New lawn - Help Requested

leander_tx_grass(8)March 27, 2012

So! I've decided to whip my lawn into shape after settling into my new home. A few facts you may want to know.

-I'm in Leander, TX 78641(Zone 8 by USDA guide)

-8 months of the year it is pretty warm, mainly 80s some 90s

-Mostly direct sun, shade only provided by my home and fence as the sun moves

-Rain fall is fairly low, not sure on numbers. We get most of our rain in February it seems

-I've got a budget of about $700

To start, I bought the home last year towards the end of the summer. At this time, the contractor put in the bottom of the barrel, $50 a pallet, sod in the front yard. They left the backyard sod-free. After going through fall and coming back into spring, I became tired of staring at a jungle of weeds in my backyard. I'd like to seed new grass, and I have my eye on Bermuda (Princess-77). I'm not adverse to using power equipment or whatever is best for the job, elbow-grease included.

I am including pictures of my lawn soil as well as the current state of the backyard.

I'd like to find out:

-What is recommended to remove the backyard weeds/vegetation so it is ready for seed (Sod Cutter, Napalm, etc)

-What exactly these crazy little yellow ball weeds are

-Should I add any soil to my backyard? (Getting a pH tester today for lime vs. sulphur vs peatmoss)

-Are there any obstacles I'll run into with this type of seed?

-Are there any recommended seed providers? (I've scoped out the following sites for princess.)

It seems to me that most of the backyard is well... sand. Not sure how grass took in the front, but the back just strikes me as horrible. I found some clay-like material as well, but the sand/silt is what concerns me. What should I do there? I plan on using a sod cutter to remove the front sod as well and seed all at once. The back yard is 60 ft long by 45 ft deep (~2700 sq ft), which strikes me as about 9 lbs of seed for the back yard. Measurements for the front are coming.

I've read a lot of different online guides, but I couldn't find two guides that agreed with each other. GW seems to have a lot of great, down-to-earth and knowledgeable people. Help me! I'll check back for responses frequently, your expertise (and time)is greatly appreciated!

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That bottom of the barrel $50 a pallet sod is *probably* Tifway 419. A time tested, high quality bermuda sod.

You might consider finding another or 2 bermuda seeds to blend with the princess. Sometimes one variety might do better than another. If you put out a blend you give yourself better chances of picking the right one.

Smarter people will be along shortly to talk about the seedbed and soil prep work, but I'm curious about the front sodded lawn, too.

Does it look bad? How are you caring for it? Mowing height? Fertilization? Watering?

Ever heard of the Bermuda Bible? Google it. It is authored by forum member texasweed. He knows that Texas weed.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 3:34PM
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I will look that Bible up now! :)

As for the care, I use standard oscillating heads and watered about once a week down to every 2 weeks. I stopped watering dec-feb and just started again this month. But honestly, the stuff out front looks dead. I'm going downstairs to take a picture of the grass (and random weeds!) and will have it up soon.

The fertilizers, none. I know, horrible. But I had planned to get rid of the current grass anyways, so it hasn't been a priority to me. The new will, of course. Mowing height was about 2 inches and past that, no additional care.

Thanks Grass! :)

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 3:42PM
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IF the sod is bermuda, then there is the problem with it. Hybrids like to be 1" or lower. 1.5 tops, but the lower the better.

Bermuda needs 1 lb. nitrogen per 1000 square feet.

You only need to water when the grass ask for it, too.

To start with bermuda in the spring, you need to mow it as low as possible and remove the dormant stuff by bagging with the mower, or raking it all up. All that dead/dormant grass is shading the soil from warming up and letting the bermuda green up.

Really, if that is sodded bermuda, while inexpensive, it is at the very least Tifway. That is a fine grass that will provide a turf that seeded varieties are going to have a hard time comparing to.

I'd like to see your pics of the front lawn. It may simply need a scalping and then start maintaining it per the Bermuda Bible.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 5:08PM
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Okie doke!

I went ahead and uploaded a few shots of the front yard, let me know what you think. I'm really at a loss at how to remove the back yard stuff though, as I don't think a Sod Cutter will do the job. There isn't enough root to hold the dirt together, and it isn't really even dirt. So no way to roll it up and out. Any thoughts? Thanks!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 6:00PM
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    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 6:01PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Here is one of your front lawn pix.

This shows a dormant bermuda lawn which has been mowed too high. If you can get your mower down to the bottom notch that will help. Or if you can get a mower that mows to 1/2 inch that will help more.

Below is a picture of the hybrid bermuda grass you got. In this photo is has been mowed lower than 1/2 inch. Forgive the weeds. I wanted to make a different point with this so the weeds are just free. You can also see the start of a common variety of bermuda as the round patch in the upper middle of the picture. Note the difference in grass blade density and size. Way back when the grass you got was used on all the ball parks and sports fields and was very expensive. Supply and demand being what it is, nowadays it is considered to be 'contractor grade' due to the abundance of it and the super low cost. It is a great turf when you care for it right.

As one querky-quercus used to say, he walks on his grass, not in it. I'd forgotten about him. Here is his lawn. He kept it mowed at 5/8 inch.

Now scroll back up and look at your lawn pictures.

For your hopeless back lawn, I'd just scrape it off with a hoe and seed right onto it. Definitely do not bring in any more soil. Sand is my first choice for grass preparation. If you wanted to 'surface' the soil, use a rented power rake. You can adjust a power rake to slice into the soil just a little bit. You can do that right over the dead trash plants already there and chew up everything at one time. That will prep your surface for seed. Rake off the chaff from the plants and you're good to go. But WAIT! You can't get good results with bermuda until the soil heats up. Mid May would be good for the Austin area. If you put the seed down now you'll have a crabgrass lawn by mid May and your bermuda will be rotten or picked clean by the birds. Work on your front lawn according the the Bermuda Bible while you wait for the heat of May.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2012 at 8:37PM
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Grasshole, Dchall_san_antonio, thank you so much for your great information. As I'm ordering the princess online, I am able to get it in larger quantities cheaper. Therefore I decided for uniformity and will do both back AND front. I have about 7,000 sq ft of soil to cover between front and back. I am planning on watering the front pretty decent to get the soil nice and pliable the week prior to using the sod cutter.

Would you recommend adding sand to the front as removing the sod will probably bring me less than level with the sidewalk/drive? Also, I noticed recommendations of 1 lb per 1000 sq ft if professionally done or 2-3 if home use (spreader). However then it goes on to state 5 lb per 1000 if new? Could you provide insight on what you recommend? I have been thinking 2-2.5 per 1000 should be sufficient.

I am grabbing the soil testing kit tomorrow to determine if I need lime/peat/sulphur as well.

One last thing I noticed is that tilling is not recommended by most on GW, condemned almost, if you will, yet all online guides recommend it (I read that great hills/valleys/bumps post on here a week ago). Think I'll go with that power rake, as the backyard has a few different grasses randomly spread out that a cultivator won't allow me to remove very easily and the tiller would be overkill and create those bumpy issues, thanks on that as well dchall :)

Have any of you folks had good/bad experience with princess-77? I found a few posts but wanted your thoughts if you've encountered it, it definitely seems like a great seed to go with.

P.S. Thanks for the great read of the Bermuda Bible, I loved it! I printed it off and put it on my garage wall above my lawn care tools for easy following.

    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 1:19AM
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I can't see pictures at work so not sure if your front and back grass come together at some point or not. I think i would leave the front alone as it is the superior grass.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 11:32AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

I would withhold the decision on the front lawn until the proper time to seed. That time is June for the Austin area. By then you will have a much better idea of what your lawn looks like under proper watering, mowing, and fertilizing conditions. It should look about 1,000% better by then. As has been said over and over, that initial pallet of sod was a much better choice than any bermuda seed. The reason that sod only cost the builder $50 per pallet is he buys tons of it. The other reason is all the sod farmers stopped growing the seeded varieties 50 years ago. Why? Because the sodded variety is far superior. The massive supply of that Tif variety of bermuda is why the price is low. In the world of bermuda sod there are three varieties. The one you got and there are two that are primarily used for sports where they are mowed down to 3/32 inch high every day. Your front lawn is the best consumer grade grass on the market.

I'd like to see a website that recommends rototilling in prep for seed or sod. I'm trying to figure out where the source is for that misinformation. I've seen it in magazine articles where the author should know better. I'm not a big follower of the Sunset Western Garden book but even they have it correct in their editions from the 1960s. We do stop a little shy of condemnation of rototilling, but condemnation is what we really mean. You should never rototill in prep for a lawn.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 2:23PM
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