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Lawn is brown and dead? Advice needed.  RSS feed

 
Sean Kent
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I'm a new homeowner. Moved into this house September 2011 in kitchener ontario and the grass was green then. It was a one year old house with one year old sodded grass.

I didn't do much maintenance and was watering about once or twice a week. I probably should have watered a lot more as the roots didn't grow deep enough yet.

Today, it is brown and full of weed (a lot of the spiky weed which you may not see in the pictures as I've pulled them out).

Any advice would be great. I'm willing to put the effort and time to make this work. I probably have the worst lawn in my neighborhood.

I don't mind the effort but would like to keep the cost low.

Thanks very much.
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Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1426
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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You say you are in Ontario - have you had a frost yet?

Also is it correct that this is a roll or pieces of sod? What variety of grass is it?

Are your neighbors lawns also starting to turn brown, if not, what variety of grass is their lawn made up of?

The answers to these questions might help to figure out what the problem is.

 
Sean Kent
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Thanks for your reply.

No frost yet.

Its rolled out sod with the pieces being in say 4 feet by 1 feet? And so it was built by many pieces of that. I hope I answered your question here.

My neighbours lawn has some patches of brown and some weed. But I am the only one where it's pretty much entirely brown and filled with weed.

 
Sean Kent
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Sorry. I do not know what variety of grass I have or my neighbours.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1426
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Well Sean, I was hoping someone with more knowledge than me would jump in here but I am going to take a guess that the roots in the sod didn't get good contact and take hold in the subsoil.

I would check underneath some samplings of sod to look for living roots.

This time of year you are probably getting ready to go into snow cover and freeze so I'm thinking it might be better to wait til spring to see if there is anything salvageable there.
 
Kris Minto
Posts: 137
Location: Ottawa, Canada -- Zone 4b/5a
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I had a similar problem in my two and half year old house in Ottawa, Ontario. This years was pretty bad because of the drought but my my grass came back but it's not thick my any means which is causing weeds to grow. Because I am in the process of getting rid of most of my grass in the backyard I have decided to live with it but the front yard I did some top dressing just a week ago. I will likely be seeding in the spring time to and grow it.

My experience with new development is the "top soil" they lay down on top of the back fill is very sandy and often only a few inches thick. Adding organic material to hold moisture will be necessary if you don't want to water every other day during the summer.

Kris
 
Tom Pavlo
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I would ask you about what your real goal is here. What type of lawn do you want to have? How much matainance do you really want to do on this once you get the grass growing again?

In my experience, almost all sod is nearly 100% Kentucky Bluegrass. It is a very good looking grass, handles a very short cut well, and has a deep color. However, it also has shallow roots and doesn't do well when there isn't much rain.

Being up in Canada, I suspect that you are too late for this fall. I think that if I were you, I would spend the winter putting a plan in place for how you are going to renovate in the spring.

The first thing to do is get a professional soil test done. You need to know whether there is something about the soil that is killing the grass. Get that done first and plan on fixing the Ph level if needed.

Then, I would re-read Paul's article about lawns and soil depth. You may want to take the opportunity to law down some new soil or a few inches of compost. Some towns give free compost away, so I would check there first. Before re-seeding, I would really encourage you to improve the soil first. Another thing to think about is your drainage and grading. I noticed the long gutter extension. If you have an issue with water in the basement, now is the time to dig out some drainage, such as a drywell or french drain. You could also put in a rainwater collection system. www.ndspro.com has some great publications on their website about how to do some of these things. They are not written from a permaculture perspective, but they are still useful.

Once you check the soil, fix the drainage and amend the soil with compost or loam, you will be ready to reseed. Paul recommends tall fescue. Take some time to read about your options. Talk to people in your area about what is the best grass for you. You want something with very deep roots so you don't have to mow and water as much. Personally, I like a blend of grasses because I like the variety. If you want to, buy a ton of crocuses and throw them into the mix. They usually come on sale around November.

I think that you are going to have to plan on seeding in the spring, which is tough. You are going to have to spend a lot of time pulling weeds by hand while the grass gets established. No pesticides... just pull by hand and the grass should out-compete the weeds.

Good luck and keep us posted on your progress!
 
Sean Kent
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Thanks everyone.


I'm thinking of a few ideas.
1) I was thinking of getting top soil and covering my lawn with it and seeding it. Doing this in the summer. But found out that the cost to cover my lawn with top soil is a little more than a 1000.
2) getting herbicide and kill all the weeds. Leave for two days. Then seed on top of what I have without any top soil. I would just have to seed more, but I don't know if the seed will turn to grass this way.
3) do both 1) and 2). So putting on top soil after the weeds are dead.
4) recommend an option?

What do you guys think?

Thanks again for the replies.
 
Tom Pavlo
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Skip the herbicide. It will take a decade to work its way through the soil. If you aren't going to add anything on top such as soil or compost, pull the weeds by hand. If you are going to be adding a few inches of soil, then dump it right on top of the weeds; it should smother them.

"Top Soil" is a very general term. There is a great deal of variance between what one place considers top soil and another place does. Usually, it is a mixture of dirt and compost. In general, I would say the blacker it is, the better. I would look into laying down compost first and then some top soil on top. When seeding, you can mix the top soil in with your seed to save time. Then lay down the mixture.

But be careful with top soil. Often times, you can get sold just sandy dirt. I really recommend that you price out getting a layer of compost. Once you seed, it takes a very long time to improve the soil quality. This is your big chance.
 
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