Hi Paul, What a wonderful site! Thank you. I'm thrilled to have found you right now. We recently bought this 100 year old house is Seattle and the lawn has been neglected for 14 years. I know when it was maintained, it wasn't done organically. So, does it matter now? Is the soil already tainted? We literally have lots 10x10 patches entirely covered in dandelion greens, no flowers. We've been using the Weed Hound (LOVE IT, highly recc it), but we have hundreds of square feet to do. I've been recc 2 products-I was going to go buy Scott's Turf Builder 2 Plus (twice a year), but I bet you'll say NO WAY. The other product was Ringer. We are having our wedding in the back yard in mid Sept and would like to have some plan for what to do between now and then. I've read about the PH, and the mowing high and watering....and your recc to some people about Cowpeas and Fescue. We have a young daughter and will likely have another baby...so not using pesticide would be great, but we also are busy and barely have enough time to read let alone spend hours weekly on the lawn....Any suggestions? Thank you.
How do you feel about a thick turf for the wedding that could include more species of growies than grass?
How do you feel about having a super beautiful lawn this year - in time for the wedding, and then planting some new seed next year?
My thinking is this: The best ingredient for a great lawn organically is pateince. Follow the steps I've outlined, and in a couple of years you will have hardly any weeds and you will do hardly any work. For the wedding, you'll have some weeds, but .... I wouldn't mind a few weeds at your wedding ... but maybe you would.
Of course, with an event coming up like you describe, my thinking is slightly shifted. You may be willing to exchange some effort and some money for a nice lawn before the wedding.
I can think of several approaches.
One is to toss out annual ryegrass seed. It germinates fast. It grows fast. With some organic fertilizer and some water it should compete well with any weeds. It will require frequent mowing. But when the first frost hits, it will die and then you will have a big mud patch.
I think tall fescue is the best stuff long term. But it takes a couple of weeks to get started. And during that couple of weeks, it must be kept moist - making a great environment for all other weeds which can then easily outcompete the tall fescue seedlings. You could rent a rototiller and till your lawn (or the bad patches) thus doing a reasonable job on wiping out most of the weeds, and then planting the TF seed. The weeds might be making a comeback about the time that the TF is getting well established.
Cowpeas (aka black eyed peas) are an option. They will take about 90 days right out of the middle of the summer. And then they will leave behind an excellent soil to start your TF. But the TF might not be lush/thick enough for the wedding in time.
Buckwheat is another option. It is not a legume, so it would require a wee bit of fertilizer - but it grows to full size in about 30 days and smothers weeds. You could then try to plant your TF seed in the middle of the summer. TF seed is best started in the spring or early fall, but I think you can start it in the middle of summer if you use a lot of water.
If it were me preparing for the wedding, I would be okay with a few weeds at the wedding. So I would probably do some soil tests which would show a slightly acidic soil - then lay down some lime. I would then add fertilizer. I would probably water the lawn all through the summer in order to help it get a good, thick turf. I might check to see what the soil depth was .... But in the end, take a very cheap and lazy approach. It will look fine (by my standards) for the wedding.
But for you ..... most folks want something that looks weed free and pristine. You are probably of that camp. And the only thing keeping you from using herbicides/pesticides this year may be a plan I lay out now. My impression is that you are willing to put in a little more time and money. In which case, give me an idea of how much time and money. Maybe the thing to do is to find out how much/little topsoil you have. If it comes up short, this could be the perfect time to bring in $500 worth of topsoil (burying all the weeds) and then toss some tall fescue seed on it. With proper organic care you can have a picture perfect lawn by the wedding.