with in two weeks. While others rave over Round-up.. I personaly won't touch the stuff. It's a rather toxic chemical and there's lots of proof via the net for those who wish to look for it. I use Finale (product name) or any product with glufosinate ammonium as the main active ingredient. Here's the spec sheet on it: http://www.horizononline.com/msds_sheets/pdf/finale25.pdf Page 8 and onward you'll find the toxic's report. Looks rather good to me and the enviroment and that's why I use it in my business.

So here are your options... (imho) 1 herbicide the lawn and re-sod it. Possibly add new top soil before hand. This will cost the most. Up to $200.00 for dirt (10 yards), $20.00 for fertilizer, $20.00 for herbicide, $20.00 for a sprayer (if needed), Roller rental $?.00 and sod $???.00 (price varies)
2 all of above but seed instead of sod. Perennial rye generaly sprouts faster (1 week), but is not as nice (imho). Tall Fescue takes longer (2/3 weeks) and is a bit nicer. 2 weeks for spray and 2or 3 weeks for seed. First mowing in 6 weeks and looks great in 8 weeks 80)
3 least favorite would be to lay weed & feed and re-seed in 3 weeks. Your milage may vary.
Any way you look at it, there really isn't too many ways to get things done in under two weeks. 6 weeks is a bit more workable
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Thanks Timothy, and others, for responses. I'm learning.
I decided to use 'some' chemicals before redoing the lawn. I feel like I missed the boat for seeding (in terms of timing), since it's getting warm here in New England.
For sodding, can it be done in June, maybe even July and be ok?
Now, this is my plan of action 1. Rototill the existing lawn 2. Cover it up (~1000 ft^2) with tarp to kill the weeds (and whatever else was growing with weeds) - ~2 weeks? 3. Put in some new top soil 4. Apply weed killer chemicals 5. Re-sod 6. Water 7. Water more ...
Step 1 can be done in a half day, 3,4,5 can be done in another day after tarp comes off. Sound about right?

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If you are going to put topsoil on top, there is no need to rototill. Save yourself some work, and just cover the grass/weeds up with a tarp. Also, the topsoil shouldn't have any weed seeds, and even if it does, the sod should suffiently cover them up so they won't germinate. There shouldn't be any reason to use chemical weedkillers. If you're worried about weeds sprouting in the edges of the strips of sod, just use corn gluten meal (found at a local feed store) to inhibit seed germination.
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On Mon, 17 May 2004 11:16:46 -0700, FGreen wrote:

If I was hired to do the job I would: 1 spray the whole lawn area with finale. 2 wait 2/ 3 days for the finale to kick in. 3 spread 10+ yards of topsoil and lay sod. 4 Fertilize with 16-16-16 , water and hand you a bill 80)
As far as tarps and the like go... It takes quite a while for tarping to kill off perennial weeds. Time is something that you do not have so spraying will be your only true option. Dandy lions and other perennial weeds can and most likly will work their way up through the sod over time. I personally wouldn't chance it and would take the extra effort to do it right the first time.
Btw, what they charging you for sod out there..? Good luck to ya.......
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Makes sense. I'll just spray either Finale (can't find it?) or Weed-B-Gone and wait a week or so, cover it with top soil, and sod over it.
For sod, they're charging somewhere between $3-4 for 9 sq. ft (6'x1.5'). So, for ~1400 sq. ft. I'm looking at (my initial guess was off), the sod alone would be ~$600. Not sure how much top soil would cost to cover the area.
Does anyone know where to get top soil in Massachusetts?
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- Cover the ground with an opaque tarp for two weeks to kill the weeds - bring in good topsoil, enough for 2-3 inches depth of coverage, 20% oragnic for fast growth - seed using high quality brand name seed, eg. Scot's
Will be much cheaper than sodding or hydroseeding, even if you use the expensive topsoil. Using good soilk and seed, along with regular watering 91-2 times a day depending on how wet your weather is) should get you grass in under two weeks. I did it in July and had new grass in six days, but in 2-3 weeks it was much more mature and spread out.

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Quick fix: annual rye grass ("builders' grass") Good fix: any mix with a high percentage of "tall fescue" seed. It sends roots 2-3' down to get water and doesn't get brown in summer.

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On Sat, 15 May 2004 00:48:32 +0000, Steveo wrote:

I've used a tall fescue called "crew cut" which is said to have up to 18 inches of root and 13 inches of mature hight. 3 foot... hmm, do I smell a fish story ..? lol
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your lawn? :)
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wrote:

weed book. Scotts has finally come out with a tall fescue, Rebel II is a label you'll see, and I seem to recall a company named York having a product. You must read the labels, looking for "tall fescue" only in the mix. Other fescues won't help you.
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ask you again..Do you have a link to this tall fescue with 2-3' roots?
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