Too late to plant grass seed for summer?

dion_northernvaMay 29, 2007

I have an xs yard (.03 acres) in Northern VA (Prince William County) that's in need of serious help. My lawn is full of dead grass, brown patches and clover (see attached pictures--my son lost my camera, so I had to take these with my camera phone). During the 1st week in May, I planted Scotts Pure Premium Tall Fescue grass seeds. In some areas, the seeds didn't germinate at all. In other areas, the seeds germinated, but have started to wither. In the areas where there is part shade, the seeds have fully germinated, and are doing really well. After reading some of the discussions here, it seems like I should have overseeded this past fall, but didn't. I'm wondering if there is any seed that I can plant now that will survive the summer temperatures?? Scotts has a "Pure Premium Heat Tolerant Blue" that is supposedly good for the heat...anyone have any experience with this? Also, can anyone recommend a good seed to overseed with this fall? If this helps, I had a soil test done last year, and the results are as follows:

Soil pH 4.8

P ( lb/A) 155 VH

K (lb/A) 176 H-

Ca (lb/A) 1948 H+

Mg (lb/A) 578 VH

Zn (ppm) 3.3 SUFF

Mn (ppm) 12.4 SUFF

Cu (ppm) 1.3 SUFF

Fe (ppm) 29.6 SUFF

B (ppm) 0.2 SUFF

Crop: Bluegrass, Fescue (202)

Fertilizer Recommendations: Use any complete "turf-type" fertilizer

Lime Recommendations: Apply 205 pounds of agricultural limestone (ground or pulverized) per 1000 sq feet in several small applications up to 50 lbs each, at intervals of 1 to 6 months, until the full amount is applied.

Since last year, I've been following the Scotts annual rotation program (Turfbuilder w/Halts, Turfbuilder Summerguard, etc). My lawn looks a little better (believe it or not), but I'm still having a problem with clovers, brown patches and dead grass. Also, last week I did fertilize with Miracle-Gro lawn fertilizer (not sure exactly which one). And, I have NOT applied any limestone.

Sorry for such a long email, I'm trying not to leave out anything. Let me know, however, if I need to provide any add'l info. To recap, my questions are:

1. Is there any seed that I can plant now that will survive the summer temperatures?

2. Does anyone have any experience (good or bad) with the "Scotts Pure Premium Heat Tolerant Blue", which is supposedly good for the heat?

3. Can anyone recommend a good seed to overseed with this fall?

4. Any other recommendations / maintenance plan based on what I've stated above?

One last thing, I don't have a preference between chemical and organic...honestly, I don't know enough about either to prefer one over the other.

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1. Is there any seed that I can plant now that will survive the summer temperatures?

No, unless you plant a warm season grass like Bermuda, but with a PH of 4.8 it will just disolve in the acid.

4. Any other recommendations / maintenance plan based on what I've stated above?

With a PH of 4.8 you are not going to get much of anything to grow. Spend this summer raising your PH, then try seeding in Fall.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 12:10AM
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Am I blind or do I also see a lot of soil compaction there? A core aeration this fall would help. And yeah, dump lime. Lots and lots of lime. :-)

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 7:19AM
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Thanks texas and morpheus. Off to get lime!
Morpheus, your eyes are not deceiving you, the soil is very compacted...

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 7:54AM
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Billl(z7 nc)

Too late in the season in your area for a major overhaul. Your general plan of attack should be lime, water, mow, control weeds and wait until fall to overseed. I suggest you plan on renting an aerator and making multiple passes over the area. Since the front area looks relatively small, I'd spring for a bunch of bags of compost to sprinkle over it before seeding.

In the little hell-strip, I'd probably kill everything off before overseeding. There isn't much grass to save there, so you may as well start with a clean slate.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 9:07AM
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I picked up some Pennington Lawn & Garden Fast Acting Lime. Is this okay?

I have a Scotts Speedy Green 1000 spreader...anyone know what setting I should use for the lime? The soil test states to apply 50 lb/1000 Sq ft. I purchased two 30lb bags of the lime. My lawn is 1500 sq feet.

Also, I purchased a Hound Dog manual core aerator a few weeks ago...would this work since I have a small yard, or would renting a professional core aerator be better?

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:09AM
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I also recently purchased the HD core aerator for my ~2000sq ft lawn. It works great but you might have spots (like I did) that cause one or both of the channels to clog (you'll know since dirt stops coming out the top). It should also get much tougher to use since now you're essentially just spike aerating which is not very beneficial. When this happens get a big screwdriver and punch the dirt out from the bottom. After this is done use a plastic rake to break up the cores (which my wife says looks like dog poop). I'd do this over a day or two and wear hand protection, you will get blisters and bruises VERY fast if your yard is compacted heavily. I think renting an aerator would be a waste of money for such a small job (but check with neighbors to see if they want to go in on splitting the cost, then it might be worth it).

If that lime you purchased was more then $5 I'd return it. All you need is pelletized lime, nothing special. I would also not do a full 50lbs right now. Put down 20-25lbs now, and in a month or two put down the rest. Too much at one time can harm the microbes at the surface/in the soil (don't know about the grass), and much will be wasted if you get a big storm as it runs off. As for a setting on your spreader it really depends on the granule size. I would say start with at least 2-3 numbers above a fertilizer setting, and you will probably need 2-3 passes to apply. You can test on a set area and calculate the proper setting needed, but your lawn is smaller then mine and I just make a couple passes. It takes slightly more time, but I'd rather have to walk it twice then dump it too quickly.

I would also just start from scratch with your strip between the road and sidewalk, its a mess and more trouble then its worth IMO.

With a nice aeration now and some lime, then another dose of lime prior to fall-seeding (or even next year) you'll have a great lawn. Just have some patience!


    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:48AM
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I would hire / rent a real areator to do the job, it'll give you a much more uniform pattern and will just plain do a better job.

I just hired a service to do mine because it was about $45 to rent the machine or $75 to have a service do it for me. Just don't let them sell you overseeding and fertilization along the way, do that yourself. Also make sure you cut the lawn as short as possible and give it a very++ thorough soaking the day before it's done to allow the best possible penetration.

I also took the time to get rid of as many of the plugs once they dried out as possible so they wouldn't just dissolve back into the holes where they came from...although most people seem to think that was just a waste of my time.

(by the way, if you do that, I found a leaf blower is a helluva lot easier than trying to rake them up.. ;-p)

The lawn of the house I just moved into two months ago sizes up fairly similar to yours...My pH averages 4.5 which may be because my entire lot is nothing more than 12" of semi-petrified red clay sitting on top of bedrock. This clay is the annoying and amazing thing I've ever seen in my life. It drains as fast as if it was pure sand, however, when dry it's so hard you couldn't chip more than a 1/4" out with a pick-axe. I've never seen such a thing, I'm used to the rich, fertile soils of southeast-michigan and this crap makes me want to cry sometimes...

Suffice to say, it's going to be a long, slow road to recovery for my lawn and I'm still looking at a lot of the same questions you are in terms of repair...

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 10:51AM
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Thanks for all the responses!

Enigma, I paid $14 for the lime. Lowes also had a 40lb bag of regular pelletized lime for $4...I bought the more expensive one because it states "starts working immediately, remains in soil longer than regular lime". If you think this is a waste, I'll exchange it for the regular lime. Thanks for your advice re the HoundDog. I did try it out, and it seemed easy enough, although time consuming. I agree with your wife that it looks like dog poop, LOL.

Arjo, looks like we have the same type soil. Mine gets really hard as well, and its full of rocks! I spent one morning just digging up rocks, and some were at least a half foot wide!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 11:25AM
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crabjoe(z7 MD)

If you're lawn was mine, I'd Lime now (Use the cheap $4 lime) then in late June, check PH and Lime again as necessary. Then in late August, I'd till up the front and mix in a good amount of compost to help the soil. Rake out any clumps of old grass/rocks then seed/starter fert.

The reason I would do that is because 1st the lawn is small and if all the same grass seed is used, you'll have a nice uniformed look.

BTW, it's easy for me to tell you what I would do, but it's because it's not my lawn. If it truly was mine, I'd be trying to do all kinds of things to it now because I'm impatient and end up wasting a ton of $$$'s trying.

You could also do like my old neighbors did when I lived in a townhome. That was to strip the yard and lay sod.

Good Luck!!

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 3:09PM
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I plan on returning the "fast acting" lime this evening, and exchanging it for the regular pelletized lime. I wish sod were an option, but I'm not able to fit it into the budget. Hopefully I'll see some improvement with the lime. I'll compost & overseed this fall as the others suggested, as well as aerate.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 4:03PM
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LOL, the irony is when I was growing mushrooms I couldn't find a source of pure calcium bicarbonate (fast acting) lime and I ended up paying through the nose for it at a brewery supply store. I paid $12 for what would be less than 1/20th the size of that bag, lol.

As for the sod, if you really do have a lawn like mine, sod isn't an option at all because after the roots work they way down into the soil they'll end up dying again anyways. 2/3'rds of my project is trying to amend the soil and *then* trying to get the grass to take over.

Oh, and one more thing, I have six Pin Oaks on my property and just underneath the grass was leaves, twigs, acorn shells, and various other woody type material that looks like it hasn't decomposed in years. The litter from those S.O.B.'s is never-ending and in no way healthy for my lawn.

The upside is they're all covered in lichen and they look absolutely beautiful for what will (someday) become my cottage garden.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2007 at 4:27PM
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I did your lawn turn out?

It seems from the picture that more than one thing is wrong. Obviously pH, but also it could be your watering schedule, amount of fertilizer, and mowing.

The cheap lime is ok but you might not get great success with it. I live about 60 miles from you and have compact clay as well. I use the fast acting lime every 4-6 weeks (1/2 the recommended values to avoid rain runoff). But it seems because your pH is so low that you aren't watering your grass (usually city water is hard).

For watering if you have compacted clay soil, you should make sure to water in the AM (before 9) because it looks like your soil easily dries out. This way you'll give roots access to water in the mid-afternoon during "respiration" which is when most water in the blade is lost. Plus you'll dry out the top surface of the ground to discourage weeds and disease/fungus. Plus the high humidity/dew in the AM lets more of the water get into the ground.

Water every 2-3 days during the hot summer months...if you water and your grass is beginning to turn brown, you should have watered the previous day - but never water the lawn everyday. You'll need to water long enough to get down to the root zone (water in the AM and in the PM dig a small hole and see how deep the water went - if it didn't go 2-3" deep, try watering longer until it gets this deep. if you look at the soil after a nice soaking rain, 3-6"+ of soil will be damp).

For those bare spots, it's best to use a water-absorbing coated seed - those seeds tend to grow much faster than regular seeds covered in peat moss. You can use these in the middle of summer as long as you water the spots everyday for the first 2-3 weeks. I've seen these seeds germinate in 4 days (Scotts brand).

For fertilizer, a balanced fertilizer is best, i.e. 20/20/20. You might have to go to a specialty store for this. Fertilize a little below the recommend settings every 4-6 weeks.

Finally, for mowing make sure you set your mower as high as possible. That will help keep the top 1" of soil from drying out so soon and help new seedlings grow.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2010 at 7:22PM
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I hace been trying for years to grow a lawn, I have even brought in sod it all disapers. I have even tried Scots expense seed guaranteed to grow anywhere but it did not even come in, I think I will try the lime because my soil gets very hard and I have bougt in a load of soil mixed with compost, do you think that wll help? I also have loads of chipmonks who eat the seed as soon as I put it down. Lost of pine trees and shade, do I have a chance?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 12:53PM
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Lost of pine trees and shade, do I have a chance?

Not a snowball chance in He!!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2011 at 2:14PM
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