Just Seeded Marathon II - Did I Mess Up on Top Coat?

eli_in_the_weedsOctober 14, 2013

Hi! First time doing this! Glendale CA zone 9b, full sun lawn from seed. Prior grass/weed matrix killed off past spring with Roundup. Power raked, removed debris. Rototilled, removed debris. Waited till fall, flattened/graded, rolled with roller. Sprinklers adjusted and ready to go. Worked in advised amount of planting compost. Rolled/flattened again wet and dry. Looked great; quite happy for first time. Fertilized with advised amount of balanced fertilizer. Seeded with advised amount of Marathon II. 900 square feet btw. Ran the roller over the seed to press it into moist dirt.
Added top coat (commercial bagged version includes compost and mushroom stuff, probably peat too). But instead of rolling it on with a basket roller, I flung out from the bags and then smoothed it around with the landscape rake. I noticed quite a few seeds getting picked up and mixed around with the top coating material when spreading it around.
My question is this: Did I blow the project by picking up the seeds and mixing them in the top coat material? To clarify I didn't really dig in with the rake deep and mess up the soil *that* much. Should I just wait and see what spings up and re-seed bare areas?
Also, I plan to water 10 minutes 3x per day at 7 AM, noon and 7 PM. Does that sound ok?
Any advice or comments would be greatly appreciated!

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In my humble opinion, 7 am is probably a little early and 7 pm is probably a little late. I'd think you'd want to put those waterings closer to the hottest/sunniest part of the day. Maybe 10 am, 2 pm, and 5 pm. A lot depends on your soil's ability to hold moisture, though. With my horrible new construction soil and hot climate, I had to water more than 3 times a day to keep the soil moist.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2013 at 3:13PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

In Glendale your lawn might grow all year long. Are you in the lowland part of Glendale or up in the hills?

Raking, as you figured out, was not a good thing. Watch it carefully to see what comes up. If you find thin areas, then you'll have to add more seed to "densify" the grass in those areas. Marathon is not the kind of grass that spreads to fill in bare or thin spots.

If you do this again, you do not need to rototill or use top dressing. Removing those two elements of your plan greatly simplifies the project. The roller was a good idea, though. If you had stopped there, I would be very optimistic about your results. Also, when you roll, roll it when the soil is dry. You can cause true compaction by rolling wet soil. If you roll it wet, you can squeeze the soil particles so close together that air cannot penetrate. The soil microbes you need to have must have air.

10 minutes, 3x per day, might create soggy soil if your sprinkler is high flow. All you need is to moisten the surface, not drench it.

Once the grass comes in to about 80%, start to back off on watering frequency. Try watering once per day but go a little deeper. You need to measure how long it takes to water a full inch with your sprinkler system. Every system is different. You might have dry spots, too. Use cat food or tuna cans to measure. Time how long it takes to fill them all. For this interim watering, I would water about 1/4 inch until you have mowed it twice. Then back off again. Start backing off by watering a full inch as measured by several tuna or cat food cans placed around the yard. Then don't water again until the new grass needs it. Watch it very carefully for a couple days. It should go at least 3 days. Watch the soil and grass. Hopefully the soil surface will dry out before the grass starts to look wilted. As soon as any part of the grass starts to look wilted, water again for a full inch. Continue to watch the grass for signs of wilting before you water. As the grass roots grow longer/deeper, that time interval will stretch out considerably. You are entering your rainy season, so you may not need to water the grass again until February if Mother Nature provides the full inch per week. When you begin watering again, keep with the 1 inch per month as long as you can, then move to 1 inch every 3 weeks as the temps increase into the 70s and 1 inch every 2 weeks with temps in the 80s. I realize every single lawn and sprinkler person in SoCal sets up for daily watering, but that is both a waste of water and not great for your soil and grass. If you get any sea breeze at all, you really don't need to water that often.

Marathon II should probably be mowed at 2.5 to 2 inches high. It is the intermediate dwarf variety of the Marathon fescues.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 2:16PM
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Just posting a follow-up on this. Green color all came in, and I estimate only about 60% of the green is the Marathon II. Remainder is mainly California Bur Clover, plus a host of other weeds. So it has returned to an "it's green and I mow it" patch.
My thought is to try again in Spring with either Marathon II again, or maybe Scotts whatever-for-my-area. This time I probably won't kill it all and definitely won't till. I also may consider trying St. Augustine, but I don't want to pay for sod. Is there a way to eventually "work" St. Augustine into the lawn, maybe by planting plugs and letting it spread its way in over a couple of years? Thanks for your help!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2014 at 9:55AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

In your area St Aug would be my first thought. It can take over in my opinion. All you have to do is put down one piece (about a dollar). If you can get Floratam use that but I think all you can find is Palmetto in your area. Put it down onto bare soil and walk on it to get good contact with the underlying soil.

Keep it moist for the first 2 weeks until it knits to the underlying soil. Moist means moisten (not drench) it at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Once it is established keep it just a little bit moister than the surrounding Marathon II.

Marathon II is a dwarf type grass. Palmetto likes to be mowed at the highest setting. If you mow your lawn at the highest setting and restrict water to once per week (that is after you are sure your piece of St Aug is knitted down), the St Aug will send out runners in all directions about 5 feet in length once during the warm up in the spring and once again during the cool down in the fall. So you'll get a pretty good coverage.

When you fertilize, fertilize only the St Augustine. Drop some alfalfa pellets on the main piece and follow the runners out with more alfalfa pellets. You can do that every week if you like. That will keep the St Aug in the peak of health while allowing the Marathon II to decline.

If you have patches of burr clover now, that is right where I would start with the St Augustine pieces. The more pieces of St Aug you start with, the faster this project will be complete.

In the really hot and dry summer heat, meaning over 100 every day and humidity below 20%, you should water the St Aug every 5 days. Just to keep the Marathon sort of green, that should probably be watered, too. As the temps cool down, you can favor the St Augustine more and try to get more runners out of it.

If you buy one piece of St Aug for a dollar, you can chop it up into smaller pieces with a machete or shovel. I would not cut it into more than four pieces, though. You have to have something to work with. But that would help you get it going farther faster.

Generally St Augustine will dominate all other grasses with few exceptions. Some bunch grasses like dallisgrass can get a foothold and move in. Burr clover can be a weed in St Aug. Once you get St Aug, you can no longer use Weed-B-Gone Clover, Chickweed, and Oxalis against broad leafe weeds. WBG will kill the St Aug. You have to use a product with atrazine. You can only use that stuff once per year, so be judicious when/where you use it. Atrazine is a nasty product and repeated use doesn't seem to work as well as the first use anyway. When you spray, walk backwards so you don't have to walk through it. That stuff will flat knock down everything but the St Aug, though. It can take a few weeks, and you'll never really see the weeds withering away until SUDDENLY (!) they are no longer there. I would wait until April when the grass and all the weeds are growing well. Don't spray it now or you might lose your entire lawn. This paragraph is more for next year and the years after once you have the St Aug established. If you are watering and mowing right, you should never see another weed.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2014 at 8:58PM
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Hey dchall... thanks for the info, you are great. I may just try plugging in some st. augustine soon. To get faster coverage (lawn is about 1,000 square feet), should I rent a plugger to take out little chunks of grass and drop in the st. augustine plugs so they are level? How far apart should the plugs be? 18 inches maybe? Any starter fertilizer inside there with the plugs? I think I am getting the picture... plug with st. augustine plugs, keep the plugs moist especially during the first 2 weeks, hopefully they will start sending out runners, fertilize along the runners, keep the whole lawn somewhat moist so the runners have somewhere to land and root... Is that the overall picture?
Also, when mowing during the summer I know to set mower to highest level. Do I avoid mowing over the new St. Augustine runners? Thanks again for your help.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2014 at 2:30AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

If you want to cut up the St Aug pieces, keep them larger than 6 inches on a side. The closer you put them the faster it looks like full coverage. Use your budget as a guide. And it is okay to mow over the runners. It might be awhile before the runner blades are tall enough to mow anyway.

You did your homework.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 5:37PM
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OK Today was the day. Earlier this week, I went over the lawn and dug out chunks to make way for the plugs. Each spot was about 1 yard from the other, in a checkerboard pattern. Each spot was about 4 x 4 inches or so, some smaller some larger. I had sprinkled in a little lawn food 20-1-1 or something like that.... that may have been a bad idea but I did swish it around and water it in... we will see I guess...
So today I bought some St augustine sod and cut it up into chunks which roughly fit in the holes. At the time of planting, I also mixed in some planting mix and roughed up the soil. Placed the sod in, squished it down, watered it in the holes.
I think at this point the hard part is done. I have set the sprinkler system to water short watering 3 times a day for now, and I will also try to keep a manual eye on the sod plugs to be sure kept moist.
Any idea when I will be able to tell when/if the plugs have rooted? I guess if they end up brown it means no :)
Thanks again DC-Hall for all of your input, you are amazing.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 4:57PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Just doin' what I like doin'.

In addition I would drop a handful of alfalfa pellets, corn meal, or even bread flour on top of each piece of St Aug. The idea is to encourage the St Aug and not do any favors for the weeds and the Marathon. These organic fertilizers can be used any time without fear of hurting the grass. Also set the mower for the highest setting so the St Aug provides as much shade as it can to the other plants. The Marathon may coexist with the St Aug but eventually the St Aug will win.

You'll know the St Aug is rooting when you cannot lift it out of the turf. Don't try too hard. Wait three weeks to test it. Also look for the grass to send out runners and grow new blades in the original plugs. Watch for any signs of yellowing or the development of any spots (size of water drops). New St Aug sod is susceptible to disease. If you wanted to be sure that didn't happen, then use corn meal to fertilize.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2014 at 8:24PM
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