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1st Timer Here, Need Your Help!  RSS feed

 
Nick Wolski
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Hey everyone,

I live in South Boston or how many people here in the city refer to as "Southie" and I really need your help.  My girlfriend and I moved into our new place and we have a nice backyard with any area at the very back to grow grass.  So last night, I went online to try to get an understanding of what I need, but my impatience of not understanding anything I've read told me to just go to Home Depot and ask the 'master' in the gardening section and go from there. 
I have a good record of picking the right guy to go to when going to places like Home Depot, Lowes, etc.  Anyways, go up to an employee by the name of Jake, showed him my picture of the grass area of my backyard and asked him what I needed to buy and what would be my directions. 

The Home Depot I went to completely ran out of top soil and Jake asked me if this is something I want to jump on right away.  I told him yes, I want to get stuff now, go home, and get to work.  He told me there is an alternative and proceeded to point to Scott's Humus and Manure.  Based off the picture of the grass I showed, we concluded that 8-10 bags would be good and I grabbed 10 just to be sure.  He then continued to walk me to get Scott's Turf Builder Sun and Shade Grass Seed (3.46lb) and I bought one of those.  He then walked me to get a spreader and since the 'yard' in my backyard is not big at all, I just got the cheapest one that I can use with my hand.  Lastly, he took me to get lime and I couldn't remember exactly which one he had me get but it was a white and lime greenish looking one.  Before I headed to the cashier, I grabbed a rake and off to home I went.

Oh and as for the instructions, Jake from Home Depot simply told me to clear out all the leafs and crap with a rake, get a tiller or a shovel and dig out all the grass/weed/whatever roots.  Pour out the Scott's Humus and Manure and spread it evenly.  Then grab the lime and spread that over evenly, then start spreading seed (no more than half of the bag), and water the area.

Those were the main points that I got from Jake, I forgot the rest, and that's why I am here.  I was hoping if the stuff I got from Home Depot are good for me to get grass in my backyard, did I misunderstand Jake or did Jake not know what he was talking about, and I was also hoping if you could elaborate any further on my instructions before I proceed.  All I have done so far is rake out the leaves and crap, and I also took out some of the roots with a small shovel until I got tired.
Also, if you could please explain to what to do as if I was a 26 year old who has no idea what the hell he is doing and has never really done anything with lawns/gardening before, that would be awesome.

Thank you in advance, everyone!

I also posted a picture to show you all what I am working with.



 
Nicole Alderman
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Hi Nick, and welcome to Permies!

I'm not really an expert on growing a lawn. In fact, I'm generally trying to kill my grass so that I can convert it into edible stuff. Can't eat grass, ya know? But, you're looking for info on growing grass, not getting rid of it, so I'll see what I can do to help, and hopefully someone else who's grown a lawn from seed can chime in.

First off, this is a really great article on how to maintain a lawn: https://richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp. Letting the grass get a little taller really does help it have deeper roots, and thus be healthier and need less water, as it can reach down and get it's own.

I'm wondering if rototilling your lawn area is actually necessary--grass seeds seem to love sprouting up everywhere for me, without any rototilling. Do you want a lawn that is 100% grass, or would you be okay with some tasty dandelion and other useful "weeds" growing in there, as long as it all looks green?

If you don't care about some weeds, you could probably just:

(1) Lay down the hummus and manure without rototilling (you probably didn't even have to rake out the leaves, as they'll just compost into nutrients if left there),

(2) Add the correct amount of lime (make sure to read the bag so as not to over apply the lime! Without a soil test, you can overdose the lime and raise the PH too high),

(3) Spread the grass seeds and keep them watered.

Once the grass starts growing, you should only need to water when you stick your finger into the soil and it feels dry about 1-2 inches down. Then water deeply. It's better to water deeply infrequently, rather than to just water a little all the time. When you water deeply, it encourages the grass to grow deeper roots, which means you won't have to water as often--less work is always a plus, in my opinion!

I hope that helps!
 
Nick Wolski
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Nicole Alderman wrote:Hi Nick, and welcome to Permies!

I'm not really an expert on growing a lawn. In fact, I'm generally trying to kill my grass so that I can convert it into edible stuff. Can't eat grass, ya know? But, you're looking for info on growing grass, not getting rid of it, so I'll see what I can do to help, and hopefully someone else who's grown a lawn from seed can chime in.

First off, this is a really great article on how to maintain a lawn: https://richsoil.com/lawn-care.jsp. Letting the grass get a little taller really does help it have deeper roots, and thus be healthier and need less water, as it can reach down and get it's own.

I'm wondering if rototilling your lawn area is actually necessary--grass seeds seem to love sprouting up everywhere for me, without any rototilling. Do you want a lawn that is 100% grass, or would you be okay with some tasty dandelion and other useful "weeds" growing in there, as long as it all looks green?

If you don't care about some weeds, you could probably just:

(1) Lay down the hummus and manure without rototilling (you probably didn't even have to rake out the leaves, as they'll just compost into nutrients if left there),

(2) Add the correct amount of lime (make sure to read the bag so as not to over apply the lime! Without a soil test, you can overdose the lime and raise the PH too high),

(3) Spread the grass seeds and keep them watered.

Once the grass starts growing, you should only need to water when you stick your finger into the soil and it feels dry about 1-2 inches down. Then water deeply. It's better to water deeply infrequently, rather than to just water a little all the time. When you water deeply, it encourages the grass to grow deeper roots, which means you won't have to water as often--less work is always a plus, in my opinion!

I hope that helps!


Nicole, thank you so much!  I definitely would want it to be 100% grass so I figure I will just go on ahead, remove all roots, leaves, branches, etc, and spread the humus and manure and mix with the rototiller, is that correct?
 
Nicole Alderman
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From my understanding, the rototiller should chop up those weeds pretty well, so much so that they die, so you shouldn't need to yank them all out by hand. I've never used a rototiller, but I'm pretty sure the reason people use them is so that they don't have to weed by hand. There's some weeds that you really don't want to chop the roots up, though--such as bindweed and mint, as each of those tiny roots will sprout a new plant. Do you happen to know what type of weeds you have, or maybe you could post some pictures of them?

But, as long as the weeds are just the common sort, you should be able to leave the sticks and leaves and weeds, put the compost/hummus on top (I think you'd sprinkle the lime at the same time, but I'm not positive), and then till it all. Then add your grass seeds and water.
 
David Livingston
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Nick
I am english and if you ask anyone we do lawns .  If you go to homebase and ask them they will sell you stuff because its their job you will make them very happy .  Now if you want to spend your life making them happy then thats your choice . I will tell you the english secret   shhhhh   all you do is cut a little but very often, in the spring maybe twice a week , minimum once a week rest of the year  it should only take ten mins max .DO NOT MULCH  Thats it . If after a year there is no lawn and you are fighting nature and it does not matter how much money you spend you will always have to spend more so plant something usful insead is my advice .
 
Travis Johnson
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My take is slightly different.

I would spend $15 on a soil test as I think you have some other issues going on there. Knowing New England, and seeing a photo of the location, I make the ASSUMPTION that snow gets pushed, shoveled or snowblowed onto that lawn. It is very likely that if during the winter snow gets piled there that it is teeming with salt and other ice melting agents. Sometimes they make your soil really green up, but like everything, it must be in moderation. New soil will help in that endeavor, but soil will breaking up that compaction and getting the right soil amendments.

As for what gets planted, one problem we have in New England is that our winters are brutal. Keep in mind what the area is like in all four seasons. One tree in the wrong spot can make snow removal almost impossible.
 
Chris Giannini
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If I were you I wouldn't bother growing grass at all. Why do you want to grow grass? I would look into growing things you can use in your daily life like food, medicine (etc). After all this is a permaculture forum. Grass is just something to look at. Unless you want to look into growing "grass" now that it's legal in MA. 
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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First off, you will need a shade tolerant variety of grass for that area. What has happened there appears to be shade die out of what was not clumping fescue, the  clumping fescue looks exactly like what remains.

As to your question about "Jake", He doesn't understand lawns, it isn't that he isn't doing what the Scotts people recommend, he is doing that which will cost you lots more money than required.
That is his job by the way, so it isn't really a bad thing as much as it is a "not a Horticulturist" thing.

Check the seed package he sold you, if it doesn't say "shade tolerant" then take it back and get seed that states it is shade tolerant.
spread half of the "soil" then broadcast the seed and cover with the other half of the "soil" water in with a gentle rain type sprinkler, this will need to be watered every time it dries out (in high heat that is twice a day) for the first two weeks.
Once the new grass has sprouted allow it to grow for 2-3 weeks then cut it 2.5 inches tall and lay down a second seeding, repeat the watering cycle till it sprouts and has grown for two weeks, again, cut to 2.5 inches.
Now you have established a fairly thick lawn that will grow in your shady back yard. If the grass isn't thick enough, just add another seeding cycle.

I have installed lawns where the clients wanted a "carpet" of grass, this type of very thick lawn usually takes seed spreading 3 or 4 times but results in a grass thick enough to feel like carpet under your bare feet.

You might want to spread a thin layer of agricultural lime and wet that in before you add the "soil" and first seeding.

Redhawk
 
Glenn Herbert
gardener
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Great advice from Bryant. I would only add that there is no reason or benefit to removing the grass that is there, as it has proven to be a survivor in the setting. It may or may not grow through the added layer of material you put down, but if it does you are ahead of the game.
 
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