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Need a Do-Over on my lawn, and my landscaper sucks!

 
                                
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Here are some photos to get you started: http://picasaweb.google.com/ecbrown1/LawnProblems?authkey=Gv1sRgCPqOwoOJj-6W0AE&feat=directlink
I am on Long Island, Zone 7a. 

I have about 5,000+ square feet of lawn area total.  It is almost exclusively covered in moss, "annual Jewgrass" (that name really makes me cringe!), and some pitiful-looking grass.  I don't really mind occasional weeds like clover, dandelions, violets, or even mushrooms, unless they're a symptom of a bad lawn.  What I don't like is an entire lawn of weeds that is dead-brown all winter.

The landscaper has been unsupervised for the past few years.  This spring I told him that things need to change -- we shouldn't have all these weeds, the grass shouldn't be so weak, and there shouldn't be stripes on the lawn (which you can still see; lawn was mown on Weds and pictures were taken today).  I think he popped on a fertilizer treatment in the spring, and very reluctantly mowed to 3" high which I requested.  Otherwise, things are still bad.

The last straw was when I found little poison ivy plants in the lawn!! 

I'm ready to completely start over. 

1.  What grass seed?  As you can see, this is mostly shade.  Soil is acidic, and is under very mature oaks.  I'm interested in Eco-Lawn, blended and sold by White Flower Farm http://www.eco-lawn.com/ .  I haven't really gotten any solid reviews on it though.  Some people think it's a scam and I should just get my own fescue seeds.  Some users found it patchy and dying the spring after planting (although I think they didn't follow instructions properly, like mowing it very low before snow).  Paul -- what is your opinion on this grass seed?

2.  How to get rid of the existing stuff?  Spray an organic broad-spectrum herbicide?  Then what?  Dig it all up?  Or dig it up without herbicide?  Or "till" it all through, which I've read about on here? 

3.  I'd like to have this deep topsoil that you talk about, but I don't really want to add a foot of soil on top since there are trees, hedges, etc that would look strange if they were lower than the rest of the ground.  Can I dig new soil in or something, along with amendments (lime), compost, etc?

4.  Where can I find a lawnmower that will let me mow 4" or higher?  I'd prefer electric, even if it has to be recharged in between sessions/lawn sections.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Location: Zone 5
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Not sure where you are, but, can you keep geese on it?  They are a great help.
 
jeremiah bailey
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elizpermie wrote:
1.  What grass seed?  As you can see, this is mostly shade.  Soil is acidic, and is under very mature oaks.  I'm interested in Eco-Lawn, blended and sold by White Flower Farm http://www.eco-lawn.com/ .  I haven't really gotten any solid reviews on it though.  Some people think it's a scam and I should just get my own fescue seeds.  Some users found it patchy and dying the spring after planting (although I think they didn't follow instructions properly, like mowing it very low before snow).  Paul -- what is your opinion on this grass seed?

2.  How to get rid of the existing stuff?  Spray an organic broad-spectrum herbicide?  Then what?  Dig it all up?  Or dig it up without herbicide?  Or "till" it all through, which I've read about on here? 

3.  I'd like to have this deep topsoil that you talk about, but I don't really want to add a foot of soil on top since there are trees, hedges, etc that would look strange if they were lower than the rest of the ground.  Can I dig new soil in or something, along with amendments (lime), compost, etc?

4.  Where can I find a lawnmower that will let me mow 4" or higher?  I'd prefer electric, even if it has to be recharged in between sessions/lawn sections.



1. I'd go with the shade resistant fescues. Find out what you already have. See your local extension for help with this. If your lawn is already of a shade tolerant grass, then there are other factors besides the shade that need to be addressed. In that case the shade is not the problem.

2. I can tell you that Paul will refuse to help you until you swear to never use herbicides. I see no reason from your pics to have to resort to it anyways. No need for a complete do over. You have enough grass that you can expand from there.

3. Don't pile on soil for a huge, big, very important reason. It will slowly kill your precious trees. Their roots have become accustomed to a certain amount of oxygen. They may not die directly due to the lack of oxygen, but it will weaken them to the point that other nasty stuff can. First things first. You need to know your soil's stats. Get a soil test done, contact your local extension for more info. Then you can lightly top dress the soil as needed. Did your landscaper leave the grass clippings on the lawn? Or bag them?

4. I can't help you with the lawn mower, but I'm sure others here can.
 
paul wheaton
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Clearly she is not using herbicides - hence all the "other plants"

Elizabeth,

You mentioned zone 7, but I can't remember:  how cold does it get in zone 7?

Moss is an indicator for acid soil.  You should have your soil tested and probably will need to add a lot of lime.

Poison ivy needs to be pulled and fully eliminated. 

When the lawn is mown, do you leave the clippings?

eco-lawn:  if those people are making money, I'm gonna set up three different web pages selling cheap grass seed for ten times more than I paid for it and go on and on about all of the upsides and just not tell you about all of the other issues.  It all sounds really dreamy when you leave out the downsides.  Consider, "eco-lawn" does not grow very tall.  So if you just leave it, what will dandelions, hawkweed and thistles do?  At any point did the ad ever say that they didn't spray herbicides.  The pictures they show strike me as herbicide fest. 

Put the whole grass seed thing on hold.  Your "soil" is more like "dirt".  If you wipe out what you have and try to plant new seed there, you will just have a new variety of sad grass. 

What you want is a thick, healthy, lawn.  Let's focus on getting that the cheap and lazy way. 

Did you do the hole digging test to get an idea of how deep your topsoil is?

You are aware that it is natural for your grass to be dormant in the summer and in the winter, right?

As for the mower, see this thread
 
Jennifer Smith
Posts: 714
Location: Zone 5
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Good morning Paul and everyone,

I may have mentioned that I have been having great fun with the horse poo slurry. 

I intensivly graze my yard, no mowing.  I put a bunch of horses on for a few hours as needed.  Hope to cross fence the whole place for same purpose.  I discovered this while cleaning up after them.

I pick up horse poo in my cart (fresh or aged) mix well with plenty of water, let set, and pour.  The grass (and flower plants as I skim off some for them) love the boost of the liguid nitrogen and the thin layer of organic matter left on top is easily grown thru and held by the grass, or even weeds if weeds are all you have.  A handfull of grass seed can even be added...and for fun, wild flower seeds

I am even reclaiming the chat drive to be grass over chat.  When I know how to post a photo I will.

Oh, and I am working on a balance of both warm season and cool season grass for year round grazing.  For me lawn is just another word for pasture. 
 
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