New Seed Lawn questions

BzarAugust 3, 2014

Hi,
Just moved into a new house here in zone 3 (Canadian prairies) and looking for some advice on sorting my big backyard lawn (approx 120ft x 60ft).

Here's the details
It's a new'ish build (1 year), and we finally just got graded. The soil is pretty hard packed on the surface, and was before the grading also. When I dig down more than 2-3" it's kind of clay like (might be from all the rain we've had). I did a "water jar test" from many area's and the line in the soil is about 60/40. I think that means about 60% sand & silt and 40% clay?

I'd like to seed since sodding that big yard is something my back and wallet don't want to contend with. My old neighbor used Eco-Lawn, and it seems pretty awesome. "Eco-Lawn is a blend of carefully selected fine fescue grass seeds" which seems ideal since it's from prairie grasses.

Questions are:
1) What should I do (most cost effective) to get the soil ready for seeding?
2) What's the best time for me to do these things?
3) anything else I should think of or know.....from the experts :)

Cheers.

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beckyinrichmond

I'm. not one of the experts but here is the general way to renovate:
1. Get a soil test and see what amendments are needed.
2. Kill the weeds with glysophate.
3. Water to coax weed seeds into sprouting.
4. Kill the new weeds with glysophate.
5. If you need to add lime (soil test will indicate if it's needed), do it at least a couple weeks before fertilizing and seeding.
6. You can plant seeds when the summer heat breaks. In your case you might be more concerned about frost. You need to get the seed going early enough so that they are growing well before frost. I'm not familiar with your climate but it may be that the best time to plant is right now and you don't have time to do everything. Check with others in your area about timing.
7. When you plant, cut the lawn (all the dead stuff killed by glysophate) as low as your mower will go. Bag the clippings or rake them up.
8. Distribute the seed and apply fertilizer as indicated by the soil test.
9. You can cover the seed with topdressing (no more than 1/4 inch) or raking lightly with the back of a rake. Do not cover the seed too much. You can skip this step if you like. If you have access to a roller, it would be good to roll the seed to increase contact with the soil. This is also optional.
9. Water lightly three times a day (or more) to keep the seed moist until it germinates. You can gradually decrease the frequency and increase the amount so that you eventually get to watering deeply and infrequently. Of course alter your watering according to rainfall. This is going to be the most difficult part of establishing grass, unless you have irrigation.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 8:28AM
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morpheuspa

>>I'm. not one of the experts

Yes, you are. That advice was perfect.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 8:39AM
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beckyinrichmond

If you think the soil is too hard, you should do a shampoo treatment or two. Do a search on here for "baby shampoo" and you should find some information on it. I tried it on and it really softened the soil. I used a spray bottle that hooked up to a hose. I think it's 3 oz of shampoo per 1000 sq ft but check out the details in a Garden Web posting about it.

Last fall I renovated about 7000 sq ft and I have no irrigation, so it can be done without it. I walked around on the edges with a hose and sprayed several times a day to keep the seed moist. I was doing fescue and it germinated in about two weeks but I made sure not to let it dry out. No weekend trips. If I had errands during the day, I made sure to be back in time to water midday. Later on I moved sprinklers around.

After the grass is growing, mow it before it gets too long. Find out how long your particular grass should be mowed and gradually increase the length until you get to that length. Mowing early on increases tillering. The ground will be likely be soft so be careful about making turns.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 3:53PM
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Bzar

Thanks for the fantastic help. I'll start working on it and will post a followup.

Got a hose end sprayer, some baby shampoo, and started spitting (for that recipe :) to loosen the soil.

Next I'll need to get some glysophate....again thanks.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2014 at 10:41PM
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morpheuspa

It's 2-4 oz per thousand square feet, plus or minus whatever you feel like doing that day. If you accidentally discover you overapplied, don't worry about it. If I told you what I did on purpose, your jaw would drop (don't do that without a specific reason to do so).

Baby shampoo is fine (wonderful, in fact) but you may find that off-brands like Suave are cheaper (I use Suave Naturals Apple Scent because I like the smell). Check your bulk aisle in the supermarket or discount club to see what they have.

If it lists any of the following in the first three or four ingredients, it's fine:

sodium laureth sulfate
sodium laurel sulfate
ammonium laureth sulfate
ammonium laurel sulfate

Note that baby shampoo has none of these (they're mildly eye irritating on contact). It has other things that perform the same function and it's fine to use.

If you really get into this, sodium laurel sulfate in powder form can be purchased. Care is required when mixing as that stuff is an extreme nose, throat, lung, and eye irritant. Ask me how I know. On the up side, in the pure form with very little water you can strip old oil stains from your garage floor.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 2:12AM
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beckyinrichmond

Writing about this reminded me that I wanted to do it again myself before overseeding next month. I got two bottles of VO5 (79 cents each). I started spraying with the hose end sprayer and it was taking forever and the amount of shampoo in the bottle was still about the same. Did I use the hose end sprayer last time? I thought I did. I gave up on it this time and switched to a bottle sprayer that you pump up. I added water then shampoo and swished it around. Then did the spraying. That worked better.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 11:30AM
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morpheuspa

It often helps if you dilute the soap down a bit when using the hose end. Dilute with an equal amount of water in the jar and just double the amount applied (mix well, of course).

Most commercial shampoos are thickened to the point that they don't flow that well.

    Bookmark   August 6, 2014 at 12:29PM
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