Help with lawn (San Antonio, Texas)

sgdirtbagJanuary 7, 2012

Ok, so I guess my first attempt to post didn't work.

So I bought a house a year ago in San Antonio. They put in Bermuda SOD by the square. Do to the drought we had last year, the grass didn't really grow in that great and I have gaps in my yard from where the squares are and True Green proved to be pretty much worthless in killing the weeds.

Here are my questions:

1) Does anyone recommend a weed killer, or pre-emergent to use for the common weeds in San Antonio?

2) I am looking into buying about 10-15 yards of dirt, top soil, or sand. My builder recommended that I at least drop some sand across the yard to help fill in the gaps and it helps absorb moisture.

2a) Is this true?

2b) Would any recommend for or against any type of soil, dirt, sand, compost mixture etc to lay across my yard to help even it out a little and to fill in gaps?

I will keep my Bermuda and probably lay some seed down before I get the filler just to let it grow in again.

He also recommended in the winter that I plant winter rye grass.

Thank you in advance for any answers or advice.

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Did your sod get enough water the first month or so? if the sod was laid and never got much water not sure how much of it is still alive. When was the sod laid? It is best not to over seed the first year and in your case it had so much stress i would say it is a bad idea and it is a bit late anyway for this year..... Sand would be a good choice. Something like builders sand but not play sand. Wait until the grass is ready to grow again in the spring. Maybe April in your area? If you seed new Bermuda you will be using a conman type yet your sod most likely is a Hybrid. Different texture of grass that i would not mix.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 9:26AM
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OK I am going to jump in here and give you some tough medicine just like my Doctor gave me 20 years ago when he said: "Make a choice to either live or die, makes me no difference I get paid the same either way"

OK you did about everything you could to kill it from neglect to start with. You did not water or fertilize it. Fortunately Bermuda is some tough stuff and will survive most anything you can throw at it. Assuming it is still alive let's do this.

1. At this point I do not recommend any pre or post-emergence herbicide at this time because your grass has not established itself and is weak from neglect. Normally during the winter if it goes fully dormant (absolutely no green sprigs), you can spray anything green with Round Up to control established cool season weeds. If you just have to do something wait about 1-month and use a product called AMAZE made Greenlight sold in ACE Hardware and some Box Stores. If not there it can be ordered on line.

  1. Keep the weeds mowed down this winter. Being in SA you will get a good amount of weed growth. Keep them mowed down before they can go to SEED STAGE and compound your problem.

3. Forget over seeding. You have Bermuda sod, and there is no seed that you can buy to match it. Besides you cannot seed Bermuda until around May or June in your area.

4. Forget top dressing with anything for now. If you top-dress now over dormant Bermuda you will kill it. It has to be actively growing vigorously in the heat of summer. You can revisit this in late June or July if needed.

5. This late winter or early spring when you are certain there will be no more chance of frost, get the mower out, lower it as far as it can go, and scalp the lawn down. I DO NOT MEAN down to dirt, just really low without digging in to the dirt. Then rake up the debris.

6. About two weeks after you scalp if your timing was correct you should start seeing sprigs of green Bermuda indicating it is coming out of dormancy. When you see that happen apply a balanced fertilizer of 15-5-10 or 20-5-10. You can get it in TX at any HD under the brand name of LESCO. Apply at the recommended rate or either 6.5 lbs/Kft^2 for the 15-5-10 product or 5lbs for the 20-5-10 product. Immediately water it in at 1 inch of water.

7. OBTAIN the BERMUDA BIBLE, read it and follow it to the letter. It will tell you how to properly mow, water, and feed your Bermuda grass. This is why your grass is in such poor shape. Failure to follow a maintenance routine will result in a failed lawn no matter what type of grass you have. 99% of having a healthy and attractive lawn is proper mowing, watering, and feeding the grass.

FYI Bermuda is a nitrogen hog and requires fertilizer about every 30 to 45 days during the growing season. It also needs mowing twice a week. It is a labor of love to keep attractive and relatively weed free. Don't worry about weeds right now. You need to get the grass healthy again, then worry about weeds.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2012 at 12:40PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Where do people come up with these ideas? I agree fully with TW PLUS your builder is full of baloney. Let him build houses but don't ask him for lawn advice. The drought did not kill your lawn. You forgot to water it. Bermuda has the highest maintenance requirements of all turf grasses. Sure it will survive a nuclear holocaust but it is not that hard to kill when you do what you were about to do. You would have had a dead lawn by May. Yes you can kill bermuda. That amount of topsoil would be enough for nearly 20,000 square feet (1/2 acre). If you have less than that, you would have been piling it on top and smothering the bermuda underneath.

Secondly, UNLESS you have serious drainage issues, DO NOT bring in any topsoil. Bringing in topsoil is the cause of major drainage issues. A major drainage issue is when rainwater flows toward the house instead of away from the house. When you bring in topsoil for the lawn, most people create a moat around the house that floods and holds water in. Or, if they think to move some of the soil up toward the house, then they violate the 4-inch rule which mandates a minimum of 4 clear inches of foundation be visible below the sill plate of the house. Couple years ago I was on a campaign against the routine top dressing of lawns. I have pictures that are heart breaking (not tortured puppy heart breaking but tortured lawn heart breaking).

Winter rye grass is a mistake for the average homeowner, too. (See your builder is batting 0%). Getting the right amount of rye takes a couple years of practice. Until you get it right, it looks horrible. Secondly, if you got it right, then you create a mess in the spring. The bermuda needs FULL sunlight to come out of dormancy. Winter rye will not die in SA until about late May. In the mean time your bermuda is still dormant. It is far better to rely on SA sunlight and rainfall to bring the lawn out of dormancy as soon as possible. My common bermuda in SA is still growing - I mowed it yesterday. I live near the Quarry Market so if you live up the hill in any direction, your lawn may be dormant. There are chemicals that will kill rye early in bermuda but the average homeowner cannot obtain them. Only pros can use them.

If you want your lawn to look good all winter, first of all, order up a mild winter. Lucky for you, that's what we're having now. Second, water it once, deeply, every week. Third, fertilize it every month.

Apologies for our curmudgeonly nature of this advice. Seems you got us both on a rough day. Maybe it's the nature of the mistakes you already made. Maybe it was relying on the builder for lawn care advice. Had you written in when you were first getting started, none of this would have happened. You'll get there. I'd start now with the Bermuda Bible (Google), some water, and some organic fertilizer (Get the Organic Lawn Care FAQ in the GardenWeb Organic Gardening forum FAQs).

    Bookmark   January 9, 2012 at 11:27PM
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Thank you all for the very quick advice. I have a link to the Bermuda bible. Reading it a little at a time. If I do need to fill in any gaps in the yard, or fill in the gap from between the fence bottom and the ground what do you recommend?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 8:22PM
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Are these gaps you speak of in shade?

If not then you can fill them in this late spring and early summer with your existing grass by taking sprig cuttings. If shaded, Bermuda will not grow there, hence why it is not there now.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 10:35PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Assuming grass is intended to grow in it, then sand. Sand to fill gaps where the sod did not match up. I used sand as fill when I bought my house. We're on a hill and the previous owner had allowed up to 6 inches of topsoil to wash away down into the neighbor's yard. I filled that all back with sand and covered with St Augustine.

There is a subtle difference in sands. There is sharp sand made from recently broken larger pebbles. There is also rounded sand which has been beat on by other sand and water for millennia. Rounded particles will never lock in place and will wash out easily until it is all gone. Sharp sand particles will interlock and remain in place unless you try to wash it out. If you have ever walked into rounded pea gravel and then stepped into chipped pea gravel, you know the difference. Chipped pea gravel makes a rock solid parking lot once it is locked in. Decomposed granite is an example of a chipped sand material. It has larger particles in it if you can stand that. It makes a pretty good solid surface.

How do you tell the difference? Probably the only reliable way is to inspect it yourself with a magnifying glass. "They say" that builder's sand (mason's sand) is "sharp" sand. Play sand is supposedly rounded sand.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2012 at 10:54PM
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