I hope this is the right place to post this but I just moved into a new
place and have a horrible lawn. The front is alright but the back is really
bad. In the spring there were a lot of weeds and now they have died off and
left a load of other weeds and lots of bare spots. I was wondering what I
can do to prep the lawn and have some seed down so I have a nice lawn next
year. What weedkiller/fertilizer should I put down and when, and what's the
best kind of seed to put down and when should I do that also.
You should really think about "turning it over", either renting
a roto-tiller or having somebody do it for you. That breaks up
everything, it takes some time to walk through it and toss all
of the stuff into garbage bags, but you're left with a clean
patch of dirt that you can rake, seed and roll.
You have two approaches that work.
You can start new. Strip off or turn under everything that is there.
Upgrade the soil if needed and start with fresh seed or sod.
Second method is to work with what you have. This is the method I like,
almost all the time. I think people are far too quick to start new and
would do better most of the time by just doing good care.
In either case you are coming up on the best time of year to tackle the
problem in most areas. Most grasses are best put in during mid to late
fall. Unless you are in the south US you should have cool weather grass and
fall is the time. The weather is ideal for them and bad for most weeds. By
mid spring things should be in good shape.
Let's start with why the grass is a problem. If you don't fix that,
nothing you do will help.
You noted that you have lots of tree roots. That also means you likely
have lots of trees. Trees mean shade, less water, and often poor soil.
Shade means you need to use shade tolerant grass. No grass really likes
shade and you are not going to get any grass that will grow in lower light
and still stand up to wear from kids and dogs. However the right grass
should be able to stay green and good looking and handle some foot traffic.
Next is water. Trees can suck a lot of water out of the soil. Be ready
to do a fair amount of watering. It is best to check the ground and water if
and when needed. It may be on a totally different schedule that the front
yard. You also don't want to keep the grass wet as that will encourage
Poor soil, due to the tree taking up all the good nutrients, means you
may need some adjustments to lawn feeding. You best bet here is to start
with a soil test. Your local county extension agent should be able to help
you out, or a local garden center if they can't. Add only what is
suggested, and no more. Be sure to ask about PH as well and adjust that. I
suggest fertilizing only in the early spring and mid fall. In most
situations fertilizing during the summer can do more long term damage than
good. Using an organic fertilizer if possible as it generally is slow
release and can help improve the soil.
Don't cut your lawn too short, most people do. In most areas lawns
allowed to grow a little longer 2.5 - 3.0 inches will look better, require
less care and water and will crowd out the weeds.
You may need some weed control now and next spring. Don't buy weed and
feed products. The best time to control weeks and the right time to feed
your lawn is seldom the same time. Find out what kind of weeds your lawn
has and treat for those weeds at the ideal time of year for the weeds you
have. For most weeds that will be mid - late spring through summer. After
one or two general applications, you should be able to handle the weed
problem with spot weeding.
Remember that a sun lawn and a shade lawn will continue to require
You will note that I did not really address the rebuild vs. replace
issue. That is because the care is the same for both. I would seed the
back with a good shade seed this fall either way. If you don't replace,
just overseed. Use a mix of good grass seed and the grass that is best
suited will win out.
I had a similar problem of a poor lawn in one area. After years of
getting grass in and having it die off to weeds I realised it was to
shady to support even Scotts Shade seed. Also some Maples were choking
out the grass as Maples and a few other trees will do. I gave up on the
lawn after 7 years and alot of waisted time , seed and water. This is a
small area 1/30th of my lot , everywhere else it is fine, So I have gone
to shade perrenials like Hostas and Ferns which are doing great and a
rock garden. First determine type of trees and if they are a grass
killing type and determine amount of sun you have. If not enugh sun
grass will come up but will die off. Either trim trees or dont fight it
and go Shade Perrenials. You have a sign, there is no grass there now,
Maples and others can choke out any plant so dont fight a loosing
If your situation is different using Roundup and burning weeds when
brown and reseading is the easiest way.
Some trees have the majority of roots near the surface, Rototilling
will not only bring up dormant weed seeds but can severly damage some
trees, and worms that help lawns.
You're a contractor and you have to ask where you rent tools???
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I concur. 35 years ago the old lady that lived across the street told
me I was wasting my time trying to grow grass under a maple tree.
Maples have dense, small roots near the surface, and of course, maples
are great shade trees.
DM> I hope this is the right place to post this but I just moved into a new
DM> place and have a horrible lawn. The front is alright but the back is really
DM> bad. In the spring there were a lot of weeds and now they have died off an
DM> left a load of other weeds and lots of bare spots. I was wondering what I
DM> can do to prep the lawn and have some seed down so I have a nice lawn next
DM> year. What weedkiller/fertilizer should I put down and when, and what's the
DM> best kind of seed to put down and when should I do that also.
You may wish to consider "going with the flow". As another poster
indicated, even so-called shade-tolerant grass need light. Our front
and back yards has a 'problem' similar to your's. Originally the
front yard had two trees (one died suddenly - may have been struck by
lightening). Grass simply would not grow. Tried resodding (hired
out), shade-tolerant grass seed, watering more, watering less. Always
eventually died off. (We're talking almost ten years of trying to
Finally decided to try low shrubs. If they can grow in a forest with
the tree canopy they should be able to under two trees! Started off
with a half-dozen shrubs plus some ground cover in a section. (Listed
as desiring shade.) Removed the grass (all two-dozen pieces! ),
planted the shrubs, put down newsprint (OK, was being really cheap --
use the ground fabric and avoid various hassles) and filled with bark.
Definately thrived (horray!!) so continued with other sections in the
Now no mowing of the front yard except for the strip between the
street and the sidewalk. Back yard has a slowly-expanding garden area
under the maple tree; as the tree grows so does the shade and drip
line -- eventually the ring of grass dieing expands and looks ugly,
enlarge the under-tree garden -- section of irises, shrubs, a fontain
and bench with a gnome.
¯ barry.martinþATþthesafebbs.zeppole.com ®
* Hmmmm... is it supposed to smoke like that?
YES! A soil test is fairly cheap, a local college or aggy school can do
it or tell you where to get it done.
I have no lawn in my drought area - which means no lawn mowers which is
nice, but a festival of plants is desirable and leaves us in the same place.
We had plants struggling. A friend of a friend is a landscaper. We
paid him to come help select some better plants and help us suss out the
Being on a hill, the upper soil was different than the lower stuff.
And the lower part was more "piney" with scrub trees that had been there
before the house (I'm told by a neighbor).
A couple soil tests, the correct fertilizer and some pushes towards
plants that did better in the slightly more acidic soil than we were
using did the trick. Between the tests and a couple hours of this guy's
time (and he came over with a bunch of plants for us at his Pro Rate
which was cheaper overall than the local store rate and we all planted)
I don't think we spent more than $200.
In the end, I know about the soil, I have the damn names of a bunch of
bushes that were unknown to me before. And I learned that a wierd
little ground vine is wild strawberrys. Which look nothing like the
wild strawberries where I grew up (3000miles away).
So Soil Test.
Correct plants/grass for that soil and light conditions.
Give up on grass in areas that will never support it without
Sometimes a pro can be really really helpful in these decisions.