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Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Posted by waterer New Mexico (My Page) on
Tue, Feb 4, 14 at 2:59

Hello. I am hoping to get some guidance on how to seed/sod a new lawn BEFORE I mess up. I was about to rototill until I read here that I shouldn't. Then, I realized I shouldn't trust the book I read.

The following are important to me, in order.
1. water efficiency
2. less maintenance
3. looks/feel
4. durability (little foot traffic, no pets)

Here are the parameters.
Location: new yard (no previous grass) in Albuquerque, NM (very dry)
Temperatures: 90F average high in July, 26F average low in January
Precipitation: >1 inch in July through October
Watering: underground sprinkler system
Sun: intense but afternoon only
Size of lawn: 30' long (north to south) and 15' wide
Soil: awaiting soil test results, but it compacts very hard. I've leveled it by scraping off bumpy area.

I will add soil test results in about a week, but I am hoping to get some advice to help plan ahead.

1. Which grass should I seed/sod? Bluegrass and tall fescue sods are available locally. I bought into the "ultra low maintenance" promise and bought some Pearls Premium Sunny mix.

2. Which month should I seed or sod?

3. I read that it's better to sod than seed in the spring. Is it still feasible to seed in the spring if my priorities lead me to a different grass than what's available as sods here?

4. What do I do about the really hard soil underneath? Two hours into the "jar test" I have 1/3 sand, 2/3 silt, and some significant clay suspended in water (can't see through the water at all). I am thinking of rototilling about 2", covering the lawn area with 2" of compost, and then mixing the loose dirt with the compost.

5. Better wait for the soil test results before asking about soil amendments.

Of course, if there's a good summary post, I'd appreciate some reading assignment. Thank you.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

After a day, virtually no clay is settling. Although the water is still opaque, there may not be much clay after all.

Following the advice in the post below, I think I will forget about rototilling and apply baby shampoo, and then cover with 2" of compost for a month before seeding/sodding. Or should I cover with top soil?

I'm trying to maximize the organic content, but I guess I can't seed directly into compost without mixing in with soil underneath? Because the adjacent patio is only 2" higher, I can't add any more than 2" of compost or top soil.

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

If your number 1 requirement is water efficiency, then bluegrass and fescue are out of the question. Also, if you still have the receipt for Pearl's Premium Sunny, return it. It not only violates the low water requirement, but it would be a problem getting it started. It has a mix of rye (germinates in 1 week), fescue (2 weeks), and bluegrass (3 weeks). What happens too often is the homeowner will see all the rye sprouting and mistake that for all the rest of the grasses sprouting. You can end up with nothing but rye and miss the huge benefit of having a mixed turn and one with bluegrass in it. So besides the idea that it will need extra water, it's just a bad mix.

For low maintenance and your location, I would seriously consider a non traditional lawn mix. You won't find the local nurseries selling this blend, but one of the lawn gurus who has moved on from GardenWeb mixed wheatgrasses, blue grama, and strawberry clover in his Salt Lake City lawn. His mix might not work for you, but there are some that should .

Arizona wheatgrass

crested wheatgrass

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Thank you for the advice. I'm glad I haven't seeded Pearls yet. They sure make it sound it's a special blend of grass that requires little water, but I can't see how fescue/bluegrass mix will be as water efficient as buffalo grass. I'm leaning toward Legacy Buffalo now. I even found a local plug farm. Haven't found sod yet.

With its slow growing habit, I'm not sure why it's not more popular. Is there some drawback that I am not reading about? Is it ugly or unattractive in some way?

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

By the way, I'd appreciate hearing which Buffalo grass stays green the longest (into fall/winter). Thanks.

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Can't help you with green into winter. With bermuda and St Augustine it is a matter of continued watering and temperatures. If you want the grass to go dormant soon, withhold water as the temps fall. If you want it to continue green all year, then continue weekly watering. To some extent this works for Kentucky bluegrass with ideal soil circumstances. But buffalo does not need even weekly water in the summer, so there's a lot I need to learn about it. The folks at Turffalo know about it. They sell a fast spreading variety of buffalo they call Tech Turf. They co-developed it with Texas Tech, hence the name. Here is a picture showing how it is trying to spread over the sidewalk.

I used to live in the Lubbock area and took the picture. That lawn belonged to a frat house and it was the week after school got out for the summer. It had likely been 3 weeks since it was mowed. It seemed to be a very successful lawn - much more dense than any seeded variety of buffalo would be. The only problem was the area behind a tree. The tree was not all that dense, but the grass on the north side was thinning. That would be the same issue for any buffalo grass as well as the grasses I mentioned above.

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Turffalo looks like a good candidate.

I've spent most of today reading on this forum, and I've narrowed my choices down to the following, with the pros/cons.

Legacy Buffalo: short, all female (no seed stalk, pollen)
Prestige Buffalo: bit longer green season than Legacy
Turffalo Buffalo: similar to Prestige?
Reveille Bluegrass hybrid: needs 2x water, longer green season

I would like to see if I can let it grow naturally with little/no mowing, so I'm attracted to Legacy (I don't like the shaggy looks of seed heads). But then again, I would like my lawn to start greening in March (61F/36F average high/low). I think that's only possible with the bluegrass.

Gonna have to do more reading...

This post was edited by waterer on Sat, Feb 8, 14 at 20:30

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Sun: intense but afternoon only

Forget Buffalo grass if you have any shade what so ever. It will not tolerate shade.

At lower altitudes considering you have a fairly heavy shaded lawn Zoysia is worth looking at and a few varities of Sain Augustine like Seville and Palmetto.

If you had full sun KBG is the choice in ABQ regardless of altitude along with Bermuda at the lower altitude, and Zoysia at higher altitudes.

ABQ is a lot like where I live in Prescott AZ where water and sun determine either warm or cool season grass.

Your biggest challenge is the fairly heavy shade as that eliminates your best options. If not for the shade KGB, Bermuda, and Zoysia are the most preferred depending on water availability. KGB needs lots of water, Bermuda and Zoysia not so much.

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

  • Posted by hoovb z9 Southern CA (My Page) on
    Sun, Feb 9, 14 at 0:00

try asking David at dryheat blog. He's a landscaping pro who worked in New Mexico for years--he can advise you.

Here is a link that might be useful: dry heat blog

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Oops. I didn't realize that afternoon sun (from 11AM to sundown) is considered shady.

Bummer. I was getting to like the buffalo grass a lot. I would like to avoid Bermuda/Zoysia because of their invasiveness.

Back to the drawing board. At least, my choices are thinning.

This post was edited by waterer on Sun, Feb 9, 14 at 0:49

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Now, down to the following choices. I have given up on buffalo grass. Although Legacy is supposed to the "shade tolerant," I doubt it will thrive.

1. Bella bluegrass: short, shade tolerant
2. Turffalo Shadow Turf: zoysia hybrid, expensive!
3. Reveille: bluegrass hybrid, tall

I can't find enough information about Reveille to be sure it's shade tolerant.

This post was edited by waterer on Mon, Feb 10, 14 at 1:07

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Got soil analysis back from Logan Labs. Which quantities are important?

It seems like the first thing to do is lower the pH. I rather mix in an inch of peat moss or compost rather than applying sulfur. Should that be sufficient? Peat moss or compost?

Total Exchange Capacity (M. E.): 43.19
pH of Soil Sample: 7.9
Organic Matter: 0.67%
SULFUR: 27 p.p.m.
Phosphorous: 103 lb/acre
CALCIUM: 15420 lb/acre
MAGNESIUM: 715 lb/acre (deficit -525)
POTASSIUM: 300 lb/acre (deficit -1047)
SODIUM: 98 lbs / acre
Calcium (60 to 70%): 88.22
Magnesium (10 to 20%): 6.9
Potassium (2 to 5%): 0.89
Sodium (.5 to 3%): 0.49
Other Bases (Variable): 3.50
Exchangable Hydrogen (10 to 15%): 0.00
Boron (p.p.m.): 0.79
Iron (p.p.m.): 25
Manganese (p.p.m.): 27
Copper (p.p.m.): 1.25
Zinc (p.p.m.):1.16
Aluminum (p.p.m.): 76

Thank you.

This post was edited by waterer on Sat, Feb 15, 14 at 12:55

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

You have a guardian angel. You also have a special circumstance with your soil. Hold off on doing anything until you get a good read from andy10917. He's read thousands of Logan Lab tests and can help you. He's also previously discussed this soil issue with the good folks at Logan Labs. Search the Internet for "andy10917 logan lab soil test".

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Thank you so much! I've just posted on the other forum.

I'm glad that I didn't underestimate the complexity of the situation and sought out help before I did anything to my soil.

Well, I did apply baby shampoo.

RE: Requesting advice installing a new lawn

Thank you so much! I've just posted on the other forum.

I'm glad that I didn't underestimate the complexity of the situation and sought out help before I did anything to my soil.

Well, I did apply baby shampoo.

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