AZ Lawn Newbie

twowhlrcrNovember 28, 2012

Good evening all. Well I'm finally to the point where I think I can start growing a lawn in a small portion of my backyard here in Avondale, AZ. As you can see by the attached picture I just have dirt now.

The dirt you see is all at least an inch below my final grade. I already have sprinklers installed and they are at final grade.

I've never been past this point so bear with my lack of knowledge.

My questions:

1) What do I need to use to get to final grade? Screened fill dirt, fertilizer?

2) Do I need to compact the final grade? Hand tamp or a roller?

3) I hear Rye is the way to go for winter. Is it too late? Are there different types? I think I want to use seed but I'm not sure?

I've done all of the work in this section so far including the deck/dock, planter wall and sprinklers so I'm pretty handy. I just need to know the exact step by step process from this point to a green lawn. The wife and dogs will be excited.

This is just a small section that I need lawn so I'm using it a my test area.

Any help would be greatly appreciated. Let me know if I need to provide more info. Thanks!!

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Considering that you live in the Phoenix area, you will probably be using Bermuda next year as your permanent lawn. Bermuda isn't too picky about the soil it grows in, but a good loam (sandy or silty) topsoil would be a good choice. Don't use compost or anything that is very high in organic matter as it will decompose over time. It would be a good idea to use a water filled roller once you have your soil down for a few reasons. Most people use annual rye or perennial rye as a winter lawn in your neck of the woods. They are both great choices, but annual rye will be easier to kill next year before you seed Bermuda or lay sod, and anything you don't kill will die off on it's own since it is an annual. Perennial rye is a nicer looking grass, golf courses in your area use perennial rye to overseed the Bermuda fairways in the fall and winter months, but since your lawn isn't part of a golf course I would stick with annual rye.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 9:49AM
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What you do not want to do is add a soil that is finer in particle size than what the underlying soil is. High sand content is a safe addition. With proper fertilization and water, turf will thrive in sand and the natural life cycle of the turf will add organic matter to the sand.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 12:15PM
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If you are going to seed you will need screened fill dirt or clean or whatever they have. then use a roller to compact it. I would use Perennial rye and cover with cow manure for heat retention. You want to get on this soon as it looks like winter will finally hit us about the 16th of the month. If you want to go the sod route look at getting paspalum as the summer grass over seeded of coarse and be done with it. West Coast sod is the only farm that carries it. I have had it for a few years now and when people come over they all want to know 'what kind of grass is that' positive statement

    Bookmark   December 1, 2012 at 12:53PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Is that dirt or sandy rubble? It's hard to tell.

The reason for rolling it down is more to make good contact between the seed and soil than it is to compact/compress the soil.

Golf courses get away with rye in the winter because they are professional grass growers who have nothing better to do than monitor the grass. They also have chemicals at their disposal which home owners are not allowed to own. The problem with rye in the winter over a bermuda turf is the rye shades the bermuda deep into spring. That shade prevents the bermuda from awakening when it should and weakens the turf for months. The pros will use a combination of chemicals and withholding water to kill the rye early in the spring. For you, early spring might be late Feb or early March. It hardly seems worthwhile putting the rye in for a few months of extra watering, fertilizing, and mowing.

Another thing that is hard to tell is the size of your plot. Is it big enough to put a lawnmower in? If not, you probably don't want grass. I made that mistake with some zoysia. I'll never do that again.

    Bookmark   December 2, 2012 at 1:46AM
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Thanks for the help so far Guys!! This particular area of the backyard is only about 250-300 sq ft. Not huge but I'm using it as my test area since a lot more of the yard needs grass. We've been staring at dirt for a couple years now so it will be worth the watering and mowing.

Anyways, so far I have picked up 2 yards of a Sandy Loam (Sand-Mulch_Topsoil) from a local materials place. I will have the final grade raked tomorrow and then I will grab a lawn roller from Home Depot to finish that off.

I stopped by the local nursery and they have the Rye Seed, a Starter Fertilizer and a Seed Topper that they recommend.

Sound good? Let me know if I missed anything.

Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2012 at 12:58AM
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Ok you want to go seed. Does that mean seed for the Bermuda also? Low end or high end? If you want high end seed like a Yukon or Riviera now would be the time to order that as well from an online seed supplier. If you wait they will be sold out.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 11:18AM
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Ok you want to go seed. Does that mean seed for the Bermuda also? Low end or high end? If you want high end seed like a Yukon or Riviera now would be the time to order that as well from an online seed supplier. If you wait they will be sold out.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2012 at 3:38PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Sounds like you are going to roll the soil instead of rolling the seed. You need to roll the seed. You can do both, but the seed is more important.

In the picture it looks like there are ruts in the soil you have. Is that loose soil or is it very firm? The ruts need to be smoothed out before you put the new soil down or they will show up again in the future. That sub surface soil needs to be p-e-r-f-e-c-t-l-y smooth for a bermuda lawn. - all the way to the edges of the grass against the bricks.

In my opinion there is no high quality seed. There is seed and there is sod. Sod is a high quality turf. Seed is all based on common bermuda and varies mostly in color. Tif 419 bermuda sod is about the best turfgrass you can get in your area. As a bonus 419 sod is less expensive than most other grass sods you can get. Supply and demand is your friend.

Do you have the Bermuda Bible? If not you need to get it and memorize it. Use Google to find it.

Since you do not have the bermuda in yet, you have until next summer to decide what you want. Nurse the rye as long as it will stay alive. Then it is time to decide.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2012 at 4:22PM
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If you are only talking about seed some are better than others. But then none better than sod. I think we lost the OP

    Bookmark   December 13, 2012 at 11:28PM
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Well sorry to be late to the party and I hope I am not too late. Forget the Rye Grass Seed, it is more trouble than it is worth and just waste your money and time. You missed the boat for Rye Grass in Phoenix. That boat sailed Halloween day and you missed it.

In Phoenix you want Bermuda grass. Get yourself a pallet now and lay it down. If you want a lower maintenance type of Bermuda that can be cut with a rotary mower look into E-Z Turf Midiron sold at most nurseries and sod farms in the area. Stands up real good to the heat and dry air.

If you have a reel mower and want that golf course look and willing to mow every few days in summer, then look into Tifway-I (aka 419), Tifway-II, TifSport, or Celebration all widely available in the area.

If you already sowed Rye, sorry about that, then wait if you want until March, nuke the Rye Grass with round up, wait a week and remove it and then lay Bermuda sod. Then come next October forget about Rye Grass.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 7:21PM
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Hey Guys, I'm still here. Just a little bummed that I haven't seen any sign of green stuff popping up from the dirt. I'll give it a few more days of watering I guess and see what happens.

If nothing, then what. I have the area fenced off so the dogs can't get in there but I don't want to leave it fenced until Bermuda season.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2012 at 1:40PM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Just to introduce him, texas-weed has been a sod farmer specializing in bermuda for years (decades??). Now he is trying to retire in Prescott, but they snagged him to be a greens keeper at one of the golf courses. Listen to him, especially if you live in Phoenix.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Just a heads up guys. I do have Bermuda in my front yard. I do not overseed the front but instead let it go dormant and take the winter off of mowing. So I am familiar with the winter/summer grass issue here in AZ.

But we have been staring at nothing but dirt in the backyard and just want to see some green grass. I'm not worried about the work involved. Just want someplace for the dogs to be able to hang out.

So if I'm too late on planting seed, what is my next best option? I'm ready to do whatever it takes.

    Bookmark   December 20, 2012 at 11:30AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Texas weed told you what you can do not. Put down sod.

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 1:47AM
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Lay sod.

Now with that said if you planted Rye Grass seed and it failed, my guess is you did or are not watering enough. I do not know what kind of soil you have in the seed bed. Not that it matters a whole lot, but you have to water 3 to 5 times a day. Rye Grass needs wet feet. Especially in the valley with bone dry air and our soils.

But here is the deal. It is way late. Even if you get it growing it will be two months to get good coverage. In two or three months it will be time to kill the Rye grass and lay Bermuda sod. Rye grass in the Valley is planted in October. You missed the boat.

If I were you I would wait until you see Bermuda green up in Late Feb or early March, and then lay sod down. Your dogs will do just fine doing their thing on rubble or dirt like everyone else dogs does. Your eyes will get over it, and your wallet will love you for it.

This post was edited by texas-weed on Fri, Dec 21, 12 at 13:27

    Bookmark   December 21, 2012 at 1:13PM
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Sounds good guys. Thanks for the info. There are some signs of life back there right now. Quite a few small patches about an inch in length. I'll just see what happens with that and then go to the bermuda next year. Thanks again.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 3:27PM
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