Giving my established (but new to me) lawn some TLC
My wife and I moved to a new house after Thanksgiving last year, and this is my first time with my own lawn to care for. The house was built in 1994, so the lawn has been established for years. To give you an idea of the size of the lawn, it's a 1/4 acre lot with a ~2,000 sq. ft. house and two-car attached garage on it. Front yard is pretty flat; back yard has a good side-to-side slope to it (walk-out basement on the low side); yard on one side of the house is flat (high side of back yard) and the other side has a good slope (low side of back yard). Turf seems to be a standard bluegrass/rye/fescue mix. The lawn is not in terrible shape -- I believe the previous owner hired a lawn service to care for it -- but there are some issues I'd like to address, and now that winter has finally loosened its grip here (forecast temps in the 50s/low 60s all week this week!) I think it's time to get started.
Here's a list of the issues I'd like to address:
-- Turf is generally pretty thin along the sides and in the back yard; front yard seems much thicker.
-- Back yard has a few mossy areas; presumably because the back yard is generally shady in the summer once trees have leaves.
-- Very eroded/mossy with almost no turf along the very back of the yard, about an 8' wide strip along the rear tree line.
-- Poor grading along the edges of the concrete patio underneath the deck on the back side of the house. On one side (where the lawn slopes significantly towards the patio) the ground is probably 2-3" below the top of the concrete; on the other two sides (where it slopes away from the patio) it's even lower, to the point that you can see the underside of the concrete pad and the stone/gravel is starting to come out from underneath.
-- Couple of patches of dead/missing grass in the front yard near the front sidewalk.
-- Ground feels very uneven in general -- walking through the yard it just feels very bumpy.
-- Grass generally looks/feels very "coarse". I'm not shooting for carpet, but something a little softer that kids can run around in bare feet in the summer.
I realize that's quite a bit to tackle, and I'm not necessarily looking to tackle it all at once, or even all this season.
I've been doing some reading on general lawn maintenance practices and schedules, and here are the activities I'm thinking of doing:
-- Soil test. I'm fortunate in that I live in a university town with an excellent turfgrass program and an extension program that offers soil testing. I'll probably take soil samples and send them for testing this week or next.
-- Aerate. I don't know for sure, but I would be surprised if the previous owner ever had the lawn aerated, and everything I've read says that it certainly can't hurt to have it done -- improved drainage, reduce thatch and soil compaction, etc. I will likely hire a lawn service to do a core aeration, since the hassle of transporting a rented aerator and my time isn't worth the small amount I would save doing it myself.
-- Fertilize. How much and what kind dependent on the results of the soil test?
-- Other soil amendments? Lime? Soil activator?
-- Topdress to even out the bumpiness and fill in some low spots (e.g. along the edges of the driveway, I'm guessing from cars being driven/parked with one set of wheels in the grass).
-- Overseed, to thicken the lawn where it is thin and generally improve the quality of the turf.
-- Re-grade around concrete patio underneath deck.
-- Seed the eroded/mossy/bare strip along the back yard tree line, presumably with a very shade-tolerant seed.
I also realize that several of those activities and the associated questions I have for them could probably use their own threads, so I'm not looking for comprehensive answers on all of that here. Rather, I'm just looking for some guidance on where to start, what order to do things in, when to do them, etc.
I'm hoping to get some photos taken today or tomorrow and will post them here for further illustration.