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Starting over with lawn  RSS feed

 
                                      
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I was wondering if anyone can help me.  I am desperate!!  My lawn had been neglected and severely taken over by dandelions and GRUBS!  So I decided to rototill the whole thing! ACK!  What a job.....now I do not know what to do, I fear raking all that will take me all summer and soooo much labor!  I have nematodes and milky spore coming to get rid of the grub issue, although I beleive the birds have been doing a great job since I tilled.  The dandelion puffs are sitting on top of the soil as well.  Am I doomed to be overtaken by the dandelions??  And must I get rid of all the tilled weeds and grass?  Can I just minimally add soil or something and then seed?? HELP PLEASE!!!

Thanks...I am determined to be the first in the neighborhood to go all green in lawn care.  It is truly frightning how many children are playing on toxic chemicals everyday and I refuse to intentionally do the same.  Maybe I cxan start a movement ovcer here!!!
 
paul wheaton
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where are you?  Does it snow there?  That does make a difference ...

Well, as long as it is all tilled up - this is a good time to add organic matter if you can get it. Compost is best.

The dandelions are gonna sprout, but we can beat them later.

If you are cheap, lazy and patient, you could choose to plant your grass this fall.  Plant a big crop of cowpeas (aka black eye peas).  They will grow up and produce so much shade that they will kill all the weeds.  At the same time they will gather nitrogen out of the air and feed the soil.  Their roots will open up the ground really deep - after they die, their deep, dead roots will make excellent worm food and routes for your new grass to set deep roots.

When the cowpeas are done, you can harvest as much as you like and till the remaining plants into the soil.

 
                                      
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I live in the northeast, pa to be exact, so yes I do get snow.  Is it absolutely not doable to have a lawn thisa summer? I was hoping to start it soon, but I am cheap and lazy. Sooo, any options facilitating that I welcome! I also worry my neighbors might freak if it looks like this much longer!! Are cow peas unattractive? I live in one of those neighborhoods where it's all kind of open and everyone around me feeds their lawn poison! I really appreciate your advice and help.  Thanks.
 
                                      
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Oh also...about the dandelions....How will I beat them? IRight now I have cut puff balls all over the place where I tilled just waiting to fly away and spread all over!
 
                                      
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I am sorry....how much do you estimate planting cow peas in about 7,000 sq feet? and let's say I wanted to go topsoil in the front yard ASAP, how deep a lyer are we talking to be able to just plant grass on top of the tilled old lawn
 
paul wheaton
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You can do grass right now.  You can even try to plant it without improving the soil first.  It might even work out okay.  It's just that with poor soil, your grass will have a sad start.

You want to plant a tall fescue.

The cowpeas would grow to about two feet tall.  They would smother everything in your yard - killing all weeds and they would naturally fertilize the soil for you.  They would then die at the first frost in the fall.

But it sounds like you want to plant a lawn right away.

Rather than buying topsoil, you might be able to "make" topsoil.  If you dig a hole a foot down, what does the dirt/soil/whatever look like?  How long does it take to dig the hole?
 
                                      
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Well i do have some pretty rocky soil due to the fact that it is probably fill on top, but the land was once farmed before the developing housing went up more than 5 years ago so I would  think it must not be too bad under all that??  How long til the cowpeas grow? And are we talking like full lawn coverage? is it the papago cowpea? After it dies,  do i just till and smooth and seed? 
As far as"making" topsoil, can I leave all the existing thatch and weeds?? Just keep tilling until it looks good?? and perhaps get it tested?  I must be driving you nuts with all my posts! I reeeally appreciate your replies.  You are so knowledgable!  Thanks so much.
 
paul wheaton
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The main thing that you want to do is to increase the organic matter in your soil.

Imagine that each time you till, you are release about 10% to 40% of your organic matter to the atmosphere.  So if you are going to till, it should be for a really good reason.

It takes the cowpeas about 60 days to reach maturity.  Maybe a little more.  And yes, I'm talking about full lawn coverage.

When you are ready to plant grass (after cowpeas), there are lots of cowpea roots in the soil that will feed the soil.  But tilling in the cowpea plants will put even more in the soil.  You could try to remove the cowpea plants and then plant ...  you might even want to compost the plants.  You could smash down the plants, let them dry a bit and then throw seed on the plants.

If you choose to till the plants in, note that if you till the cowpeas in while the plants are still green and fresh, you will get more nitrogen in the soil.

When land is developed, they often scrape off the pesky topsoil - selling it to people who are on freshly developed land that has no topsoil.

 
                                        
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paul wheaton wrote:


The cowpeas would grow to about two feet tall.  They would smother everything in your yard - killing all weeds and they would naturally fertilize the soil for you.  They would then die at the first frost in the fall.



If the cowpeas die with the frost then is it still O.K. to plant grass that late in the season?
 
                                      
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Thanks again, I am going to go for the cow peas! Any particular one or does it matter?  Can I throw wildflower seeds (annual) in there just for fun?
 
paul wheaton
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chickendust wrote:
If the cowpeas die with the frost then is it still O.K. to plant grass that late in the season?


For a cool season grass?  Yes!

 
paul wheaton
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grassygirl wrote:
Thanks again, I am going to go for the cow peas! Any particular one or does it matter?  Can I throw wildflower seeds (annual) in there just for fun?


The best cowpeas to get would be cheap cowpeas.  Check groworganic.com.

Your wildflowers would get smothered by the cowpeas ...
 
                                      
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Thanks.  Red cowpeas are pretty cheap, do I just spread seed ?? Or am I drill-planting in rows? And I keep reading of a nemotocidal effect? Are my beneficial gru eating nematodes going to harm my peas?! Hmm...Perhaps it is just certain type of nematode
 
paul wheaton
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Just toss the seed everywhere, kick dirt on top and water.

You might want to get about 50% more seed than you need.  If you plant really thick, it will do a much better job of choking out the weeds.
 
                            
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  This pretty much falls into the same line as the initial post... I too am from PA. I've got spots on my lawn where is appears that the top soil has simply wash away leaving bare or patchy spots where nothing, not even weeds will grow.
  If I get some topsoil and cover the existing bare spots, sort of a "bandaid" treatment, do I need to till it in with the barren soil?
 
lee
 
paul wheaton
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congleal wrote:
  This pretty much falls into the same line as the initial post... I too am from PA. I've got spots on my lawn where is appears that the top soil has simply wash away leaving bare or patchy spots where nothing, not even weeds will grow.
  If I get some topsoil and cover the existing bare spots, sort of a "bandaid" treatment, do I need to till it in with the barren soil?
 
lee


If the stuff you put on will wash away again, then you need to come up with a way to keep your stuff there until until the grass takes root.

You don't have to work anything in.  It would help, but ... hey .. this site is about being cheap and lazy!  So it really depends on how lazy you are and how big these patches are.  If the patch is a foot across, I would probably lay down a shovelfull of compost and mix in some grass seed.  If it is three feet across, I would throw down a couple inches of compost and work it into the soil about four inches - then mix in some seed.  If it were six inches across, I would either do nothing, or toss a little compost in there.
 
                            
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I also have stretches of lawn that is seriously thinning with accompanying bare spots. In one location the lawn is bordering a line of pine trees, I assume the acidity(sp) of the dropping pine needles do little to help the lawn.
  Do I get top soil and work it into the thinning lawn? What about the area by the pine trees?
Thanks....
 
paul wheaton
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The pine tree outcompetes grass and all sorts of stuff by dropping the pine needles.  They make the soil acidic and they put a sort of natural herbicide (that the tree itself doesn't mind) into the soil.

There are many ways to address this, but I prefer the lazy way:  grass will be sparse under a pine tree.

Tell me more about your other thin patches.
 
                                      
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Hi Paul, 

I had asked you before about planting wildflowers with the cowpeas, if I border the areas with sunflowers or tall flowers will this be okay?? 
 
paul wheaton
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Well.....I planted my peas about 6weeks ago, and I over did it in the front yard leaving it very patchy in the back.  The peas are getting nice and high, but my weeds in the back are taking over and I am becoming depressed about my "project"!  Any advice how to fix? I was going to order more peas to fill in the rest, but will it serve my purpose with the existing weeds I have hit a wall and desperately need help!! THANKS!
 
                            
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Been readding your post and just need a bit of advice. BTW, I am glad I stumbled upon it. I was about to blast my lawn with hundreds of chemicals.  I have a lawn that is 70% weeds (onion grass, loads of really low to the ground grass that is really bright green). If I mow high, it doesn't appear that it will do anything since there is not much real grass to begin with (I live in new jersey). HELP ME!  Just bought this house and I know nothing about lawns. Can you believe I actually told the Realtor that the bright green stuff was pretty? Of course, he tried to control himself from the laughter that was dying to come out.  Do I dig up-scrap up all of the bad grass this fall and seed? I also have bare spots that I see that you have covered in another post. Will use those tips.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:
When the cowpeas are done, you can harvest as much as you like and till the remaining plants into the soil.


If you wait until you harvest the cowpeas, won't you have a new crop after you till the plants into the soil?
 
paul wheaton
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NJ:  Is there any normal grass?

I've never encountered onion grass.
 
paul wheaton
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