Planting grass in clay

mitch85March 23, 2014

I recently moved from Pennsylvania to Georgia. Our yard has alot of shade from pine trees bordering our yard and is on a gentle slope. I have a husky that loves to play but only uses the woods to do his business. I had to rake a lot of pine straw off the lawn when I moved here summer '13 but the yard looked nice and needed mowed about once a week. The yard seemed to have a lot of some kind of moss or undergrowth to it that I am unfamiliar with. Throughout the winter when my dog would play in the yard it seemed like the grass, moss or whatever I had in my yard would just peel up in clumps from the dog running around from I suppose not having deeper root systems. As you can imagine spring is here and I would like to have a nice yard to enjoy and am ready to work. I am unsure of the right way to go about this being that it seems that the soil is a very light layer of top soil than a very sandy clay soil underneath. I was thinking of raking the ground to even out all the divots
and throwing down a good shade seed, straw and strategic watering but would love any and all advice on my situation being that I don't have much of a green thumb.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

With shade you are in some luck. There are only two lawn grasses which do well in the shade. One is a southern lawn called St Augustine. If you are in the south of Georgia, you might consider that. The other grass which does well in shade is fescue. The fine fescues do very well. There are some shade tolerant varieties of Kentucky bluegrass that you might look into.

The difference between fescue and KBG is that KBG will spread to fill in thin areas. Fescue does not spread fast enough that you would notice it, so you have to fill it in with more seed.

Fall is the best time of year to plant seed. There are no summer weeds sprouting in the fall and the new grass will have time to develop strong roots for the summer. Since you have shade, many of the sun-loving summer weeds will not be sprouting, but you will have that heat to deal with. Still I would not spend all my money on finding the best seed for spring seeding. If you want to put your money into the lawn, wait until late August.

After you seed you will have to water the lawn 2x to 3x daily for 2 weeks (fescue only) or 3 weeks (fescue and KBG mixed). That will get the seeds sprouted. Then you can back off on the frequency aiming for once per day for a couple weeks. After the grass is tall enough to mow you can back off on the frequency more. Eventually when the grass is mature you should be watering deeply and no more than once per week. This includes the hottest heat of summer, but for new grass, you might need to nurse it through the heat with some cooling mist in the late afternoons.

Raking to level the area is good. Rototilling to level the area is bad. Never rototill to prepare for a lawn.

If you want to improve your soil in a one-time dose of something, find a poultry litter based organic fertilizer and spread that. Follow it up in a week or so with a food based organic like corn meal or alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow). Pick the one that is less expensive in 50-pound bags at your feed store. The application rate is 20 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Feeding organics that close together is no problem. You could do them both the same day if you wanted to.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2014 at 5:49PM
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