Reviving an Abused Lawn?

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I had a very nice lawn up until this year when I got lazy in the fall and instead of raking up all the leaves I did a combination of raking and running them over with a mulching mower.
Major mistake, as now I have half dead grass, lots of bald spots and thatch.
I have aggressively raked up all the thatch and things are looking better, but I see signs of ant hills, moss, weeds and bare patches. The grass looks off color green instead of bright green
So how do I repair this situation? I am located on Eastern Long Island NY so the soil is sandy and like I said I had a pretty decent looking lawn up until this point. BTW this is a fairly decent sized property so installing a new lawn is not the option I want to take.
Up until this point I was using Lebanon 5 step process every year (the lawn is only 5 years old, new construction house) but I was never really happy with it and was thinking of going to Scotts this year. I did use it in October though, step 5 I think.
I appreciate any and all advice on how to make things better!
Joe
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I agree with JM, I mulch and dont fertilise and have a great lawn , but im in shade with good soil. Check your soil sand is not great.
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Joe wrote:

It sounds like you are doing it the hard and expensive way.
I live in Ohio, not that much different and I always mulch the leaves, I fertilize only twice a year and seldom need any other chemical help. I have de-thatched twice in 12 years. I have a great lawn.
The trick is to make the grass happy and weeds unhappy. It is not making the chemical companies happy. :-)
Check with your local county extension office. Ask them about soil test to determine where you want to go. Ask them about lawn mowing and especially how long is should be cut.
Follow their advice and I predict that you will have a better lawn next year than you have ever had, less work and less money.
Good Luck
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Joseph Meehan

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Seems that way. Apparently, frequent mowing can make a yard look great, whether or not it would help repair the yard.

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Joe wrote:

Get on a good program of watering properly and cutting proper length. Sounds like you probably know that part. Scotts is an expensive luxury, IMO. Routine weed killer is not needed. By neglecting it for a while, you will have some resurgence of weeds - they will have dropped seed, so expect them to keep coming for 2-3 years. Spot treat broadleaf weeds unless they get very heavy. Pull isolated ones, if you have the time. Each one you take out might mean several thousand fewer seeds :o) With a large lawn, it is wise to consider changing some area to natural plants, or islands of shrubs, trees, groundcover, etc, that don't require much care. Ants belong there. Moss, if it bothers you, is probably coming up where it is too shady for grass. Moss gardens can be great! Slow release fertilizer so's it doesn't wash out right away. You might have alkaline soil - pH test a good idea, with iron or sulfur depending on pH needs. Sometimes iron or sulfur will green up the grass when fert not needed.
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wrote:

Question: when you say you raked up all the thatch do you mean with a standard leaf rake or a thatching rake? The reason I ask is because I use a mulching mower all season too and I always had a problem with large brown patches in the spring.
Last fall I invested in a thatching rake, which looks like more like a medieval weapon than a garden tool, and after doing the final mowing I raked the entire lawn. I don't have a large back yard (about 800sf) and it was back-breaking work but I pulled up two contractor's bags full of debris missed by the mower. Then I overseeded and spread a winter fertlizer.
This spring, the lawn looks fantastic. My neighbor, who just overseeded and fertilized, has half a dead lawn.
I'm definitely no horticultural genius. In fact, I hate lawn maintenance and am one disappointment away from ripping it all out and laying pavers. But when I looked at my neighbor's lawn I couldn't see any soil between the grass, just ground-up leaves, moss and dead grass shoots. I figure that doesn't give seed anything to root into.
A couple of weeks ago she raked the lawn with a standard leaf rake in preparation for re/overseeding. She got a small pile of debris. Then I convinced her to use the thatching rake and she pulled up the same two contractors' bags of crappola. After seeding, her lawn's springing back.
One other trick for bare spots: loosen up the soil with a garden claw or thatching rake, spread the seed, cover it with a thin layer of bagged topsoil then use a starter fertilizer. Keep it damp for at least ten days. A faucet timer is great for this. Set it to water just before dawn so you don't get mold. Elevate the hose on wire wickets so it doesn't kill the grass underneath.
Steve Manes Brooklyn, NY http://www.magpie.com/house
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On Sun, 17 Apr 2005 09:21:17 -0400, Steve Manes wrote:

Regular rake, but I scuff the soil pretty well. Sounds like I am having the same exact problem. Large brown patches and places where the grass just didn't grow back.

I think that is what I am going to have to do.

Are we neighbors :)

That is basically what I am up against.

Thanks Steve and to all of the others who responded with great advice! I have a lot of work ahead of me but your suggestions have pointed me in the right direction.
Joe
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I'm in Western NY. Most folks here bag the leaves for the trash guys. My Dad used to mow the leaves with the side discharge mower, and let them rot. Mom would friek about what the neighbors would think. Dad's lawn hasn't ever been fertilized.
Mine hasn't either, I just mow the leaves and let them rot. Bagging leaves and raking out the thatch starves the lawn of the nutrients that went into the grasss. Maybe why you have to fertilize twice a year. All the minerals are coming up out of the soil, none are rotting and returning.
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Christopher A. Young
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Bob G. wrote:

I just hired Natural Lawn, so I am curious - have you been satisfied with their services? They've been very helpful about answering my questions, so far.
-- Jennifer
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On Sun, 17 Apr 2005 13:30:29 GMT, "Stormin Mormon"

===============Sorry to say this but I fertoilize my front lawn...( contracted out to Natural lawn)...but like you I hop on my lawn tractor every fall and "mow the leaves" and leave them to rot over the winter..
Just too much leaves to even think about raking up...
Bob Griffiths
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If leaves can be mower-mulched, why can't the be mowed up into the catcher ?
Bart Who lawn-cycles his grass and mows up leaves all over his property.
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He may be like me. I have about 1/2 acre in the front of the house. About one trip around the lawn and I have to empty the bags on the mower. That is about 15 dumps to do just the front part of the house. Too time consuming for me.
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Check out the books by Jerry Baker. Get one geared towards lawn care. Still can't get lazy but you don't have to spend tons of money maintaining your lawn.
wrote:

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On my lawn, which is surrounded by forest on 3 sides, I've always removed most leaves by blowing/raking, but I'd say I probably mulch up about 20% or so with a mower while continuing to cut it through November. I live in NJ and never had a problem because of it and my lawn looks great. This practice will not lead to thatch, which is something many people seem to worry about, but few lawns actually suffer from. The finely ground up leaf material quickly decomposes and is beneficial to the soil. The only way this would create a problem is if there is so much of it that it actually covers the grass and acts like a mulch. If you're doing that, then you're mulching too much and need to remove some by other means.
I agree with the advice to have the soil tested, particularly for PH and adjust as needed. For routine maintenance, spot weed control is all that should be required. It's more effective and less harmful for the environment. Use a pre-emergent crab grass control/fertilizer in the spring. Spot treat weeds and deal with any insect problems if necessary in the summer. Don't apply fertilizer during the summer, wait till late summer/early fall. Do one app then, another late Oct and you're lawn should do fine.
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Not that anyone cares, but, If I can get the mower on top of it, I mulch it. Limbs, branchs, dead animals....everything. In the fall I mow the leaves and pine straw. If the pine straw still is too much, I mow it again. Quicker and easier then rakeing and bagging. The leaves have very little detritus left after a mow or two. I have never had a thatch problem. I have several trees in my yard and I have never used a dethatcher. My neighbor uses one of those hole punching dethatchers and has built in sprinkler system and her yard is not that much nicer than mine. I think the thatch problem is over rated. B
On 19 Apr 2005 05:00:05 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

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Brett Miller wrote:

Very true. It is surprising how many people believe that thatch is caused by mulching. In reality mulching may even reduce a thatch problem.
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Joseph Meehan

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Thatch is caused by fast release fertilisers or over fertilising making grass roots stay near the surface. Leaves do not cause thatch and are beneficial for a natural fertiliser and in studies reduce fungal problems. The only time I had thatch was with Chemlawn liqued type fertilisers. Mulching 6 inches of leaves every fall till pieces are small has hurt nothing and reduced my fertiliser need to nearly nothing.
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m Ransley wrote:

I agree that most commercial fertilizers contribute greatly to thatch problems and are bad in other ways as well. That may not be the only cause of thatch, but in the US I would say it is be far the most common. On top of that it is bad for the overall health of the grass.
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Beeper wrote:

I would not put much faith in Jerry Baker. He has some rather hair brain ideas, although some are OK. Most are OK in theory, until you do all the numbers.
I remember one of his ideas of spraying something on the lawn as a fertilizer. Well, it would work but you would need to use about 1,000 times more than he suggested to come up to any kind of reasonable level and would pay many times over the cost of conventional fertilizer.
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Joseph Meehan

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snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote: .... This practice will not lead to thatch, which is

Very true and something few people seem to know. The thatch industry seems to have created a non-monster.

Good advice.

Most everyone around me is concerned with crab grass. After many years of no control, I have no more or less than anyone else has. The crabgrass control industry is another one that has created a much bigger problem than real. I would guess far more than half of all crabgrass control uses is not needed. My cats tell me they are doing their job of keeping the elephants out of my home, and I guess they are right, I have not yet seen a one. :-)

I have to agree with that. I will add that most people cut their grass too short, especially in the hot dry summer. Even if you water, don't cut the stuff short. Most grasses do better growing 3-4 inches long and they handle heat, water and weeds much better under those conditions.
All of my comments here apply to areas with similar grass soils and weather as mine. Since these factors are far different in different areas, universal statement are seldom really universal.
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Joseph Meehan

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