I am determined not to use chemicals in our yard/garden at all. My husband not so much. Our lawn looks terrible. I mowed high and left the clippings last year, but the turf is full of a thick bladed grass that grows in clumps and makes the lawn very bumpy and uneven looking. It's also very thin in several large areas. There are really not many 'weeds' in the lawn otherwise. My husband was a traditional landscaper for years, so not having a golf course looking lawn makes him crazy. We agreed to try overseeding as opposed to using the bags of synthetic fertilizer in the back of the shed. However.......we had a misunderstanding (my fault) on the mower height adjustment before seeding and now our entire lawn has been scalped. It is so short! The cut grass was not bagged, so the super short grass is piled on top of the turf. I would say there is about a 50/50 mix of brown and green cut grass. I went ahead and threw the seed on the grass clippings because I didn't know what else to do. Any suggestions at all?
Rake off all the old grass, take a fork and stab the lawn and gently loosen it (or rent out a lawn aerator machine, or buy / make some lawn aerator shoes), top dress with pelletized chicken manure, blood and bone, etc (something with good levels of nitrogen, maybe even use watered down urine), and then put in stakes and bird netting after you seed it with a grass variety suited to your area and how much sun the site gets. Annual raking, aerating, and fertilizing is a good practice that encourages lots of nice new growth.
Erm, that's one way, but a lot of effort. I wouldn't rake it because the thing you need to do once you've seeded bare patches is spread cut straw to keep the moisture in (like a mulch for the grass) until it can get going. Your cut grass is the mulch the seeds need. It should also protect the grass seed from birds.
If your husband can *stand* it, seed it with white clover. It will fix nitrogen and help the grass grow better.
I'd get rid of the fertilizer in the shed. Temptation to your husband, just sitting there waiting for him to have a weak moment. The more fertilizer you add, the faster the grass grows and the more you need to mow. Letting the clippings decompose in the sward, IMHO, is enough fertilizer. In an ideal situation all you'd need to add is lime from time to time to keep the area slightly alkaline (grass likes that better).
And I'd be concerned if there aren't weeds. Like, what kind of chemicals were applied before you got there? Any chemical-free lawn should have dandelions and plantain, imho. Tell the dear man that you are Permies now! Dandelions and plantains are edible and medicinal! You're growing FOOD in the lawn, with no effort!
Thank you for your advice, James and Renate. I failed to mention that we had mechanically aerated the day before, so we're good in that respect. You are right - I do need a soil test, however, we are very alkaline in Utah. I'm pretty sure there's not much "soil" left in the lawn area - just dirt. This is part of the reason I'm worried. That and I know how much synthetic fertilizer, 2-4D, etc. were applied for the first 8 years we lived here. D: There are 2 areas where the grass was killed out from a tetherball stand several years ago and neither grass nor weeds have filled in. DH is applying milorganite right now (we can't use the chicken manure due to my life-threatening allergies, so I hope this is a good 2nd choice). I think I'll wait and see if any of the seeds sprout (2-3 weeks???) and then (either way) apply a layer of compost and seed again. I'm doubtful they'll sprout because they probably won't even make contact with the soil/dirt because of the layer of cut grass. So, maybe I should just go ahead with the compost and reseeding now. Hmmmmm..... Meanwhile, I will get a soil test. I would love to hear your opinions/suggestions.
When you say scalped what height is the grass? Or do you mean you've mown so low that the blades hit the soil and there is no grass at all, or that the grass has died because it was stressed from having so much cut off? Can you post pictures of your lawn?
Can your grass get sunlight and air? If so it'll bounce back, grass is tough! Especially if you've had it long in the past and it has good roots. If your clippings dry out and form a thick mat stopping air and light then you do have a problem. If you did have any broadleaf plants in the lawn, they'll be hurt a lot more by the mowing as they grow at the leaf tips - thus your grass will dominate.
I agree that broadcasting seed on top of clippings will have a poor success rate. as you say the seed must have good contact with soil. Waiting two weeks is a little thing in the greater scheme of things and you may find that it was a nonissue - otherwise overseed again. The big issue is how you feel about how the lawn looks in the meantime, and more importantly how your husband feels about it. It's good to have our spouses support.
Would it be worth getting professional help? A friend of mine and used a company called Green lawn care I think, these guys http://www.greenlawncare.net/locations/Pennsylvania.html They come and do an evaluation, they also use natural fertilizers too, all animal/plant based. I think chemical fertilizers will have quick results but natural ones are much better in the long run and your OH will see this in the end. It's just a matter of being patient.
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