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Dirt lot with weeds  RSS feed

 
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I rent a house with nothing but dirt and weeds in the back yard. Until recently it was very shaded. Trees have been cut.
The trees were not in my yard and are gone. There will be no wood chipping. I want to invest a MINIMAL amount of money. I do not own this yard. I have a dog and we need ground cover in the back yard.
Where do I even start to get grass back there? Live in Minnesota. Thanks
 
Posts: 145
Location: MA
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1) I'd learn about weeds and 2) learn about compost.  Start making it and/or finding sources of it.  Chip the wood that was cut down if you can for mulch and compost.

This comment and link might seem off-topic, but I learned a lot from what this guy teaches about weeds, which I feel like applies equally to any planting.  I feel like he has excellent techniques and strategies for organic weed-control, (other than mulch), like using tarps, flame, timing, etc.  I still like mulching the best, and that's a more common permaculture way, but maybe that method isn't always suitable or ideal, like with lawns or farming.  
 

I definitely screwed up last year by planting a lawn and not dealing with the dormant weed seeds first.  

I'd strongly encourage you to plant something more productive and/or lower maintenance than a lawn...  but you know, some people just love lawns.  
Personally I'd rather convert lawn to gardens of some sort.  Either way, I'd say 1) I'd learn about weeds and 2) learn about compost.
 
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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There are many fescue seed types out there, some even come coated for faster germination and establishment.
While it always helps to understand the weed situation and knowledge of compost is something most folks should have, for your situation it might not be the "best choice" since it sounds like you just need coverage more than trying to grow exactly what you want.

first thing I would do is probably get a bag or two of gypsum powder or even Ag lime to spread on the surface, wet it in and a day or two later start laying down grass seeds and scratching them in with a garden rake.
Once the first application has sprouted and been growing for a couple of weeks, make a second application of the grass seed and get those to sprout and grow for a couple of weeks before the first clipping.

Dogs tend to run "trails" into grass areas, normally these will show up around the perimeter, try to watch for signs of foot wear and reseed those areas by hand to keep bare soil from making a comeback.

Redhawk
 
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Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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Don't buy grass seed from a big box store, or any kind of national chain. My reason for this is that these companies tend to include some of everything so it will grow from southern Arizona to northern Maine. What you wind up with large percentages of the seed being totally useless for your area. If you go to a local seed nursery supplier and buy from what he sells bulk he'll have what grows in your area.

Here in SW Pennsylvania we use a local mix called Penn State Mix, well what else!!! It's a combination of mostly Perennial Rye grass a small amount of Blue Grass and a fescue.  None of these seeds would likely be a good mix for say Florida. So I'd say your local seed/nursery supplier will know best what you need. I have in the past amended the mix that's best for my area by adding a small amount of a high quality Blue Grass, which I might think might also be suitable for Minnesota?? Where I buy he has bins and empty bags. You scoop what you want, don't mix seeds in your bag. Tie a piece of rope around the plastic bag. What I did was buy a small amount of a quality seed and mix it later. If your location is a rental or a short term stay then don't go to this extra bother. I'd cover the seed with  a very small layer of mushroom manure. I shake some off a shovel very finely. Then water on a very fine spray. Keep it damp, but not soaked. Perennial Rye comes up in a week the others I mentioned will take about 3 weeks. It'll start sprouting here in March, probably later in Minnesota? You can do this now, but some will say it's too early.

Don't use Peat Moss to cover the seed with. For one, it's not popular here, but more important it's so dry and light that when it rains it floats away.

But if your seed mix contains only what's appropriate it winds up being cheaper.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Location: Vilonia, Arkansas - Zone 7B/8A stoney, sandy loam soil pH 6.5
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One of the sad things about planting pastures or lawns, the best seeds for both are usually the most expensive ones per pound.

As John mentions, go to a nursery or a farm type seed store to get your seed, it will be more pure, have better germination as well as being a correct mix or variety, plus they will have larger bags which usually means cheaper price per pound.

I am getting ready to seed a 1 acre silvo pasture area and I have calculated it will take at least 200 lbs. of the pasture mix along with a 40 lb bag of Bermuda seed to get the pasture started off well.
 
John Indaburgh
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Don't buy manure at the big box store either. It comes in bags, it's sold by weight. So what you get is mostly water and sand. I buy mushroom manure in bulk, in a pickup truck or delivered. It's somewhat dry and crumbly, you spread a light coating. I've tried this but how long would it take to dry that stuff. Spread it out across the garage, shred it with a shovel or hoe? A week, a month???... year.
 
Mike Phillipps
Posts: 145
Location: MA
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If you're going to install underground irrigation/sprinkers you might want to do that first so you don't have to dig up the lawn.   I'm cheap so I put one long-range one high in the middle, lol. The seed has to stay damp to germinate, and without any turf the soil dries out very quickly, and weeds pop up.  Who has time to water 3 times a day?  (Another reason sprinklers are good).  Almost any sort of mulch you put down is better than nothing in my humble opinioin.  Straw, peat moss, even stredded leaves or a tarp.  

Anecdotally the one time I bought more expensive seed it didn't grow better than the cheap stuff.  Get a variety of seed that has the attributes you want.  Sun/shade, appearance, traffic tolerance, drought tolerance, stuff like that.  The soil test didn't seem to help either.  Apparently organic compost is good for growing anything and buffers any pH.  I started composting in a garbage can and it's amazing the volume of scraps even a small number of people throw away.  Might as well put it to good use.  Lime is alkaline and increases pH which I suppose is good if you have hardwood trees, like oak trees that have acidic leaves.  Apparently Bryant must be recommending calcium to you since gypsum and lime are both made of calcium.  Wood ashes also have minerals.  In the fall I've been mowing over the leaves to mulch them into the soil, because why not?  It's easier, nothing to rake or throw away, and why not put the nutrients back into the soil?  

 
John Indaburgh
Posts: 353
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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I rent a house with nothing but dirt and weeds in the back yard.

Until recently it was very shaded. Trees have been cut. The trees were not in my yard and are gone. There will be no wood chipping.

I want to invest a MINIMAL amount of money. I do not own this yard. I have a dog and we need ground cover in the back yard.
Where do I even start to get grass back there? Live in Minnesota. Thanks



The cheapest way to do this is to sow some seeds. Sow them by hand, use enough so that you can see the coverage, see the spots you missed. If you sow the seeds in late March is Minnesota it's going to be wet, wet a lot, the seeds will germinate. Some will get eaten by birds. Most will sprout; the lawn WILL turn green. Trust me. Try to keep the dog off while it's sprouting, as much as possible. If I remember you need 3 to 5 pounds of grass seed per 1000 square. So if you have a 30 by 30 foot back yard you'd have about a 1000 sq feet.

If you cover the seed with straw you'll never get it out of the lawn. Every time the dog scratches he'll pull up ugly straw from back when you put in the lawn.
 
Mike Phillipps
Posts: 145
Location: MA
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If your vision for improving the property is shared with the land owner at all, then the two of you might be able to cooperate and collaborate on it.  That usually works out much better for everyone.  What exactly are your goals.  How long will you be there min/max?  Define "ground cover".  Plants like mullein and clover and others (that you can research) are more likely to grow in poor soil while improving the soil to the point where grass has a better chance of growing.  If the soil is poor then the grass might not take.  If you find any mullein plants you can save the seeds for free.  Google the problem maybe others found solutions.  Astroturf, lol.  
 
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