Need help starting a back yard lawn

bellbrandon83March 29, 2014

I recently began renting a house that I will probably purchase in a year or so. The house has been vacant for years before its recent renovation, so the back yard was an overgrown mess when I moved in. This past week my landlord had about 15 pine trees removed. He asked me if I would rather have the stumps removed or have him plant grass. If the stumps are removed his plan is to spread the wood chips over the bare back yard as a ground cover. I do not like this Idea. My next thought was to have him grind the stumps, and for me to pay for the grass seed, but after some searching on this forum I have reservations about the difficulty of planting grass over freshly ground stumps. Should I leave the stumps, have him plant the grass, and worry about removing them after I purchase the home? Thanks for the help.

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

If you start now you might get rid of the stumps in 2 years by natural processes. The only trick is to get just the right amount of moisture on the stumps to get the fungus started. For that I suggest a misting nozzle like this one.

I had a stump that was 15 years old. I buried it under compost thinking the compost would rot it away. Instead of rotting it away it preserved it. Why? Because the fungus that rots wood must have full access to the air. The compost cut off the air. I got the idea for the misting nozzle and it worked great. The nozzle ran continuously for 2 weeks until I noticed a fungus growing on the wood. Then I turned off the nozzle for a week or so and turned it back on. Guess what I'm saying is play this by ear. I watched carefully as the fungus spread, mushrooms formed, the surface of the wood softened, more and more softened. After about 18 months the stump was completely rotten. Stepping on it left a foot print. Still there was plenty more to rot away but it was obvious Nature was working a lot better than anything else I had tried. I talked to some people who suggested that once the stump had softened that much, that I should let it dry out, pour a little diesel on it, and burn it the rest of the way. I didn't do that. Haven't checked on it recently. That should take you up to the time when you buy the house.

You are right about the issues with planting anything on top of a ground up stump. If the wood is near the surface, that fungus will steal nitrogen from any source including all the fertilizer you apply. Usually you see yellow spots in the lawn over the stump. You might have him grind the stumps and then you proceed with the wood rotting method using the misting nozzles. That might shave some months off the decomposition process.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 5:32PM
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My only issue is that if he pays to grind the stumps, I'm left footing the bill for the grass seed. Is it worth it?

    Bookmark   March 30, 2014 at 7:30PM
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I commend you for wanting to put some time and effort into a lawn of a rental house.

I wish the people who have rented the house next door to me were as ambitious or conscientious as you are.

I don't think there is any advice I can give you even though I once took an ugly yard that was 90 percent weeds and made it nice, I lost my touch somehow.

I just wanted to give you a thumbs up and say I hope your efforts are rewarded. Just because its a rental doesn't mean you can't take pride in having it look nice.

I guess one thing is don't cut your grass too short - it will leave it weak and susceptible to weeds.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2014 at 1:59PM
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After seeing the finished yard with all the trees removed, the stumps aren't that bad. I think I will let my landlord seed the yard, and I will worry about stump removal in the years to come if I decide to buy the house. Thanks for the help!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 12:22PM
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madakatude(Z6 NY)

Stumps are expensive to remove where I live? Labor intensive too. Thats why people leave them there. Easy to take a tree down but nobody pays to get the stump out. And as many as you have that's probably way more than seeding . If you can get someone to take them out do it now. I don,t know your zone but its almost time for the rain now here so youd be just in time to get the yard looking good by summer.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2014 at 11:47AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Stumps are expensive to remove. That's why I let Mother Nature do it for me. I guess I encouraged the process with the moisture.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2014 at 1:45PM
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