Best way to prepare lawn before seeding

jasen5838(5)March 31, 2009

We bought a spec home in Feb 2008. The builder had the back yard hydoseeded which proceeded to wash off after the "Storm of All Storms" 3 days later. They did come back and proceeded to spread seed on top of the packed soil which did little to nothing. After a year of watching yellow fox tail and crabcrass migrate through my yard, I did have a company come aerate and spread seed last September. Still there's not much happening, although there are some areas that show growth.

This spring you can see the dead fox tail remains which, most of it comes up with a garden rake. My yard is approx. 50' x 100', so raking it is backbreaking. I want to spread the seed myself this year but need advice on how best to get the seed to germinate. Do I need to till it with a roto tiller...again back breaking on such a large yard or is there another way to do this without paying a fortune to a lawn company? Any advice is much appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

John from Indiana

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billhill(z5 MI - KBG)

Welcome to Gardenweb John. You have come to a good place for information. By far the best time for renovating a lawn is in the Fall. Whatever you do, DO NOT ROTOTILL. That is unnecessary and will cause more damage that it's worth. I recommend that you spread pre-emergent crabgrass weed preventer this spring. Later work on controlling weeds and strengthen whatever grass grows in your back yard in preparation for a complete renovation of the back yard this fall. A few questions first. What are your expectations for your backyard lawn. 1. Just green stuff growing or 2. Really nice average lawn, or 3 A real showplace lawn, the best around. Would you be able to water all your back yard two or three times a day as required by a complete renovation or extensive over-seeding ? and finally, could you post a few pictures of your back yard to enable persons here to best help you out ?
Bill Hill

Here is a link that might be useful: Inserting Pics in Posts

    Bookmark   March 31, 2009 at 2:12PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Don't rototill. Yes, every magazine and all the books tell you to rototill, but don't. I used to work with in the grading business and we just sort of laughed at the recommendations to rototill. The problem is unless you have a rototiller on a tractor, a human being cannot hold a tiller perfectly level for even 1 foot of travel. You end up with an uneven subsurface. When the level surface settles (it takes 3 years), you are left with the profile of the original uneven subsurface. Don't rototill.

If we can assume your soil is intact and did not wash away with the storm, then at most you would need minor leveling...if that. Preparing the surface can be done with anything you can drag across the surface to loosen the very top of the crust. You need only slightly loosen the surface. You will be rolling the seed down into that loosened surface after you scatter it. A piece of chain link fence with some weight on it makes an excellent drag. Drag it in all directions.

In the previous efforts to establish seed, was the area watered briefly, several times per day, every day, for 2 weeks? It sounds like it was not. Seed needs continual moisture to germinate so you have to keep it moist. If it gets that, it is hard to prevent it from sprouting.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2009 at 12:46AM
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Thanks for the replies! In reply to billhill's post, I would say that my expectation is #2. I have 2 small boys, so I know it will be a while before we have the "perfect lawn". Watering will not be a problem. I am prepared for that. I will post some pictures for you later today.
Does this mean I shouldn't put seed down this spring at all?

Great idea on the chain link fence dchall. I will do that...much easier than raking!!. I did spend a lot of time watering late last spring thru the fall. The crabgrass and foxtail loved it!! I don't know if the builder put down a reliable or much seed after the hydro seed washed out. I feel that there's plenty of soil. Hopefully, my pictures that I post later will reflect that.

Stay tuned.....


    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 11:09AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

If you expect to have nothing but weeds this season anyway, you may as well get started with some KBG seed. Bluegrass seed takes longer to germinate so you will be germinating crabgrass seed longer, too. However, if you allow the KBG to grow up tall to 3 inches or higher, you will shade out (choke out) some of the crabgrass. You can also help yourself after the KBG seed sprouts by backing off on the watering to make it a weekly event. You can't do this cold turkey but you can work your way to that point. You obviously need to water longer to get a full inch of water down all at one time. Crabgrass seed needs continual moisture for a few days to sprout. If you only water once a week, the crabgrass seed will not stay wet long enough to sprout. By the way, many (MANY) weeds are like this. You can have a lawn full of weed seeds that will never sprout because you are watering correctly (deep and infrequent).

The reason for KBG is that it spreads like a carpet. Fescue is nice looking but it does not spread to fill the bare soil between the fescue seedlings.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2009 at 3:04PM
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Here are the pictures of my back yard.

Back yard 1

Back yard 2

Back yard 3

    Bookmark   April 7, 2009 at 1:46PM
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Do what that neighbor behind you did. That lawn looks great.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 7:08AM
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They've been there 5 years and their hydro seed didn't wash away. I wish I could!!

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 9:45AM
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rcnaylor(z7 Tex)

"I did have a company come aerate and spread seed last September. Still there's not much happening, although there are some areas that show growth."

If it washed away, that's just a bad roll of the dice. Try again. If it didn't wash away and you still didn't get a good germ with a fall overseeding, you might want to read up on al the advice here about how to treat a yard after overseeding to best effect, especially how to water not too much and not too little.

If it wasn't the result of those two things (fall overseeding failure) you might want to just read up on overseeding in general to make sure you have good soil, sun and approach.

As for right now, based on your pics, I'd just mow low and rent a slit seeder and get them going. Not sure about your temps, but the sooner you can get a spring seeding germinated, the better usually.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2009 at 10:21AM
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Well, I dragged a piece of chain link fence with several large stones as weight around the yard this weekend. It worked fairly well, I think. Other than the neighbors and my wife calling me a MULE, it wasn't too bad. Much easier than raking! We'll see how the seed takes. I also put down starter fertilizer. I'll keep you all informed.

Thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2009 at 12:38PM
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