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jools 06-26-2009 09:49 AM

Grass problems
I have been trying to clean up my lawn and get grass to grow for almost 2 years now. Originally our house was brand new, so the front and back lawns were topsoiled but not seeded. I seeded the front and back lawns in the spring 2 years ago, raking it in afterwards, and watered twice a day for the duration of spring and most of the summer, but the grass grew in sparsly at best. I then overseeded in the fall. The next spring I seeded again, continuing to water, but I didn't notice any more grass, only massive amount of every kind of weed imaginable starting to emerge. This spring I overseeded again, but again, no furthur grass, Just more weeds and a thick layer of thatch. There is some grass there from the original seeding, but it is sparse at best. I seeded about 5 weeks ago, and when I walk around the lawn I can still see seed sitting on top from when I seeded. Any thoughts? Somebody told me that if I aerate then seed I might have more luck. Thanks.

Kap 06-26-2009 11:53 AM

Are you using fresh seed? Watering twice a day may not be enough. The seed needs to stay moist all day every day until it germinates and for a few weeks after.

Did you use any lawn treatment chemicals such as weed and feed? Some of those will prevent seed germination or kill upon germination.

ccarlisle 06-26-2009 12:57 PM

Where are you and exactly what kind of seed did you use.

jools 06-26-2009 01:34 PM


Originally Posted by ccarlisle (Post 293381)
Where are you and exactly what kind of seed did you use.

As far as weed and feed... no I didn't use it. I used brand new seed, which to according to the bag is a mix for sun/shade, made up mostly of KY Bluegrass. I am in Southern Ontario.

ccarlisle 06-26-2009 02:54 PM

Well then, you probably have the same mix as is sold here, about 50-70% KY bluegrass - and fescues and hopefully perennial ryegrass in smaller proportions. In my experience with new lawns, a good fertilizer is required as most grasses, especially KYB, eat it up.

You might just consider that the topsoil that was put down as contributing zero nutrients to the lawn and start by fertilizing it with 30-0-30 or something like that, but something high in nitrogen. It'll take about two months of constant watching over it before you'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. In about 3 weeks you'll start seeing the last of the 3 germinate strongly enough to be considering mowing (at 3" high - no less). No scalping new lawns!

Water daily for an inch per week. In time the weeds will be eliminated becaue all you can really do is put down prohibited 2,4D so nature will have to step in here, hence the need for fertilizer.

jools 06-26-2009 04:32 PM

Thanks for the great advice! So are you suggesting we reseed before following these steps or just start the process with the lawn as is? It's just that the grass is a little sparse right now...

ccarlisle 06-27-2009 06:43 AM

Here's what we do: we will have aerated the soil at some point prior to this if not we do so now since we have clay soil. We make sure that there is fertilizer down, so we start with that using a broadcast spreader; next we rough up the surface by raking with a straight rake to provide a little depth for the seeds to fall into. Then we seed according to the directions on the new seed package, using a spreader first in one direction, then the other. Then, we cover the seed with soil to a depth of about 3/4", so that no seed is left exposed; then we water, every day for about an hour, sometimes we cover with fabric - but not always - to provide water to the depth of the seed.

After 3-4 weeks you'll see growth. Depending on that growth, we may mow. 3" height of blade, mulching mower. Then, we fertilize once more, with half the regular quantity to provide more nitrogen. Hand pick any weeds, ie. plants that are not required (clover, dandelions, plantain etc). After about 2 months or so, and after mowing and watering regularly, we start to see filling in of the odd spaces there may be, which is a good indication of lateral growth of the grass, which is what we want. We cut off the top one-third of the grass blade regualarly and leave the clippings, once mulched, on the soil.

This operation is called overseeding but you'll have to see it as starting from scratch. If you don't get these results, something is amiss and I'd suggest you get your soil pH level tested, something you can do yourself. But most soils are slightly acidic, close to neutral, but most are lacking nutrients.

From that point on, mowing the lawn correctly and at the right time become the most important thing you can do to affect the longevity of the lawn. Mow badly and your lawn will stress out in no time. Signs of stress include bare spots, colour changes, weeds and pests.

KY bluegrass is the ultimate sun grass for Northern regions...well maintained, it'll become what most people dream about when they vision a perfect lawn in their minds. We're lucky in that regard because they don't have the same in the Southern US, starting at around the level of Kentucky incidentally. KY bluegrass can grow to 18" high, is not native to North America and is the most studied, researched grass out there. Must be well watered, however.

Have fun!

jools 06-27-2009 05:15 PM

Thanks so much!!! I'm going to pick up the fertilizer and seed tomorrow and get this whole process started this week. You advice is outstanding and I'm sure we'll have some great results. Thanks again! I'll keep you posted on the results.

downunder 06-29-2009 06:30 PM


start by fertilizing it with 30-0-30 or something like that, but something high in nitrogen.
Sorry- Nope! I hope that was a typo and was intended as 0-30-0. Actually, I have never heard of a 30-0-30.

Look at the "starter" fertilizer formulas. They all have a high middle number. Ask at any garden store. Do a search for fertilizer. N is for top growth, P is for roots and blooms, and K is for overall health. Generally speaking. I use a water soluble in my irrigation water. Whatever I happen to have that is in a 1-2-1-, 1-3-1, etc. Higher in the middle. When I have a chance, I also till in some super phosphate or triple super phosphate granular when I am prepping the soil. 0-15-0 or 0-45-0.

Find my post from last year, you will see some excellent root growth from Friday to Monday on some bermuda sod we laid in Georgia.


The seed needs to stay moist all day every day until it germinates and for a few weeks after.
I might disagree with staying moist for several weeks (at least with the humidity here in GA), but absolutely on target until it germinates and you can at least see it standing like green fuzz.

ccarlisle 06-29-2009 07:32 PM

Uh-oh...goofed! You're right downunder, that should have read a starter formula such as 0-30-0 - not that that exists, but a product higher in phosphorus. I was thinking of a higher nitrogen formula once the seeds have started about a month after spreading.

Sorry for the confusion.

DUDE! 06-30-2009 07:20 AM

although I don't care to do it, worked with a guy who always put a hay cover over newly seeded areas, helps to keep the soil moist. I hated trying to clear up the area once the seed started growing. Being a new house, chances of the contractor putting back top soil, not fill soil over the area probably aren't great, maybe you should have the soil tested before adding more time and material.

downunder 06-30-2009 07:18 PM


And I thought I was the only one!:thumbup:

ccarlisle 06-30-2009 07:32 PM

Perhaps you will corroborate this too, downunder, that phosphorus is one of the least elements that a lawn will actually lose...I mean I've hardly ever had to 'add phosphorus' to a site - although we do. We focus on pH and nitrogen first, then perhaps Potassium but Phosphorus never seems to be so low that we can't grow on it.

That's probably because we don't use construction rejected subsoils:laughing:

downunder 07-01-2009 03:12 PM

One caveat-
My experience and suggestions are from the south. Soils vary widely so adjust my comments accordingly.

One reason that phosphorous is not commonly added is that it moves very slowly in the soil. That is a reason for incorporating it into the soil during preparation before planting, sowing, etc. It is not readily "used up" as such but soils can be low and when you are trying to establish plants longterm it doesn't hurt to add some in the prospective root zone. At least in my opinion. I have NEVER heard of anyone having burned roots when they added some 0-15-0 or 0-45-0 during prep work. If plants do not readily establish and then you decide to do a soil test and find out that you need to add P, it will take a year for it to move much over an inch or two. And where are the roots that need it? 6-8 inches deep. So put it in there first so the roots will grow into it. Obviously, liquid fertilizers will be available sooner that granulars.

In contrast, nitrogen leaches quite readily. Too much nitrogen and you will burn the roots. Not as much a problem with P and K.

I wish more people at least were aware of pH and how it affects nutrient uptake. But I honestly don't think that it is one of the first thought of things in the nutrient arena. I do agree that too many people throw some N on, get quick leaf growth and then assume that the plant is growing just fine. Not necessarly so.

A quick review of contemporary thought:
Nitrogen is for top growth, i.e. leaves. For example, grass is mostly leaf structure so lawn fertilizers are usually significantly higher in nitrogen.
Phosporous serves primarily for root growth, plant vigor, and flower/fruit production.
Potassium is a little less understood. It seems to be more of a helper for other nutrients and supports metabolism but necessary nonetheless. Some sources suggest that it aids in winter hardiness.

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