Should I fertilize before or after lawn leveling?

aggieroseMarch 24, 2012

We have bermuda grass and a very, very uneven yard from when our house was built 2 years ago. We are leveling it with sand next week. Before we level, we will be mowing it as low as possible, bagging the clippings, and then aerating and picking up the plugs. I'm aware that the benefits of aeration is controversial, but we are going to try it anyway. We have awful, hard clay soil here and getting water to penetrate is almost impossible. It starts to run off as soon as we turn on the water. I'm also going to try the baby shampoo method and hopefully between the 2, we will see some results. We have already applied a pre-emergent. I know we need to fertilize, but do I do it now, or wait until we level the yard? Will I need to apply another preemergent after we level? Thanks!

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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Always fertilize before you put the sand down. You want the grass to have a running start before you cover it up. It is very possible to smother bermuda if you do this wrong. With that in mind, unless you live in Houston or further south, your bermuda barely has any start at all. Ideally you would level it when it is growing fastest in the summer.

Where do you live?

How are you planning to do the leveling? I've seen one method that works. Would be interested to see others as they develop.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 12:13AM
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I live in Prosper, which is about 45 minutes north of Dallas. My builder has agreed to do the leveling because I complained so much about how bad the yard is. I don't expect it to be done very well to be honost. They are bringing 8 yards of sand and from what I understand, will be spreading it by rake. They have done this on my neighbors yard and their yard is much better than it was, but sill not great.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 7:00PM
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Forgot to say that I will make sure to fertilize before the sand. The grass is starting to green up already. Now, should I fertilize before I aerate as well? (Again, I understand this may not get much of a result, but we want to try).

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 7:03PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Okay I'm being dead serious. Based on your location, your bermuda lawn will not be ready for leveling until July. Please reconsider your timing. I'd hate to see you back here in April wondering how to revive your bermuda. I have seen an improved variety of bermuda lawn smothered in the early spring by using too much compost. That lawn never did come back. Finally, 2 years later, the owner sold the house, and the new owner replaced the sorry looking lawn with St Augustine.

Do you know who the experts are in leveling? It is the baseball community. Every professional baseball infield is leveled before every game so the multimillionaire athletes are not hurt by stepping on a clod or something. Check out this article on how they do it. Following close behind the baseball community is the rodeo community. They level their arena soil before every event all day long. They use the same sort of equipment but do not go to all the trouble the baseball people do. The key tool in their bag of tools is the drag. I made my own drag with a piece of chain link fence about 6 feet by 8 feet. I wired one edge to a 2x4 about 8 feet wide, tied a 12-foot rope to each end, and pulled the drag around behind me walking in every direction until I was happy (or was I exhausted???). It worked like a charm and saved uncountable man-hours of raking. I had to weigh down the drag to get a good effect in my sand. I think I used a couple more 2x4s and a bag of mulch (very scientific). Then if you really want to groom it, pull a rug behind you. You can get putting green perfection when you use the right tools. A rake is not the right tool.

I am obviously not the person to ask about aerating and the whats and whens, but I always have an opinion. I would fertilize before aerating. If you fertilize afterward you would be dropping fertilizer into holes.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 10:36PM
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dchall, do I just need to make sure it's good and green before I level? If so, it will be green well before July. Just curious.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2012 at 11:41PM
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If your going to aerate and fertilize, aerate first and then fertilize. This lets the fertilizer get down into the plug holes and into the roots better.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 2:04AM
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Billl(z7 nc)

It really doesn't matter. If you fertilize first and get the bermuda growing well, then it will look better faster. If you just spread some sand, the bermuda will grow up through it eventually. Lots of people level when it is dormant.

If you are going to aerate, you should wait until it is growing well. You will literally be punching holes right though the turf and causing major damage to the roots etc. Bermuda fills in so quickly though that it doesn't really matter as long as it is growing.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2012 at 1:45PM
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