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Long Term Plan

Posted by ViennaGuy 6b Northern VA (My Page) on
Thu, Mar 29, 12 at 10:22

Over the summer I moved into a house where the lawn has been left on it's own for at least 20 years. The front yard is relatively small but the back yard is about a half acre. There is little no grass anywhere, moss in lots of places, weeds of all types, and on the plus side, I've got 20 years of leaves along the fence lines from the massive oak trees and others in the backyard. I also back up to a state park, so I get a lot of leaves from there as well.

I've got a lot of work to do on the house as well as the yard, so I'm looking at a VERY long term plan to get it in shape. I took samples for a soil test and am waiting on the results.

I've got 2 dogs and my first kid on the way and I'd like to go organic for the lawn care. My plan right now is to continue to rake the leaves into the middle of the yard and mow them into the grass, I'm about halfway there. I've been leaving the grass clippings as well. Unfortunately, I haven't really seen any earthworms or castings which is surprising considering this place was let go for so long.

So far, this post has been extremely informative and will be my plan of attack when I get started on planting grass, maybe this year, maybe next year. (

Because I'm looking at another year before I plant my intended grass, I've been looking at cover crops such as clover, that might be beneficial to my soil while I prepare it for grass. With our 2 dogs, I need to keep something covering the dirt so that we don't have muddy paws all throughout the house. What would be a good option, anything other than clover? I saw something about rye being good at aerating the soil and being good for the SFW. If I do plant a cover like rye or clover, will it choke out the weeds on it's own over time? When it comes time to plant grass (if I use clover) do I need to kill it all off to let the grass grow or can I leave it in? I don't kind leaving clover with the grass for the nitrogen fixing abilities, but I'd rather have a mostly grass lawn with clover secondary than a clover lawn with grass secondary.

Any other suggestions would be welcome, I'm willing to learn.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Long Term Plan

Clover can be a bit tricky to get rid of once you want pure grass. But then rye can be even trickier if you later want bluegrass. There are several herbicides that will kill clover and leave the grasses in tact. OTOH, there aren't really any good options for killing rye but leaving bluegrass. In either case I would probably kill everything off when I was ready to plant grass.

If all you want is a quick ground cover, then clover will come in faster and thicker than rye. It germinates in about 2-3 days in the spring and grows very quickly. Make sure to use Dutch White Clover and not the bigger types used for meadows like red clover. Once it gets going, mow it to about 2" to keep it nice. Just keep in mind that it is invasive.

RE: Long Term Plan

I think you are off to a great start.... The best thing you can do is to learn as much as you can before you start putting down seed... Likely, you really want some sort of Cool season grass - so Fall is your seeding time.... That means you have ~6 months

Take the time to carefully choose the best grass cultivars for your lawn... If you haven't yet - head on over to the NTEP (National Turfgrass Evaluation Program) website and search for specific cultivars that do well in your area...

If you need something "Grassy" to get you through the hot season until Fall - look into a bag of Brown Top Millet at the local Feed and Seed store... It's really cheap, grows very well through the summer, and looks grassy... It will keep most of the Muddy Paws problems under control.... You keep it mowed at the highest setting of the mower, it looks "Grassy" - and it will thrive thru the summer and die off after the first hard frost... It's also very very easy to kill off with weed killer when the time comes.... Clover isn't very easy to kill in comparison...


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