grass seed for shade

beckyinrichmondSeptember 9, 2008

I'm renovating my front yard (2700 sq ft) in Richmond, Virginia which has a medium size maple on one side shading about half the yard (about as high as the house, which is 2 story with attic) and a large maple at the corner along the street. There is some sun, especially on the side across from the red maple. At Southern States, they recommended Falcon III for a mostly shady lawn. I got a 40 lb. bag. But now I'm wondering if perhaps I should have gotten a blend instead. I called back and they have something called Shadescape Blend which has Henry Hard fescue, Silver Lawn creeping red fescue, and One G Squared perennial ryegrass.

I had a soil test done and VA Tech recommended just potash, 0-0-50 or 0-0-60, and then just nitrogen, like 33-0-0. Southern States had the just potash and for just nitrogen they had 21-0-0. So I got a bag of each, though I only need about 1/4 of the bags. The 21-0-0 is probably a fast-acting nitrogen and I wonder if I should have gotten a slower-acting kind instead. VA Tech said if those weren't available, I could use something like 21-7-21, though the potassium wasn't needed. I don't want to burn up the new grass with the wrong kind of nitrogen. If the 21-0-0 is okay to use, I suppose I could put down another application later in the fall and then some in the early spring and eventually use it up. I also needed to add a lot of lime (140 lb per 1000 sq ft). I've put some down (120 lb) and also got a bag of Solucal, which advertises that it works quickly and one bag equals four of regular lime. I was going to do three different applications of the lime but maybe I can just do another one (instead of two more) with the Solucal? Can I do that now when I plant the grass? The first application (of regular lime) was last week. Right now I'm waiting for Roundup to do its thing and I may need to do another application of Roundup so it's going to be a couple of weeks before I plant anything.

Please advise.

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Becky, it is going to be difficult to grow grass in the shade of trees. Does the area get any sun at all, a couple hours of direct sun would be good for the fine fescues.

If it were me, I'd return the big bag of fescue. You don't need near that much. The shadescape with the hard and creeping fescue is better, but I'll never know why they put perennial rye in a shade mix. It needs sun. How much seed were you planning to plant. If you have 50% coverage of existing grass, then 5 pounds per 1000 is plenty (which would be about 15 pounds total in seed). About 10 pounds of the Falcon III and 5 pounds of the shadescape mixed together would be my recommendation.

The fertilizer is not the best choice, but workable. Fine fescues don't need a lot of nitrogen. Just go easy with it. Instead of a whole pound of nitrogen, I'd recommend a 1/2 pound application and then 30 days later another 1/2 pound. Think of spoon feeding small doses, especially if most of the nitrogen on the label is from ammonical nitrogen (check the label).

I'd be interested in your opinion on the Solu-cal. I was thinking of it for a quick calcium increase, but haven't decided yet.

Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2008 at 8:14PM
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I have no idea about the lime, since I have alkaline soil, but I agree with soccer dad's comments about the shade mix being a good choice.

I'd also agree with the comments about nitrogen and fine fescue and maybe even go a step further and warn that too much nitrogen can damage fine fescue. 2 lbs of actual N per 1000 sq ft per year is about a minimum for KBG, but it's about the maximum for fine fescue.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 12:19AM
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Thanks for the advice. There is some sun, a couple of hours worth, and half the yard gets more (4-5 hours maybe). The nitrogen is ammonium sulphate, which I'm now reading makes the soil more acid, which is what I don't need. I'm thinking I'll return both bags of fertilizer. And the grass seed. I sent an e-mail inquiry to Trinity Turf in Harrisonburg and they have Falcon IV, which is on the VA Tech recommended list. They don't have a retailer in Richmond but would ship directly to me. So maybe I'll get some Falcon IV and some Shadescape or something similar (maybe Trinity Turf has a blend without the rye). I'm taking out all the existing weeds (present yard is either weeds, moss, or bare) with Roundup and so the whole yard will be all new grass. The guy that's helping me with the labor said I should get a 50 lb. bag of seed. I'll see what the Trinity Turf salesman suggests when he calls me. Thanks for the advice.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2008 at 9:42AM
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Kurt at Trinity Turf recommended a blend which has Falcon IV and a creeping red fescue and another fine fescue, and I'm going to get that (Southern Sun and Shade mix). They sell it in 50 lb. bags but he said I wouldn't need that much and he'll measure out half a bag for me. He agreed that the 21-0-0 ammonium sulphate wasn't a good choice and recommended a starter fertilizer (13-25-12) since this would be a new lawn and then using an organic fertilizer next month (16-2-3). He said to keep the potash I already have and put it on later since the soil test indicated a lack of potassium. He's sending this stuff to a sales rep in Richmond and I'll get it from the rep, and so there wouldn't be a shipping charge. It's all very accomodating, since I know it's bound to be a bother dealing with a customer who only wants a small amount of stuff (I imagine he deals mainly with golf courses and landscapers). He also said I could put all the Solucal down when I plant and that it's an excellent product, that he has had good results with it. Now I'm waiting for the Roundup to kill the weeds--some are getting a little yellow but they're still mostly green. I guess I may need to do another application.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 2:23PM
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Your in business now, good luck!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 6:09PM
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What kind of organic fert do you have there that is 16-2-3? That 16 sounds high to me for organics. There is probably nothing wrong with it, but, assuming that you care about this, I imagine that there is a good amount of non-organic (using that term in the very strict sense that some on the organic lawncare forum would, excluding all organic compounds that can be derived synthetically) source of nitrogen in there. IIRC one of the most potent organic sources of nitrogen is blood meal, and that comes in at only like 11%, which is far from 16%.

Just wondering. Again, I think that fert would be just fine, I just suspect that it includes a good amount of urea or ammoniacal nitrogen, and wanted to alert you to that in case you care about that sort of thing. Some companies will put an "organic" label on just about anything.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2008 at 10:12PM
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I have the seed and fertilizer now. The organic fertilizer is called Nutrients Plus and it's made of composted poultry manure, biosolids, ammonium sulphate, sulfur-coated urea, urea, diamonnium phospate, and sulfate of potash. 3% is ammonical nitrogen, 10.6% is urea nitrogen, and 2.4% is water insoluble nitrogen. The seed is (rounded) 25% Scorpion II tall fescue, 25% Falcon III Tall Fescue, 20% Chewnings Fescue, 10% Clearwater KGB, 10% Creeping Red Fescue, 10% Perennial Ryegrass.

Yesterday the yard guy aerated and put down the lime. And resprayed with Roundup. He's talking about putting down some topsoil early next week and planting by Saturday. I'm having second thoughts about that. The old weeds are still there. Shouldn't we get them up? The yard guy says they'll just decompose, don't worry about them. But in my opinion the old dying weeds are in the way of the seeds making good contact with the underlying soil while they're germinating. I guess with the topsoil being added, they'd have good contact with that. But the old weeds would still be between my old soil and the new soil (he's not talking about adding a lot, just a thin layer). How fast do the dying weeds decay?

    Bookmark   September 13, 2008 at 10:55AM
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