I'm about to enter phase 2 of our lawn restoration project and I'm
looking for suggestions. The portion of the lawn I'm trying to
restore is approximately 75' by 50'. Currently, there is decent grass
on about 60% of this area.
Phase 1 involved cutting down some massive trees, grinding the stumps
and grinding the big surface roots. The tree company I hired left the
pile of wood chips in the middle of the lawn.
The lawn will need to be leveled as it was minimally maintained for at
least the past 15 years -- I moved in about 2 years ago.
1. Should I try and save the existing grass or should I start over?
2. Can I reuse the wood chips along with new topsoil? Or should I
move the wood chips to the flower beds and use only new topsoil?
3. If I don't start over, how can I level the lawn without destroying
the existing grass?
4. Are there any good web sites that give step by step instructions?
5. When is the best time (of year) to do this project? (I live in the
Northeast of the US). What is the expected timeframe to go from dirt
to grass? I need a good estimate to keep the wife happy :)
You said it was 60% "decent". If it really is decent (e.g. fescue or
ryegrass) I'd leave it, unless your goal is a photo-perfect suburban
lawn. With TLC it can probably become more than decent, especially since
you won't see results till next year anyway. And that way you only have
to work on 40% of the lawn, and can concentrate your efforts better.
Wood chips and grass really don't mix. The grass needs finer-grained
soil to set its roots in. Anywhere you have wood chips, you'll get
spotty grass coverage, and it will take a couple of years for the chips
to compost into the soil.
Keep them for compost, landscaping, or other jobs.
Are there drainage problems, or are you just referring to the stump
locations and general lumpiness? For the former you can cut up the lawn
into sod, dig beneath and add or remove soil as needed, then put the sod
back down. For stump holes, think in terms of putting in a mound of
compost covered by good-quality topsoil and sod or seed, then giving it
a couple of years to settle to the right level. For lumpiness, core
aerate and roll.
It's not *that* hard. Each lawn is unique so what needs to be done, and
in what order, is different. Myself, I would tackle appearance first, so
I have a nice green lawn next year, then work gradually on the other
issues. Even weeds can wait; at least they look green from the street.
You can put in a "quick and fine" grass seed now to cover the bare
areas, and if you water it properly it will begin to fill in by next
month. First-year growth will probably be a little spotty, though, so be
prepared to wait for second-year growth when it will look much better.
Traditionally, the best time to overseed a lawn is the fall. The seeds
will lie dormant until spring when they will germinate (around the time
soil temp hits 55F). Doing this consistently along with scheduled
fertilizing will give you a good, consistent lawn in a couple of years.
Go get a copy of Rodales Chemical Free Yard and Garden, and check
the chapters on lawn. There are some new cultivars of cool season
grasses (I assume that's what you want) that are much more disease
and insect resistant -- I'd strongly consider a mixture of those.
The high endophyte seeds, however, produce plants that shouldn't
be used for grazing, so if you've got grazing pets, they're
not good ideas.
How bumpy? How weedy? What's the underlying soil like? How
much cash and labor are you willing to invest? What have you
got around for compost?
As the wood decomposes, it will use nitrogen from the soil. Most
lawngrasses require a fair amount of nitrogen to stay thick.
How bumpy? How weedy? What makes you think you need to bring
in topsoil? Compost and/or sand would be my first choices
for amending, depending on the soil type.
I've gotten sorta bumpy lawns looking good by spreading a quarter inch
of compost and/or sand in the low spots every time I mowed. Took a
while, but it works. (I'm not fond of heavy labor). On the other
hand, I've also rototilled some really bad lawns and started from scratch.
It's amazing what proper fertilization and proper mowing can do for a
scruffy lawn, too.
Fall, in your part of the country. Talk to your local extension
service, but mid-September or so would be my guess as to the prime
time to reseed.
The last major lawn renovation I did was my mom's back yard, after
some foundation work and regrading done in a November. Leftover soil
got piled up and left over the winter, and then the foundation crew
brought back a small bobcat and regraded the following spring. Soil
was essentially pure clay. Two friends and I went down to the
municipal compost heap and filled the bed of a small pickup about
5 or 6 times, and dumped it on the bare clay and raked it out flat,
as I didn't have the time or energy to till the compost into the clay.
(this was the following fall... I couldn't get back to work on it
before then). I hand broadcast seed and lightly raked it into the
compost with a garden rake, then walked it in to the surface, firming
the contact with the soil. Overseeded that with oats to give the
local birds something to tear up immediately, and for erosion control.
Oat germination was within a week, the lawn grasses came up nicely
within a couple of weeks, and the fall rains kept everything watered.
The permanent lawn species kept growing well into December that
year (which I had expected), and it was ready for mowing in April
of the following year. The renovated area has lovely, lush grass,
almost too thick to get a mower through easily.
That's a long answer to say, if you do your soil prep late this
summer, and plant this fall, you should have a decent looking
lawn by December, and you can start mowing the next spring, though
a bit of overseeding in any bare spots then will probably help.
If you're antsy to get going on the project and you're going
to be doing away with the old grass, consider planting something
like buckwheat as a cover crop for the summer, and seeding in
the fall. Bonus: the buckwheat will give you more soil organic
Oh yes... buy your seed now and store it properly, or find a
good source of seed who will store it properly for you this summer.
Don't use seed that's been sitting on a nice warm shelf for
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.