beginning lawn care

AaronLilgeFebruary 5, 2013

I recently moved from Washington state to North Carolina. I bought a house around fayetteville and everywhere I have been the ground is very sandy and dry looking. I am trying to make a green lawn but only by doing it myself. I dont want to cheat and buy sod like everyone else. I am unsure of the steps I should take to accomplish this. I am not really a beginner in lawn care but in Washington the grass grew no matter what you did to it. Now I am lost because nothing has worked. If someone could help I would be very thankful for the advice.


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I guess I forgot to ask what I am really looking for:
1. Seed type or brand name
2: fertilizer name
3. time frame to do and what to use
4. what kind of weed killer to use to clear that up as well.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 5:45PM
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Before you do anything, you should get a soil test to see what you are working with. You can't have good grass with poor soil.

1. Being in North Carolina you have the option of using either a warm season or cool season grass. They each have their pluses and minuses. Warm season grass thrives in warm weather, loves the summer. When it gets cold it goes dormant, turns tan, and won't green up till spring. Cool season grasses should be green year round where you live, but in summer will struggle a bit, unless you are in the mountains. If you go warm season you will need to get sod unless you want to try some of the seeded Bermuda varieties, although none of them will perform as well as the sodded ones (sodding isn't cheating btw.) If you go cool season you should probably use tall fescue, although you could use a tall fescue/kentucky bluegrass mix, or even all KBG. If you use KBG you should focus on those cultivars that do well in the transition zone.
2. Fertilizer is pretty much the same regardless of brand, but what is important is using the right kind of fertilizer, and at the right times of the year. This is dependant on your soil, and what type of grass you use.
3. Cool season grasses should be seeded in the early fall, especially in NC. Warm season sod can be put down any time really, but spring would be best. Seeding Bermuda should be done in late spring/early summer when the temps are high enough for germination.
4. If you want to kill everything, which is recommended when starting a new lawn, glyphosate (Round-Up) is the preferred herbicide. If you want to just kill weeds, then it all depends on what type of grass you don't want to kill.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:43PM
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While I have lived in NC before we are new to this area. You may look at Lowes. They carry a special blend of Fescue that is suppose to be designed for our area by NC State.

Last fall I planted the front yard with it and got great germination, and while it is not apparently active at this time of year it appears to be holding its own.

Only time will tell how special this blend is.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 9:55PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Agree with tiemco. Following his numbers...

1. If you want to have a lawn in contention for lawn of the month, then you will definitely want a soil test and the best seed/sod. You will not find the best seed at a local store. Get that on the Internet. Look for Weed and Other Crop values of 0.00%. It's more expensive but even a few of the teensy bermuda or bentgrass seeds will give you a weedy lawn from now on. If you have already tried and failed at growing grass, then you definitely want a soil test. If you really don't want sod, then that leaves out the best of the southern grasses. Tiemco's suggestions for northern grass is right. If you have shade, then fescue is your only choice. If you have full sun then you can add KBG to the choices.

2. Apply about 1/3 of your annual nitrogen in late spring after the initial flush of spring growth slows down. Apply another 1/3 in early fall and the final 1/3 in late fall.

3. You will fail again this year if you try to seed a northern grass in the spring. Spring seeded grass (fescue and KBG) will not be ready to take the summer heat. By July you will have a yard full of crabgrass. You might put down something inexpensive (Lowe's) and nurse what you can through until late August. Then take on the weeds and grass with the Roundup and put down better seed. In the mean time practice good lawnsmanship (see below).

Best soil test in the country is Logan Labs. It is the best test and best test for the money ($20). You can pay $20 for a cheapy test from your local extension service, but you cannot touch the quality of the LL tests for less than $100 anywhere.

Basics of Lawn Care

After reading numerous books and magazines on lawn care, caring for lawns at seven houses in my life, and reading numerous forums where real people write in to discuss their successes and failures, I have decided to side with the real people and dispense with the book and magazine authors. I don't know what star their planet rotates around but it's not mine. With that in mind, here is the collected wisdom of the Internet savvy homeowners and lawn care professionals summarized in a few words. If you follow the advice here you will have conquered at least 50% of all lawn problems. Once you have these three elements mastered, then you can worry about weeds (if you have any), dog spots, and striping your lawn. But if you are not doing these three things, they will be the first three things suggested for you to correct.

Water deeply and infrequently. Deeply means at least an inch in every zone, all at once. Infrequently means monthly during the cool months and no more than weekly during the hottest part of summer. Do not spread this out and water for 10 minutes every day. If your grass looks dry before the month/week is up, water longer next time. If that does not work, then you might have to water more than once per week during the summer's hottest period. Deep watering grows deep, drought resistant roots. Infrequent watering allows the top layer of soil to dry completely which kills off many shallow rooted weeds.

You will have to learn to judge when to water your own lawn. If you live in El Paso your watering will be different than if you live in Vermont. Adjust your watering to your type of grass, temperature, humidity, wind, and soil type. It is worth noting that this technique is used successfully by professionals in Phoenix, so...just sayin.' The other factors make a difference. If you normally water 1 inch per week and you get 1/2 inch of rain, then adjust and water only 1/2 inch that week.

Every week mulch mow at the highest setting on your mower. Most grasses are the most dense when mowed tall. However, bermuda, centipede, and bent grasses will become the most dense when they are mowed at the lowest setting on your mower. In fact there are special mowers that can mow these grasses down to 1/16 inch. Dense grass shades out weeds, keeps the soil cooler, and uses less water than thin grass. Tall grass can feed the deep roots you developed in #1 above. Tall grass does not grow faster than short grass nor does it look shaggy sooner. Once all your grass is at the same height, tall grass just looks plush.

Fertilize regularly. I fertilize 5 times per year using organic fertilizer. Which fertilizer you use is much less important than numbers 1 and 2 above. Follow the directions on the bag and do not overdo it. Too much is better than too little*.

At this point you do not have to worry about weed and feed products - remember at this point you are just trying to grow grass, not perfect it. Besides once you are doing these three things correctly, your weed problems should go away without herbicide.

* This used to read, "Too little is better than too much." Recent test results show that you cannot get too much organic fertilizer unless you bury the grass in it.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2013 at 1:05AM
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