Questions on: Renovating
Ron Smith, Horticulturist, NDSU Extension Service
Q: How far would I have to move it away from the drain field or could I raise the bed where it's at? I have a 1 1/2-acre yard, but my options are limited as far as location. (e-mail reference)
A: Put together some 1-foot by 6-foot planks and bring in some fresh soil. If you are going to grow root crops, use 1-foot by 12-foot planks and keep the garden where it is now.
Q: Perhaps you can help us or direct us to someone who can help us. We have moved into a small town in southwestern North Dakota. The lots we purchased are very uneven. There are no trees and the grass is bromegrass with some alfalfa mixed in. We would like to renovate the lots so that we have a nice lawn and some trees and shrubs for shade and diverting the strong northwest winds. Where do we begin? What trees or grass can we use? What won't grow here? Any insight you can provide us would be greatly appreciated. (e-mail reference)
A: You need to get in touch with the NDSU Extension agent in your county. That person may or may not be able to direct you to a reputable local landscaper who can advise you in designing a plan and making proper plant selections. The scaled plan is the most important starting point because without it you will have little continuity and harmony. The county agent should be able to give you a couple of publications on home landscape design ideas. Since you live in the southwestern part of the state, I would suggest working from the xeriscape publication for the most part. If you wish, you can download the publication from http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/landscap/h957w.htm. "Landscape Ideas for North Dakota Homeowners" (H-958) is another publication that is available, but you will have to get it from the county agent because it is not available on the Web. These publications should get you off to a good start.
Q: We have an area in our yard that was once a feedlot, so what's been growing there since we've moved in is a lovely crop of weeds. We haven't had time to deal with it, so we've just been mowing the weeds. At least it's green, except for a few spots that stay dirt. We'd like to seed it to grass this fall, but I'm not sure on the best way to do it using the least amount of effort. The terrain isn't perfect and there are a lot of rocks. If we were to dig it up, we would be spending the next three years picking rocks. We'd rather not do that and we really don't have the equipment. Do we need to use Roundup on the weeds? How long do we have to wait before we can seed after using Roundup? What kind of seed should we use? What is the magic date to seed in the fall? I've looked on the Web for answers, but the answers vary. No one seems to equate the answers to living in North Dakota. I should mention that the rest of our four acres that we mow is mostly pasture, but looks good enough for us if we keep it mowed, so we aren't after a perfectly manicured city-type lawn. Thanks! (Lisbon, N.D.)
A: Go to www.ext.nodak.edu/extnews/hortiscope/lawn/lawn.htm and click on renovating. You will find plenty of information there. Yes, kill everything off with Roundup. After it turns brown in about a week, seed into the dead grass. The dead grass will act as a mulch cover. Depending on what you seed, some results could be showing in 10 days to two weeks. Try to get this done as soon as possible. Otherwise, wait until the end of October and do dormant seeding.
Q: I had my yard seeded. The grass is coming up fairly well, but we have some spots that need more seed. My lack of experience brings some questions to mind. We have many weeds, so what is the best method to get rid of the weeds? When can we fertilize and what type should we use? In a nutshell, I just really need to know what I am doing and am hoping you can educate me. (e-mail reference)
A: There are basic steps to take to have a decent-looking, low-weed count lawn. Assuming it has been mowed at least three times this spring, apply ďWeed-B-GonĒ herbicide because it will take care of the broadleaf weeds. Fertilize again around the Labor Day weekend. Mow high and alternate mowing patterns to spread out compaction and to get a nice, dense turf. Overseed again in the fall to increase density to the optimum level.
Q: Iíve been told that when seeding a new lawn, itís a good idea to include some wheat rather than mulching with straw. Supposedly, the wheat will protect the grass until itís tall enough to mow. Do you know anything about this? (e-mail reference)
A: Oats or wheat can be used if straw is not available because it does not become a permanent part of the turfgrass ecosystem. The oats or wheat will die with continuous mowing and competition from the emerging Kentucky blue and other turf-type grasses. The winter cold also will kill it.
Q: I have an individual who has an area around her rural home that, for the most part, is crested wheatgrass. Drought the last few years has taken its toll on the wheatgrass, so kochia has moved in. She plans to do mechanical control of the kochia because she doesnít want to use chemicals. She would like to reseed with something for a ďnativeĒ look. What do you think of tall fescue? Is tall fescue more drought tolerant than crested wheatgrass? Do you recommend any other species? (Hettinger, N.D.)
A: Turf-type tall fescues are a species of cool-season grasses that turf breeders are improving for stress and drought tolerance. Because of their deep roots (going as deep as several feet!), tall fescues are the most drought-tolerant cool-season turf species. Tall fescues mostly are bred with endophytes, which are naturally occurring fungal organisms that enhance a plantís ability to handle stresses, such as drought, disease and insects feeding on the foliage. We successfully have grown it in trials in Fargo and Dickinson and are planning to do so in Williston. On a personal note, I grew it in my backyard for many years (bonanza cultivar) and found that it made a dense, vigorous turf. It requires half the water Kentucky bluegrass needs to maintain green and vigorous growth. Sow the seed in early summer (before July 1) at 6 to 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet to make an attractive, dense canopy. I think your client will be happy with the results.
Q: My neighborís daughter just bought a house north of us. The grass was seeded in 2000, which is when the house was built. I believe it needs replacing. If so, should she apply Roundup first, then till and reseed or sod? In addition, I moved a sandcherry bush. Would it be better to cut it back (shorter) while the root system develops or wait until fall? (e-mail reference)
A: If your slopes and general topography are OK, then do not till. Kill everything with Roundup. Scalp mow and collect the clippings. After that, power rake and again collect the duff the rake kicks up. Overseed with a quality Kentucky bluegrass mixture at a rate of 2 to 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Drag the seed in with the rake turned over. Water lightly, but frequently, until germination is evident. Fertilize after mowing three times. Keep the sandcherry as is. The leaves on top of the plant make the food for developing roots.
Q: We moved into a house three years ago and the grass/yard was in bad shape. The previous owner had aerated the yard before we moved, but I donít think it was fertilized. I use crab grass preventer/fertilizer in the spring, followed later with a weed and feed. Mid summer, just fertilizer, and in the late fall, winterizer/fertilizer. The front yard, facing south is very shaded so it takes some time to get going in the spring but does turn nice and green. The back yard faces north and has plenty of sunshine. The grass grows very fast and I mow it about three times per week at about 3 to 3.5 inches in length. I use a mulcher and very seldom bag it. The problem is that the grass turns yellow. The back yard, which gets a lot of sun, is now turning yellow and later in the year the shaded areas will start to turn yellow. I thought I was over-watering last year, but letting it dry did not cure the problem. Is possible that I am mulching too much and the grass is not getting enough oxygen? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: The grass turning yellow doesnít make sense to me. Generally, grass yellowing under the conditions similar to yours is when too much is removed at a particular cutting, but with your mowing two to three times a week that couldn't be possible. The only other potential problem is excessive nitrogen which renders the grass too lush and weak. I suggest getting a soil sample into the soil testing lab and having the N, P, K, pH, soluble salts, and organic matter checked. You need about a sandwich bag full of soil, no grass or thatch. That might provide a clue as to what is going on.
Q: About five years ago we purchased an old lake place. After much remodeling, landscaping, etc. we are now ready to tackle our lawn, which is about 75 percent weeds. What can we use to kill the weeds and fertilize the grass without harming the lake water? Our lot is sloped, so anything we put on it will likely end up in the lake. Also what grass seed would you recommend? The soil is rather sandy and there is intermittent sun and shade. (Waubun, Minn.)
A: I would suggest that you establish a filter system by laying sod along the edge of your property next to the lake. Simply till that up lightly, grade to a finished level and lay a strip of sod. Give it about 30 days to establish a root system then go ahead and kill the weeds with Round-up. Wait a week after applying, then mow everything down and seed with a general purpose mix such as Kentucky bluegrass, creeping red fescue and perennial ryegrass.
Q: My wife and I have purchased a two acre lot in a rural area. We would like to seed our yard but are really not sure where to begin. I really have no experience and I don't have a tractor. I have contacted 10 different landscapers and have received 10 widely varying prices to have the work done. All the contractors have talked about a rural mix of seed but didn't give us a definite breakdown of what is in the mix. Some have said they would plant it now while others would wait until mid May. It is getting confusing so I need some sound advice. What is the best way to level the yard? Should I till the land? What kind of mix should I use in my yard and would it be better to purchase the seed independently and then have them seed it for me? (Bismarck, N.D.)
A: Have someone with good references do some finished grading. Sow a quick cover of annual ryegrass or oats to help sequester weeds and prevent wash-outs from the rains. After mid-July, have everything killed off with RoundUp, and mow the dead material short, collecting the clippings. Sow into the litter left behind an all-purpose mix containing something like park Kentucky bluegrass, creeping red fescue, fairway crested wheatgrass, perennial ryegrass and Dawson red fescue. By doing it late in the season, you will get quicker germination and have fewer weed problems.
Q: We built a new house last fall and are about to have the final grading done to prepare for seeding the lawn. What is your opinion on hydroseeding? It seems expensive. Do you get a good lawn? What is the best grass seed mixture for this area? (Moorhead, Minn.)
A: It is more expensive than do-it-yourself, but less than sodding. The results for me have always been good. Our NDSU football practice fields and soccer fields were both hydroseeded with excellent results. A mix of Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue and some perennial rye works well. The contractor would know which ones perform best. After all, he has a reputation to maintain. Ask to see some areas that he has previously hydroseeded. Remember that no one's grass looks good right now.
Q: We built a new house last summer and will need to seed a couple acres of
lawn because 80 percent of it was destroyed. My kids are in college and I don't
want the work of mowing a bluegrass lawn every four days. Iím looking for a
slow growing lawn that doesn't need any watering after itís established and
doesnít need a lot of attention. It would be nice if we could mix types to
keep it fairly green from spring through fall, including the heat of summer. I
did some research and thought buffalo grass would be the way to go, but someone
said we'd be happier with a fescue blend. It was suggested we use a blend of 25
percent sheep fescue,
25 percent Salem fine fescue (replaces Cindy- tolerates dry), 25 percent south point chewing fescue and 25 percent Warwick hard fescue (replaces Ruby). How much topsoil will we need over the clay? Will the fescue blend stay green during the cool spring, hot summer and into the fall? If not, what's the answer? Should we mix the blend with some annual rye to get it started? When should we plant? (Lidgerwood, ND)
A: It looks like a good blend of fescues. The blend will green up nicely in the early spring and will be relatively drought and heat tolerant through the summer. It will not stay apple green when heat and drought are highest in late July and August. During that period it will go dormant, turn brown and then turn green again during the cool and damp fall season. There is no grass that I know of that will stay green through the hottest part of the summer without supplemental irrigation. If you are finishing your moving and soil prep in June, you are better off to throw some annual rye or (I would prefer) perennial ryegrass down and then over-seed in mid August with your blend of fescues. The ryegrass will germinate quickly and compete with the weeds. It will give you a chance to get the weed population under control before your late summer or early fall seeding. When it is time to plant the fescues, scalp mow the ryegrass, then power rake or run a drag mat over the area to rough up the soil surface. Seed at a rate of four to five pounds per 1000 square feet and run over it again with a drag mat to mix the seed into the soil. From that point on, either irrigate or hope for a series of reasonable rain events. You should use at least four inches of topsoil.
Q: As a creative person I want to come up with a rye, fescue or blue grass that has a color other than green or find some short native grasses that are already colored that can be planted with lawn grass. What I want to do is to create mosaics and patterns in lawns, sort of like painting a picture on your lawn. So far I've had no luck in finding anyone who has had success with this, nor have I found any short native grasses that are green, gold, red or even very dark green (almost black) that would work. There are various colored tall grasses but those are used for borders. Can you direct me to someone who has attempted to create colors in grass or perhaps short mowable colored grasses? (E-mail reference)
A: I have not heard of any mowable colored grasses. About the only thing you can attempt is to work with the different hues of green that the many cultivars of turfgrass provide. If you visit any land grant university where turfgrass research is carried on, you will be able to see the differences in the various shades of green. If I get wind of anything developing along your lines of interest, I will certainly let you know.
Q: I'm giving up on my garden. I'm going to make it lawn next year. Any recommendations on how to remove the weeds before seeding? Should I seed now or wait until spring? (West Fargo, N.D.)
A: Get the seed down now. Dormant seeding now will get everything primed and ready for next spring's emergence.
Q: I need to seed the back half of my lawn and didn't get around to planting it during the recommended time. I'm thinking the best way to do it is to dormant seed it. I just want to confirm with you the best time for doing it is late October or early November. You recommend using virgin wood fiber as mulch but I don't know where to find it. Can I use the green fluffy looking stuff that is readily available in stores? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Later this month or early November would be fine, depending on the weather. The objective with dormant seeding is to get the seed down, begin the germination process with the imbibing of water, but no emergence of roots or shoots from the seed. This is the "priming" stage, so the seed is ready to grow next spring. Make the seed application a little heavier than normal to make up for additional attrition over the winter months. The fluffy green stuff you are referring to is fine.
In fact, there is some on the market that is actually wood fiber.
Q: Can you scatter blue grass seed in a lawn to thicken it up without adding soil or scratching the soil first? When is the best time and what about fertilizing? (E-mail reference)
A: Oh how the retailers love that kind of thinking! I wish it were that easy. You should, at the very least, scratch up the surface before applying the seed then drag it in with the back of a broom (leaf) rake. The scratching can be accomplished with a power rake or de-thatcher.
Q: It has been a year since I replaced my sod in the back yard. It took well and I water it often but do not over-water. For the most part, it is green and acceptable with no patches or disease. It is the same soil-backed sod that my neighbor has but mine seems to have a lot of brown, dead grass giving it a green-brown look. It has been that way all summer, not just during this heat spell. Will this dead grass eventually disappear with aeration, thatch removal or top dressing with sandy loam? (E-mail reference)
A: Glad to hear it is doing ok. Mineral sod tends to be a little older than the peat backed sod, due to lower demand and use by landscapers. Yours should open up and take off after a fall treatment of core aeration and power raking, along with a shot of fall fertilizer.
Q: I have an individual who has seeded a new lawn using fairway-crested seed with oats mixed in. She wants to cover it with straw and is looking for guidelines as far as depth or any other information you can provide. (Hettinger, N.D.)
A: I would encourage her not to mulch, as it will only add more weed seeds. The oats she used will act as living mulch, which is much better. The oats will pop up and grow within a few days followed not long after by the wheatgrass. Tell her to begin mowing as soon as the oats reach four inches in height.
Q: We just moved to Moorhead in March. The lawn was in bad shape so we fertilized but missed a lot of spots. We fertilized again and now have a bunch of brown strips. What is our next step? (Moorhead, Minn.)
A: Give up! Don't do anything else except seek out a lawn professional to take care of your lawn. The grass will eventually recover.
Q: I have some thin and bare spots in my lawn. I have access to a plentiful supply of city furnished, well rotted and screened compost. Can I use the compost on the bare spots with some grass seed or do you think it would be too rich? Should I buy black dirt instead? (Jamestown, N.D.)
A: The city compost may have a pesticide residue that you don't want in your lawn. I would simply scratch up the surface, sprinkle some grass seed on the bad spots and mix in a quarter inch of soil on top.
Q: I've become interested in sweetgrass and I'm wondering if it is reasonable to expect it to grow in my back yard. I see that plugs are readily available by mail order but I have no idea about its hardiness or containment although it must have some stamina to proliferate in this part of the world. Your thoughts? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Sweetgrass (Hierochloe odorata) will likely not do well in our area as a perennial. I have seen it in Ohio and Indiana gardens. I tried it once on my own here in North Dakota but it died over winter. If the price is right for the plugs, I encourage you to get some and work up the soil well with peat moss before planting. Keep them in full sun and moist but not soggy. Even as annuals they are interesting and attractive. If we go back to our old-fashioned winters where we get a good snow cover before the really cold temperatures move in, there is a good chance that you could get the plants to survive for a few years. I would bet they wouldn't survive an open winter like the one we are currently in with the sub-zero temperatures. Give them a try because the scent from the foliage is worth it even for one summer!
Q: I'm interested in doing some landscaping with native grasses and plants so I need a local supplier of seeds, plants and general information. (Grand Forks, N.D.)
A: No problem - here are three companies that I would suggest you contact:
P.O. Box 306
Westfield, WI 53964
Prairie Moon Nursery
Route 3, Box 1633
Winona, MN 55987-9515
Prairie Restorations, Inc.
P.O. Box 1027
Hawley, MN 56549
Any one of them should be able to help and advise you. Good luck!
Q: We recently purchased a home just north of Jamestown on the west side of the reservoir although we are not directly on the water. We are in the process of purchasing two lots adjacent to our property. The lots currently are in grass with windrows on either side on the one parcel, and a grove of trees on one side of the other parcel. My thought is to turn much of the grass area into prairie. I am looking for information on the types of grasses and forages to plant for this area and resources for the seed. Jamestown is apparently the transition area between the tall grass and short grass prairie. At our prior home in Rochester, Minn., we put our side yard into tall grass prairie. While developing our prairie in Rochester, I worked with a man who took care of killing the existing turf grass (using Roundup and a broad leaf herbicide) in the area I had marked off for the prairie. He later burned the grass and disked the ground. We hand broadcast the grass and forage seeds. What method would you recommend to develop the prairie here? Do you know someone in the area you could refer us to as a ground preparation person? (Jamestown, N.D.)
A: The procedure you followed in Rochester should work fine where you are now located. I would suggest going back to the nursery you used in Rochester for advice as to what and how much to plant, since they are the experts. I don't know of anyone who would specialize in developing the site for you, but perhaps the nursery folks would know of someone. Maybe someone who reads this will know. If the latter turns out to be the case, I will have them contact you.
Q: I live in central South Dakota and let most of my lawn go dormant during our intense drought this summer. As we got a few rains, part of it greened back up but some portions are still brown. Do I want to water that grass now before winter or leave it alone? It is probably a combination of bluegrass, some brome, and possibly some type of rye grass. It is so brown it looks dead. (E-mail reference)
A: It probably is. I would suggest a dormant seeding toward the end of this month. Scalp mow and collect the clippings, then power rake to loosen up the soil and thatch. Sow a good mix of Kentucky blue, creeping red fescue, and perennial rye. It will not germinate this fall but will take off nicely next spring. While Kentucky blue and it's other northern kin can take some periods without moisture by going dormant, in some cases, it can kill the grass if it is extensive or the grass was under some kind of stress going into the drought.
Q: We purchased a home this spring and the yard was in rough shape. The previous owners had the grass "plugged" last fall and there were a lot of weeds in the yard. Our grass was the last in the neighborhood to green up and grow. I fertilized right away with crab grass preventer and then later followed up with weed and feed. It was pretty obvious, as time went on, that I was the only one who fertilized their yard. In July I used regular fertilizer but did not notice any extra greening up. Soon afterwards I noticed a lot of yellow grass coming up as if I had over watered. I have only had to water a couple of times this summer because of all the rain. I keep the grass at about 3 to 3.5 inches tall and always mulch. We have three large trees shading most of the front yard but the back is in full sun. The grass has thickened up really nice and all the neighbors comment on how nice it looks but the yellow patches bother me. What would cause this? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Since you said that the previous owners plugged their lawn, it leads me to believe that it was likely zoysia grass, which doesn't green up in the spring until the temperatures get into the 60 plus range, then goes dormant with the first frost of the fall. I am willing to bet that the grass spreads via stolons (strawberry like runners on the soil surface) rather than rhizomes like Kentucky bluegrass does. If I am right, then you arenít mowing your grass short enough. Zoysia should be mowed between one and two inches. Simply lowering the mowing height, a little with each mowing, might correct the problem. Also, if you could send a sample of your turfgrass to me, then I would know for sure what type of grass it is.
Q: Because of the drought this summer, much of my lawn grass has died and has been replaced with weeds. I am planning on replanting this fall but am not certain which variety of grass will work best for me. We live along the White River in western South Dakota so our soil is somewhat clay-like. We recently drilled a new well, and that water is very high in sodium, (1300mg/l), sulfate (3200mg/l) and conductivity (6500mh/cm). It is also very hard, testing at 70. The only flowers that grew for me this summer were zinnias and moss roses. Do you have any suggestions for grass varieties or annuals that might do well? ( Kadoka, S.D.)
A: You might try some Ruby creeping red fescue. If that doesn't make it, then try Roadway crested wheatgrass. If that fails, then try Fults alkali grass. If that fails, you are out of luck. Marigolds or wave petunias might make it.
Q: I need to re-sod my back yard. Is it too late to do it this year and would I have to worry about snow mold in the spring if I did it now? (Fargo, N.D.)
A: Itís not too late. In fact the timing is perfect. Try, if possible, to use mineral or "dirt" sod, rather than peat or organic sod. It establishes better.
Q: I enjoy listening to you on "Hear It Now" and have a question. Our front lawn in Minot needs to be re-done. Is it possible to have a lawn without too many weeds without using 2,4-D all the time? We don't like to use many chemicals and poisons, and I'm wondering what to ask for when we hire someone to redo our lawn. Is it important to have a deep layer of topsoil before we do the seeding or sodding? ( Minot, N.D.)
A: Thanks for being a fan of North Dakota Public Radio and "Hear It Now." The SOP (standard operating procedure) for lawn renovation is to kill everything off with Roundup, which is about the most innocuous herbicide that can be used for that purpose. Then, scalp-mow and collect the clippings, core aerate, power rake, fertilize and seed. Water until everything germinates, mowing what comes up in the meantime to about 2.5 to 3.0 inches. Take care to mow high and fertilize regularly after that, returning the clippings to the lawn each time, and you should have a relatively weed-free lawn without the use of herbicides.
Q: A local person asked what type of grass he should plant for a grass runway (airstrip). Do you have any suggestions? (Linton, N.D.)
A: You want a low-maintenance, non-seed head forming type that can form a decent sod under widely varying conditions and recover from physical injury. Fairway crested wheatgrass, Agropyrum cristatum, is perhaps the best one to consider, as it competes well against weeds if it isn't overwatered, and not mown too short, keeping it between 3 and 4 inches. Seed at a rate of about 200 pounds per acre, getting a seed lot with a minimum seed purity of 85-90percent and a germination minimum of 80-85 percent. Others can be used, but none will adapt to our prairie conditions like this one.
Q: It is time for repairing a lawn in a relatively dry area with lots of shade trees. What do you recommend for this type of planting? The soil is by a lake on a high bank area and appears to be of a type that was blown from lake bottom as it is very fine and seems to pack. The grass in the treeless areas grows like crazy. (E-mail reference, Perham, Minn.)
A: The best grass for shade areas is creeping red fescue. It will thrive under those conditions and make an attractive lawn. Try to get 'Ruby' or 'Dawson' cultivars. In our trials at NDSU, they have performed the best.
A: Yes, perennials; and I strongly suggest the book "Growing Perennials in Cold Climates" by Mike Heger and John Whitman. ISBN # 0-8092-2943-9, cost $50, obtainable at well-known bookstores. Itís loaded with pictures and ideas and well worth the investment.
A: If you are really picky about your grass, then you shouldn't grow trees in it. Other than in natural Savannah landscapes, trees and grass don't go together. If you are going to grow trees in a landscape then you have to give them somewhat of an open area around the trunk for the increase in size and for the eventual development of flange roots that provide some basic support for the tree as it gets larger. Maples and poplars are noted for developing surface roots in the turfed landscape. You might try the Redmond linden or one of the cultivars of honeylocust that are available in your area. They make good street shade trees with a minimum of surface disruption.
A: Covering the emerging grass with grass clippings might not be a good idea with hot wether, unless you spread them out to dry first on a pavement or patio before spreading on the lawn. I'm willing to make a small bet that your daughter's yellowed lawn is due to a low spot that collects salts and is poorly drained. She can topdress or at least core aerate before reseeding. Your father-in-lawís tomatoes are probably being eaten by potato beetles. Spray with Neem or pyrethrin, both of which are used in organic gardening and are effective in controlling them. Expect to have to do repeat sprays. Both are safe to use around humans.
A: Buffalo grass is definitely xeric; however, in addition to greening up late, it also goes dormant with extended drought, and usually with the first frost of fall. Also, the seed is expensive and poor at germinating. Plugs are the only practical way to go, but they too are expensive and require hand weeding between the plugs until the grass covers the area. Once established, it makes a fairly attractive grass--not a rich green, but a grayish green--and requires little input as far as water and nutrients go. A better grass for your area is tall fescue. Get either Bonanza or Rebel, Rebel Jr., or Rebel II. Do not plant Ky 31 tall fescue. That is a roadside grass. I have had Bonanza in my backyard for the past 14 years and I am pleased with the performance it has provided. It grows vigorously, requires one fertilization a year, and I water it about two or three times a year, more out of guilt than necessity. For every four to five times I irrigate my front lawn of Touchdown Kentucky bluegrass, I water the Bonanza once. Just make sure you sow the seed on the dense side--about 5 pounds per 1000 square feet--and you will have a lush, dark green lawn that will do well in both sun and shade. Mow it high, at 3 inches, and I'd be surprised if you didn't end up loving it!
A: Best approach is to get a power rake or lawn dethatcher and run it over the bare areas to scarify the soil. Broadcast more seed, and topdress with a wood-fiber mulch that will help hold it in place and extend the effects of rain or irrigation. Weeds will be a problem, but they can be beaten with persistence. Once you have enough grass to mow, you can then attack the weeds with the appropriate herbicide. Hang in there! A year from now this will be a memory hardly worth recalling.
A: Kill everything off with Roundup; mow short ( VERY short), collect clippings, power rake, seed, drag in, fertilize, water. Then wait, and by this fall you should have a decent lawn--with some weeds of course, but they can be easily controlled after the third to fifth mowing.
A: About half an inch of loose soil would be plenty. I would suggest fertilizing after the seeds have sprouted and you have mowed the lawn at least three times at 2.5 to 3 inches high. You want to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer, like 28-4-6, at a rate of about 3-4 lbs per 1000 square feet. Be sure that at least a third of the N in that analysis is from WIN (Water Insoluble Nitrogen) sources to prevent burning.
A: I would suggest a "Boulevard Mix" for your property. This is a unique mixture that contains Fairway crested wheatgrass, Fults alkali grass, common Kentucky bluegrass, fine fescue, and perennial ryegrass. This specific mixture can be obtained from a local landscaper. The price should be around $2.25 per pound. You would want to sow it at about 3 to 4 pounds per 1000 square feet. This mix is an exercise in Darwinism. If you decide to water and fertilize close to the house, the Kentucky bluegrass will likely dominate. If you choose to let the rest of your property go "natural" then the crested wheatgrass and fescue will dominate. You can apply the seed after it has been cultivated, then simply drag it into the loosened soil; don't bury it. Light is need for germination to be successful.
A: I suggest trying a major rental store to see if they should have a seeder, but I doubt it. You may have to hire it done by a lawn service company. If that option cannot be found, I know it will work if you do the following: After everything has been killed off, scalp mow the entire lawn, collecting the clippings. Go over the area in two directions, perpendicular to each other, with a power rake. Spread the seed with a drop or cyclone spreader Drag in the seed with the back of a leaf rake or a piece of chain-link fence. I've done it several times with great success. The power rake is easier to find than the slit seeder.
A: I would suggest ordering your seed from as local a supplier as possible. From South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska or western Minnesota, if possible. Here is one you might want to contact: Stock Seed Farms 28008 Mill Road Murdock, NE 68407 Phone: 402-867-3771 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.stockseed.com They have a beautiful catalog of prairie plants that can be used for reclaiming or naturalizing.
A: The grass I would recommend between your trees would be a sheep fescue/hard fescue combination. Both are bunch grasses that are drought tolerant and shade tolerant -- up to a point. The sheep fescue is more drought tolerant and somewhat shade tolerant; the hard fescue is more shade tolerant and somewhat drought tolerant. One will fill in where the other fails. I would suggest using Confront to control thistle. It is a product that has triclopyr and clopyralid as active ingredients and has done an excellent job of taking thistle out of turf for me, because of the excellent systemic action it has. Canada thistle has to be prevented from going to seed, either by mowing before it flowers or getting it with a herbicide like Confront. This would include perimeter areas around your property, as the seed can travel great distances. The best remedy for controlling Canada thistle is persistence and aggressiveness on your part. Don't give up the vigil!
A: Your part of the country is blessed with a wide range of grasses that can be grown. It is in what is called the "transition zone." While it is unlikely that any grass can survive the continuous onslaught of dog and kid activity, there are some suggestions I can make that may help, and encourage you to accept the fact that your "perfect lawn" likely won't come about until you do retire! There is a grass species called tall fescue. In that species, are several cultivars that have very attractive and durable turf characteristics. Here are some of the advantages of tall fescue: Wear tolerant - it has been used on many athletic fields where it is hardy. Shade tolerant - this species is second only to fine fescue for shade tolerance. Rapid establishment - tall fescue establishes quickly and reliably. While it is slower than perennial ryegrass, it is much faster than Kentucky bluegrass. Inexpensive seed price - just be sure that in taking a frugal approach you don't purchase "K-31" tall fescue. It is suitable only for roadside situations. You would not be happy with it as a turfgrass. Adaptable - to both warm weather of New Jersey summers, as well as just about any winter condition that your state has. Drought tolerant - it is among the most drought tolerant of the cool season grasses. Should a water shortage ever hit, I can assure you tall fescue will be the last to die out or go dormant. May contain endophyte - this is an internal fungus that has been bred into some of the cultivars or varieties that provides biological control of surface chewing insects. Try to find a variety that has at least 35 percent endophyte enhancement or infection. Some of the best cultivars that I am aware of are: 'Arid', 'Gremlin', ĎTaurus', 'Rebel Jr', and 'Rebel II'. 'Bonanza' is another popular one, and I have had it growing in my backyard for over 12 years now. The only thing I don't like about it is the need to mow it about twice as often as the 'Touchdown' Kentucky bluegrass in my front yard.
Q: Please advise me as to what I can do to level my lawn that has become very bumpy and uneven, possibly due to nightcrawlers. (Jamestown, N.D.)
A: Several things: roll with a ballast roller, topdress with topsoil, power rakeyou may try any or all.
Q: In my yard there is a sink hole where a basement used to be, but it was filled in with dirt many years ago. Through the years it has settled and now it is hard to go over with the lawn mower. I was wondering if we could fill up the hole with drift dirt (dirt that has drifted from fields on a fence line)? I know that dirt is really hard and I was wondering if it would be any good for growing grass. (Battle View, N.D., e-mail)
A: Normally the "drift dirt" or blow sand, is made up of some very fine material, and as a consequence can pack down quite hard. It should be fertile, and you can use it, but I would suggest that you incorporate some organic matter into that spot in the form of peat moss or composted barnyard manure. This will soften it somewhat and improve the tilth of the soil overall.
That done, it should produce a good looking turfgrass for you!
Q: A friend has done extensive remodeling to her home and her yard as been ruined in the process. They have several large trees in their neighborhood. Can you purchase sod for shade areas? Her whole yard will need to be redone and all of it will qualify for the shade sod. (Valley City, N.D., e-mail)
A: Shade sod will be hard, if not impossible, to come by. Sod farms are in 100-percent sunlight, but some mix in shade tolerant cultivars as well. If you can find out what cultivars make up the sod, then I can tell you whether there are any that are shade tolerant in the mix or blend. Also, it depends on the tree species. Some produce what is known as a "dappled shade" where there is sunlight that dances across the turf surface during the day. Most grasses will do acceptably well under such conditions. Where the shade is solid for most of the day, then the most shade-tolerant cultivars would be necessary. Some examples of shade-tolerant Kentucky bluegrass cultivars are Glade, Glade II, Touchdown, A-34, America, Bristol, Eclipse, Enmundi, Mystic, Nugget, Ram I, Sydsport and Chateau. Likewise, there are many cultivars of creeping red fescue. Chewings fescue and hard fescue are quite shade tolerant and are included in some shady lawn mixes. Of course, you can always purchase the standard sod that is available, and seed into it the shade tolerant cultivars that I have mentioned here as the original begins to thin out. Keep in mind that shade-grown grass survives better when it is mowed high (3 inches), fertilized less (about half the rate of sun grown grass) and not allowed to go into drought stress from the tree root competition.
Q: My yard is very compacted and extremely rough (my lawnmower takes quite a beating); it's also high in clay content. I picked up literature at the local Extension Office regarding lawn renovation. I have a fairly good catch of grass and reseeding does not appear to be needed - just better fertilizer management and an aeration program. That will help the grass but not the roughness. I am thinking about wetting the soil and then running a roller over the lawn. That will no doubt increase compaction. Will aeration ultimately mitigate this increased compaction? Other options I've thought about are tilling the lawn and starting over (uff da), or spreading black dirt over the existing lawn, but I fear that without incorporating the new dirt into the existing hard lawn I will have a poor interface. (E-mail reference, Bismarck, N.D.)
A: Rolling a lawn with a ballast roller is a good practice to correct the problems you mentioned. The increase in compaction is not bad, and is usually not a detriment to the turf. Yes, later core aeration will correct any excess compaction that may have taken place. You can also run a power rake over the lawn before rolling to help level things out somewhat, but do not till everything up. This will only pull up a ton of weed seed that will welcome the opportunity to germinate for you. Then you'll really have a headache!
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