Options for troubled front yard?

thebigadFebruary 28, 2013

I'm in Atlanta. I have a large front yard, split by a drive way. We bought the place last year. Right now, the entire front yard is mostly weeds, with some fescue mixed in here and there that I guess is left over from years ago.

The yard to the right of my driveway receives ample sun and should be fine to establish a warm-season turf (has mossy patches now). The area to the left of my driveway, however, has a dogwood tree (small) and a few large oak trees that provide a good bit of shade in the summer. One landscaping company that came out said that they could not guarantee that sod would do well in this area, but that I could try. Its an expensive proposition because of the size of the yard. So, I'm kind of turned off of the idea of establishing a turf that may be nothing but a money pit.

So, I thought of another option. What if I grow annual rye grass each year from about October - May? I could have a nice "lawn" for most of the year. Then, during the summer, I could just mow the weeds and keep everything as nice looking as possible. What do you think? If I go this rye grass route, do I still need to control the weeds with sprays/pre-emergents, etc. before planting or after planting the rye grass or will the rye grass thrive regardless?

Another question - if I don't establish a turf because of the shade/cost issues, but want to minimize the weeds in my yard, should I myself or through a company control the weeds by sprays/pre-emergent applications throughout the year? My fear is that if I get rid of the weeds, I'll be left with bald patches that may be susceptible to erosion. What do you think?

Your advice is appreciated as always.

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How much sun does the shady area receive in a cloudless summer day?

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 1:44PM
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Since the house is new to me, I'm not sure. I'd say it gets maybe 4 hours of filtered light and some outer areas get full sun.

    Bookmark   February 28, 2013 at 2:35PM
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The amount of full sun the area gets is really the main factor on deciding what you can grow. Most turfgrasses prefer sunny sites. The warm season grasses (Bermuda, Zoysia, Paspalum, St. Augustine, centipede, etc.) generally prefer areas that get more sun than what you are describing. There is a grass called Shadow Turf that might work in this area, but I have no experience with it (search the forum as there have been discussions about Shadow Turf or Turffalo). The only cool season grass that I would try in your climate, and a shady area, would be tall fescue. Tall fescue can get by with 3-4 hours of direct morning sun, but once you go below a certain amount it will be weak and thin. If the area in question gets no direct sun, then it would probably be a fools errand to try and grow a nice stand of grass. If that is the case then either thin out the tree canopy, or have a shade garden. Your original idea of seeding rye every year isn't terrible by the way, but I would use perennial rye instead of annual.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 8:06AM
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What about the weeds? Should I get a weed treatment plan/service even if I don't establish a turf (other than the rye grass)?

Will perennial rye grass grow in Atlanta?


    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 10:04AM
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If the area isn't too large and you're not going to do anything till fall I would probably cover it with mulch to prevent erosion. Applying a preemergent before the mulch will keep the weed pressure down, and you can kill weeds with round up or hand pick them when they pop up through the mulch. Perennial rye will grow fine in Atlanta in the cooler months. It is the grass of choice when southern golf courses overseed their dormant Bermuda fairways. In the summer you will probably get some die off, but since it is shady you might be OK as it will be cooler in those areas.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 12:23PM
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I don't think I can mulch my front yard - maybe portions of it, but my front yard is maybe 3000 sq ft total! Should I just get a weed treatment as to the broadleaf ones (uglier than other weeds)?

    Bookmark   March 1, 2013 at 1:13PM
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Well that all depends. What are your plans for the sunny side of the yard to the right of the driveway? If you are going to lay warm season sod, then I would probably get rid of the weeds, but I wouldn't use anything that will interfere with sod rooting. Always read labels on any herbicide, pre or post emergent, to make sure you won't harm your sod. As for the shady areas, if you aren't going to do anything till fall, then there are a few options. Keep the weeds to prevent erosion, but mow often to limit seed formation and spread. Or you could kill everything and put down a preemergent and not worry about erosion until it's time to plant a cool season grass in the fall, or you can use the mulch till fall. One other option is that you could kill everything with Round-up and try growing perennial rye in the spring. PR is such a fast establisher that it will look great in a month or so after seeding, and will prevent erosion even after you lose some to summer's heat and disease. Since the area is shady, you might not lose as much of it due to heat than you would in a sunny site. Then when the heat breaks in fall you can overseed the area, or if you have a lot of weed pressure, kill it all again with Round-up, and seed PR.

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 2:36PM
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Tiemco makes some good suggestions. I've used perennial rye successfully in the past to control erosion and found in mild summers it survives very well.

One point I would like to add is regarding the soil conditions. Working in the Atlanta area myself, I've battled our red clay for years. You also mentioned some oaks nearby and moss. Under and near the canopy of large oaks, compacted soil conditions tend to be exaggerated by a few factors. The main factor being that the increased draw on the water from the tree roots creates meniscus pull on the soil particles and draws them together more tightly. That combined with the reduction of water being filtered in due to the canopy of the tree, leaves soil that is much harder to grow grass in.

I point this out to emphasize the importance of preparing the soil for growing grass. Fescue turf often gets a bad rap because it is used as a shade grass, and thrown in to conditions like those described above, without the proper soil preparation. Mixing in a few yards of quality compost prior to planting will improve your results for years to come, as it will help prevent the clay from binding up and reducing root function.

For some simple tips and helpful photos, I have added the link below, which had an area similar to the one you described. Just click on the pictures for additional information.

Also, feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions.

Here is a link that might be useful: Serenity Lawn Service Facebook tips

    Bookmark   March 2, 2013 at 11:04PM
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Thanks, everyone. Serenity Lawn - I sent you an email through your web site.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 8:39AM
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