I have a small backyard (18' by 30') and the lawn is several kinds of
grass and has been overrun by crabgrass and clover. There are also
hard bald patches where I can't get grass to grow. It's mostly sun and
the soil is fairly clayish. New York City area.
The local Garden World place suggested ripping it up with a tiller and
putting down lime, starter fertilizer, and seeding. I should then
cover it with some soil so the birds don't eat all the seed. I can
rent a light or medium duty tiller at the local Home Depot and I'll
likely do it this Saturday.
I've read that the existing lawn should be killed with Roundup or
another broadleaf herbicide, but I let my cats go into the yard and
don't want to put down anything that will harm them. They eat the
So my plan is to till it and try to remove as much of the existing
foliage as possible. It's really only around 400 sq feet of lawn so it
shouldn't be too backbreaking to get the stuff into bags once I rip it
Actually my plan is to do it twice. The first time I get out the old
stuff, then put down the fertilizer and lime and such, and then till
it again to get it all mixed up well. Then seed.
Am I just wasting my time to try this without using Roundup? Should I
be mixing in peat moss?
Any comments greatly appreciated. Thanks.
I live in a completely different part oif the country than you
(Florida) but have just gone thru the
same procedure that you are planning...twice.
The first time (a year ago i did it without putting any roundup on the
lawn) I tilled the lawn and
laid down sod on top of our good soil here. withing a few months the
weeds were choking out the grass
and I had to do it all over again.
This time I put roundup on the lawn and killed off all the weeds and
existing grass. I just finished
tilling it and have raked off all of the dead weed and roots and
stuff. All I have is nice black dirt waiting
for the sod which will be delivered tomorrow.
Keep the cats inside for awhile while the roundup does its thing,
I'd also suggest going the Roundup route. Roundup breaks down
quickly, so you can seed as soon as the existing grass and weeds are
dead, which is about a week to 10 days. I'd just keep the cats off
it till it's been tilled.
I'd also suggest putting this off till Fall, which is by far the best
time to do this. You will have less competition from weeds, won't
have to worry about crabgrass, and with declining temps and Fall rain,
nature is on your side. If you do it now, you need to be able to
keep it well watered, including during the coming summer, when the new
grass won't have deep roots. If you do this in Sept, the grass has a
lot more time to establish in cool season Fall/Spring, which is what
it wants to do.
You can do it now, but be prepared to deliver a lot of water and to
deal with weeds.
Mixing in peat moss or similar organic matter is always a good thing.
It's just a trade off as to what you have available and how much it
costs vs what soil you have and how much it needs to be improved.
I would not cover the seed with soil, unless you have some method to
do that very evenly and lightly. Just raking the seed in lightly
should do the trick. Make sure you use the right type and best
Roundup does have a half life, but a cat isn't a grazing animal. If you were
re-seeding a pasture where you were raising cattle, that would be one thing,
but for cats? Not a problem.
One option you do have is solarizing the grass by laying plastic sheeting on
one section at a time. Late this summer, you could buy some large plastic
drop cloths and cover (say) 1/3 of your yard at a time for a week or so,
then move the drop cloth to another area. That'll kill the grass and weeks,
then you can till without having to resort to round-up.
Thanks, I was sort of afraid of that. But I just looked around for the
toxicity of Roundup and came across this:
Doesn't look too promising. Without the cats I might be willing to do
it but with the cats? No, I don't think so. There seem to be some safe
crabgrass killers such as this:
but I how do I really know that it's safe? Arrgh.
And, since they're not made of plant material, they'll be fine. It may make
them puke, but the grass would do that anyway. The minute dose they would
receive from the few blades they'd eat would do nothing to them. You're
-I went to school to become a wit, only got halfway through...
If the std for what is acceptable and safe is to google the internet
and find a website that says something is bad, there isn't much left
that you can use. You can find some extremists websites that say just
about anything will kill you, is unsafe, and should not be used.
All dgk has to do is keep the cats off the lawn for a few days to a
week after the Roundup is applied. After that, it all gets tilled, so
what's there will be decreased by an order of magnitude. Seems very
reasonable to me.
BTW, if he doesn't like Roundup, I wonder what he thinks of
genetically modified crops like soybeans, that have been created to be
Roundup resistant? Those are sprayed with Roundup to kill weeds, but
not the crop. Better not eat those. Or how about how is he going to
deal with weeds in the newly seeded yard? Hmmm, if Roundup is bad,
what about broadleaf weedkilller? Maybe he should stick with what he
On 19 Apr 2007 15:28:03 -0700, email@example.com wrote:
That's not a bad suggestion. The lawn is green and is better than the
crap on my two neighbor's yards. And clover is not awful and is a
natural part of the lawn. Still, over the 10 years or so that I've
owned the house, I've made the mistake of using different grass seeds
and it just all sort of looks different.
There are also patches where I can't get anything to grow. The ground
is hard and it just doesn't seem possible to fix it without major
renovation. The base of the lawn is a thick web of interlocking roots
and runners. Pulling out clover by the roots and runners is not a
time-efficient activity in my experience.
I'm wary of a lot of chemicals. No Luddite, but wary. I'm a med bio
grad and spent a few years as a microbiologist before discovering the
joys of computer programming. Just in general, we have unleashed stuff
into the environment over the last hundred years that have never
existed before, Roundup being one of them. I think caution is
deserved. The studies proving its safety are all funded by Monsanto
and I prefer my studies to be done independently. None the less, it
has been widely used for quite some time without clearly being
I think this time I'll just till the mess and use the opportuity to
get some lime and peat moss in, and reconfigure the yard, adding some
space for more tomatoes and string beans and such. Perhaps a little
house for the cats to play in and maybe a waterfall thing. But those
are so hokey.
If the crabgrass and clover come back too quickly, I'll consider the
roundup route or cover it up with plastic sheeting.
Thanks everyone for the advice. We're finally going to have a nice
weekend here in NY so I'll probably do the deed tomorrow. It's
guaranteed to be a big mess.
Clover is better for your lawn than you may think. Do some reading on
It's 18x30. Just rent a sod cutter for a day, cut the old sod out and
discard it. Rake it smooth, working in a bit of organic matter, and lay the
new sod in place. It's that simple. You could, by yourself, prep that area
in one day, and lay the (less than a) pallet of sod in less than an hour,
the next day. That's such a small area, it would seem to me to be the most
logical, quick method. All that's required after that is regular waterings
until it roots in. If you want cool season grasses, now's the time to
resod, for sure. Tilling isn't really all that great for the soil
structure. You stated that your soil is mostly clay. You hit it with a
tiller, you're going to have 60 sq/yd of big, hard, clay "rocks", in a few
days. Have fun raking /that/ smooth. ;)
What I suggested above is about as "major" of a renovation as you can do.
You completely replace the turf. But you do it /without/ disturbing the
substrata. It takes a nice weekend, and probably less cash than you think.
Call a local sod farm. You only need 60 yd. A pallet is about 70 IIRC.
Local rental shops should have a sod cutter, or the sod farm would know
where to rent one, I'm sure. It's worth looking into.
How much peat do you think you'll need for that area? Are the rest of the
plantings in the immediate vicinity, acid-loving?
I dunno. I've never seen cats play in a waterfall thing. Might be kinda
Crabgrass is easily prevented using a pre-emergent. If the Forsythia are
still blooming, or it's been unseasonably cool in your area, it /may/ still
help to put it down. I'd rethink killing the clover, if you're actually
going to till the area.
Yup. And, one that will probably take you a while to fix. Good luck. =)
-I went to a seafood disco rave last week.... and pulled a mussel.
some species that "fix" nitrogen (mainly legumes such as
wild indigo, Carolina lupine, and clover that make air
nitrogen available to roots).
auto aeration :)
Hi Eggs, I been sitting back watching this thread thinking don't
waste the time with a tiller in heavy clay soil. Man Eggs, your
solution is indeed a good use of time and will produce more bang
for the buck. all I'd add would be the use of a star tooth aerator,
with just as much weight as I could get on the thing, be run over the
area just prior to laying the sod.
Ok, I'm convinced. I hold off on tilling. One other thing I should
have mentioned is that there is no way to get anything into the
backyard without going through the house, so sod is going to be
awkward. But, I never heard of a sod cutter before and it certainly
makes sense that tilling clay can be messy.
Instead of heading off to rent a tiller, I'll look around at sod
cutters and the availability of sod. I suppose they put roundup all
over the sod but at least I won't know about it. Maybe.
Thanks for the advice. I'll head over to the local Garden World for a
A sod cutter resembles a heavy mower, or tiller. It has a blade that sits
parallel to the ground, and the depth of its cut is adjustable. As the
cutter propels itself along, the blade moves side to side, as well as
front/back, in order to cut a long strip of sod, leaving behind a fairly
smooth (barring any rocks) surface.
You then cut the long strip into smaller ones, making them easier to
handle. Just roll them up and carry them off. The new sod comes in small
rolls, that you just unroll in place and snug up against the previously
Nope, no need to spray anything. Just cut it up and haul it away. =)
Good luck, man. Like I said, I'm not sure who'd have one, but someone will.
Most books now say our sun is a star. But it still knows how to change back
Garden World (which is familiar with the local soil) says that I
likely wouldn't have much problem with clay after a few passes with a
tiller, but that I would need to compact the soil, or sink every time
someone walked on it.
That's a problem with having an attached house (row house) since
getting anything into or out of the yard usually means going though
the house. There is really no way to get a big roller back there. It
also means some heavy and messy lifting for sod.
So I went the conservative route for this time. I spent Saturday
digging up the bare areas and filling them in with peat moss, topsoil,
and some lime and seed. I then did the topping suggested by the link
from Data. I spread peat moss all over the lawn, then went over it
with lime (pellets). I also did the areas reserved for vegetables.
Then I watered (lightly)
Sunday I fertilized and watered (lightly) and had the first barbeque
of the season. Now I wait to see how much of the see is left by the
birds. Much of it is buried under the thin peatmoss layer so I should
be all right.
Thanks again for the advice. It won't be perfect but it won't be a big
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