Rebuilding a lawn-Start to Finish. DIY help!!!

harris_turnerNovember 5, 2012

Hi there. My wife and I are about to buy a new house and th yard has been neglected. It has some sort of grass in it but it's patchy and full of weeds and needs to be replaced. Zoysia seems to be a real hit around our area right now. We live on the edge of zone 8 and 9 and i would say we are more like zone 9. The yard has some large trees with some roots that are visible in the patchy areas. My questions are as follows:

1) What do I need to do to kill the existing lawn?

2)how do I prepare the soil?

3)do the roots need to come up? They aren't very large. Maybe an inch in a half but they do stick out of the soil.

4)when I kill everything, do I have to take any amount of the existing soil up? I would think it would have dead grass and weeds that would be undesirable for the new yard.

I'm a newb so anything will help. Thanks everyone!

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Hi Harris_Turner 9,

To kill your existing grass I would recommend a non-selective systematic herbicide, which is a herbicide that kills everything. You have to use this herbicide when your grass is active meaning you need to water and take care of your grass then apply the herbicide.

Hope this helps!

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 10:18AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Where do you live? Zone 9 is thousands of miles long and goes through all sorts of soil and climate zones. The only reason to use a zone is when selecting plants. It is not helpful for grass at all.

You prepare the soil by growing grass in it. So far so good. You can prepare it better by fertilizing with 20 pounds per 1,000 of organic fertilizer. My favorite this year is straight alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow).

What roots? The grass roots? Nah. Leave them alone.

No need to pull the soil out unless you want to change your drainage. The dead stuff in the soil is excellent for your soil's health. It decomposes and creates more organic fertilizer for your next generation of plants.

What kind of grass do you have now?

I consider zoysia to be temperamental. It is very (VERY) slow to recover from damage. When I say slow, I'm talking about no recover until the following spring depending on your variety, location, and climate. Once my goes bad, I have to wait until April for recovery. My favorite grass is St Augustine for many reasons. Are you seeing successful stands of zoysia in your area? And are you sure they are not hybrid bermuda?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2012 at 10:11PM
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I live in pensacola florida, it hugs zone 8 and zone 9 on a zoning map.

The roots I meant were actually tree roots from three large pines that protrude from the soil. Would I just sod over the roots? The grass in the back is sparse at best. Same with the front. Very patchy. It's a stretch to call it grass. Mostly dirt. Honestly, i'm not sure if it's a hybrid bermuda. I've had St. Augustine before and wouldn't mind it again. I will have two dogs living in the backyard so fast recovery is a must.

I guess I have apprehension when I start to think about how to prepare the soil from a physical stand point rather than a nutrient aspect. I hear you guys say do not till the soil. Some of the soil is compacted. What is the best way to attack it?

Is it easier/cheaper to seed rather than sod?

I appreciate all of your help!
I will try and post some pics. I guess the first thing I need to do is get a soil test.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 11:49AM
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here is the front

    Bookmark   November 7, 2012 at 11:50AM
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dchall_san_antonio(8 San Antonio)

Bermuda is going to be a problem with your shade.

How often do you water and for how long? Do you know how long it takes to fill a tuna or cat food can with your sprinkler?

Soil test would be lower on my priority list simply because you live in Pensacola and you aren't looking to have the best lawn of the year.

It is a little hard to tell for sure from the pictures but it looks a little like the soil level is higher than your curb. It looks mounded in the back too. Am I seeing that right?

Sand does not usually get compacted. Compaction results from driving all the air out of soil when the soil is soupy wet. This is a key feature of bricks and adobe. It happens around cattle ponds where the soil is always wet and the animals walk in and around it. It can happen to home owners but not often. What you might have is hard soil where the sand has settled and there is no organic matter to fluff it up. The best way to soften soil is roots in the ground and organic fertilizer. Before I suggest a way to get better water penetration, is that a problem? Again, sand usually does not ever get puddling and water soaks right in. Is that your situation?

There is no such thing as St Augustine seed. There is but it never works, so they stopped selling it. If you want to get started inexpensively, you can get a couple pieces of St Aug at your local grass dealer and lay them down. Dig out just enough surface soil so they pieces of sod sit level with the rest of the profile of the soil. Then water them 3x per day for 2 weeks until the roots knit into the underlying sand. You only need to water just a smidge to keep them moist. You don't need to saturate the soil 6 inches deep or anything like that. Once they have taken hold, back off on watering.

If you want these to spread, I strongly suggest frequent doses of organic fertilizer and weekly water. Why organic? Because you can do it frequently with absolutely no fear of hurting anything. I would probably do 1 pound per 100 square feet of alfalfa pellets (rabbit chow) every week around the new pieces. Water it slightly and the pellets will decompose into mush so the birds won't carry it away.

St Augustine will spread 10 feet in all directions every season. Just keep it mowed high and keep it from drying out in the heat and it will be happy. Regular feeding is good. If you are going to use chemical ferts, no more than 3x per year. Since you are in Florida I'll modify my normal schedule. Once at the end of April, at the end of September, and Thanksgiving. If you go with organic, you can do it every time there is a federal holiday starting January 1st.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 7:45PM
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As far as watering, not much. We are in the process of buying the house and have no control over it. It's getting cooler here so water need would obviously be less in nov than it would be in august.

The yard slopes from back to front. At the street the lawn drops off moderately towards the curb. Ideally I would but some sort of ground cover or shrubs, then outline the two oaks in the front with a flower bed and have the yard start from there.

As far as it be compacted or sandy I would have to agree and say it's not "compacted". From what I've read it's more so "hard". It sounds like the clear shampoo remedy may work.

As far as your St. Augustine recommendation and it's spreading characteristics, I could potentially just checker board sod and let it spead. I would essentially only have to buy 1/2 of what it would take to knock it out in one shot.

I have no problem with St. Augustine but prefer the look of zoysia. It may not seem like it but a lot of yards do really well with it installed. I think it's the kind University of Florida created. Ultimate Zoysia maybe? I know St. Aug thrives in moderate shade though so that may be what the yard is best suited for.

I read you on the alfalfa pellets but does that guard against weeds growing or should I use round up before I get started? If so, what do I use when the weeds come back and the grass isn't established enough to choke them out.

FYI:I have a friend who lives in Birmingham Alabama. He just bought a home from an older woman. He has an INCREDIBLE Zoysia yard. I asked him if he installed it and how much he waters, how much fertilizer etc. and he looked at me like I was an alien. He didn't put it in. The person who lived there didn't put it in. It migrated from a neighbors yard and has fully covered his yard which has the same shade characteristics as my new lawn. He doesn't have sprinklers. He's never watered it and never fertilizes it. It's absolutely immaculate

Needless to say I hate him and wish nothing but bad things for him.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2012 at 3:05PM
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I'm over in Jacksonville with an Empire Zoysia yard and I'm quite happy with it. I'm not a pro but I'll tell 'ya what I did, not saying it's the best way but it worked for me. I'm not afraid of work but I don't want to work any harder than I have to. But time is money.

Soil prep consisted of no mowing but watering every 3 days for a week and a half to get the existing vegatation up and growing. When the existing stuff is happy you ambush it by spraying the old turf area with Roundup. You would be fine using any other brand with the same active ingredient as long as it has a surfactant in it. Continue to water the dying turf for a couple of weeks then spray again to get what was missed. Let the lawn sit for a week or so. I mowed the dead stuff as low as the mower would go and raked up. Next I ran over the lawn with a weedwacker really beating up anything above ground. Rake up again. Prep work done and ready to lay the sod on mostly bare soil. I went through a mile of 'wacker string. It's best to have the sod contact as much soil as possible. I've seen sod layed on top of a bunch of thatch and leaves. It survived but took a lot more water and time than it had to.

I sodded, not sprigged. I have seen several lawns fail with the sprigging thing because of weeds popping up in the bare areas before the grass could spread, this is the same reasoning behind killing the old stuff twice. I didn't want to have an uphill battle with new turf getting established and weed killers knocking the turf back down. The "time is money" thing.

Before you lay the sod it may be a good idea to take a flat shovel and skim down the soil next to a drive or walkway. Sod has some thickness to it. I aimed for 1" to 1.5" below the drive and walkway surface. I've seen sod layed on top of sod on top of sod causing the drive surface to be 4" lower than the turf. Looks horrible and there is no way to easily correct this.

Lay the sod on the day it is delivered and water it within hours of being laid. You can drag a sprinkler behind you as you work. Butt the sod pieces up tight to each other as the stuff really does shrink. I bought a cheap set of steak knives to cut the sod with, worked great.

Get a wheelbarrow.

Use loppers to cut your above ground roots, google "root pruning".

I chose Zoysia for the looks but mostly because of the variety of chemicals that can be unleashed on any weeds that pop up in it. With augustine you're kind of limited to atrizine and penoxalum as far as I can remember.

Good info can be found at the U of F site.

Here is a link that might be useful: Go Gators!

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 8:34PM
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