Neglected Yard (long post)
Glad I found this place!! has a bit of everything :thumbsup:
When we moved into our house it the back yard was all weeds; Purple Thistle, Black Oat, Fox tails, Scourge, buttonweed, burclover, milkweed, etc etc. After we finished moving in the weeds were at least 4-5ft tall. This is our 2nd year here and teh backyard is currently bare. We recently had the first rains and less than 4days later I am now seeing tiny blades of green (uh oh).
With the help of my father we are going to plant a lawn. Over the summer I was able to rake a bunch of the dried fox tails, and it filled up 2 of those yard trimming bins.
I have a few problems with the yard; the ground right now is sooo loaded with seeds.
How can I plant a lawn and minimize the effects of the weed loaded dirt? DO you think I should go with SOD over seed??
The other major problem is that we live in the foothills, along the edge of the city (we really lucked out finding this place :thumbup:) when the yard is green, the critters dig the hell out of it for grubs and worms. How can I prevent a newly planted lawn from getting torn up at night??:furious:
Thanks a bunch!
Hey Rich - welcome to the site! It's a good one.
First of all, regarding your lawn, it's important to admit to yourself that you have a long drawn-out process ahead of you. You'll be working on this for years, which is something we all do.
That said, you cannot do much about the fact that your soil is loaded with weed seeds. But don't despair. ALL soil is loaded with weed seeds. That's why battling the weeds is a constant thing for everyone. My preferred method is a garden sprayer, in which I mix 2-4d and apply it several times per year (2-4d is an old-school broadleaf weed killer that is sold by a lot of manufacturers). Just realize that if you spray 2-4d on or around your wife's flowers, it will kill them - then she will probably kill you...
Personally, I prefer seeding grass rather than applying sod. Much cheaper, and the long-term result is (in my opinion) much better.
Lawn critters provide another unending challenge. First of all, you can spray your lawn with Spectracide to help kill the grubs. That's a partial fix. Beyond that, you have to wage war on the critters. I poison moles, shoot rabbits, etc. Some people prefer to set live-traps.
Mostly though, again, just keep in mind that this is a LONG process. Don't get discouraged.
Used to live and practice landscape design in your exact part of the World. My own home was in the East Foothills of San Jose but not within City limits.
Your problem was common to clients of mine and I often specified that as part of the landscape prep process the soil be temporarily sterilized. You will need a contractor with a license and a permit for some materials. Two I hope I remember correctly are Vapam and Calcium Cyanimide. Both are active for about 30 days and will kill off insect eggs, disease spores, weed seeds, etc. and give you a nice clean soil environment to work from. One required the ground be tarped.
Once that process is out of the way you should definitely get a soil test although I can probably guess your soil situation starting with heavy clay soil. You will want to ammend it with organic matter and other things to try and make it a little more friendly.
Then the prep for any lawn, whether seed or sod is basically the same. You will want to fold in the ammendments and till the soil nicely. If there is any chance you have room to get a tractor in it could really help with the clay. Then you want to rake and grade everything evenly.
Seed is of course the cheapest and with patience and an irrigation system and nice top dressing your lawn should establish fairly quickly. Sod is actually hardly to get established in the soil type you have. A hybrid that is a wonderful approach is hydroseeding. It is the fraction of the cost of sod. A slurry of fertilizer, seed and top dress gets sprayed on the prepared surface and in now time seeds will start germinating. Hydroseeding is nice because it holds to grades and slopes nicely.
Make sure you roll a seeded or sod lawn with a half-filled landscape roller to ensure contact. You do not need to with hydroseeding. Make sure sod is fresh and the soil moist, but not soggy when you lay it down. Water it as you put it down---do not wait until it is all in place.
Obviously once your lawn establishes you will want to mow high look to insect and weed management. It will be a challenge if you have the foothill grasses and plants blowing seed into your yard.
DrHicks & Sdsester,
Thanks for the input, so far I like the forum covers a bunch of everything. I'm in the East Bay Area by Niles. So yup not so nice clay to work with. I hope I can find a rototiller that can work on the clay.
Havent seen any rabbits here but we do get skunks, possums, racoons. In fact in this area I've seen a whole clan (15 of them) of racoons. My bet is it's the racoons going for the grubs. I want to put up a hotwire around the fence :jester: but not sure how well that will work.
The backyard is in the shade until 11 or so then full sun until the evening (4pm), then back in the shade.
I need to finish mapping and plan out the sprinklers & bubblers and I'll be ready to get this thing going.
Do you think it's a good idea to till in some sort of topsoil ro help break up the clay?
What kind of grass-mix would you recommend?
There are a lot of places where you can rent a rototiller. It'll probably cost about $75 for a whole day. You might also want to look into "overseeding."
I'm going to let Sdsester talk about the type of seed, as I'm not at all familiar with what works well in your neck of the woods.
Rap....your getting some good advice.....
One important thing to remember.....when it comes to weeds....you can't expect instant results...stay with it and you will eventually get it managable....but you will always have weeds....unless you can stop the birds from dropping weed seed laden poop on your lawn....
In your area....Marathon II would be a good choice....it does well in cooler climates...and in our area, I think sod is better than seed....
If you put down sod....some weeds will grow through it....but not much....you pretty much choke them out....then just yank them as you see them.....constant mowing helps...weeds tend to be taller than grass so your cutting them down before they can seed....
The first couple of years you want to bag your grass if it has a lot of weeds in it....after that....mulch mowing is good.
As for critters......are they feeding or just passing through? In most cases, block walls will keep the racoons and opossums out.
DrHicks - not sure if I will be needin a recipe :blink: anytime soon. I dont have night sites on my Hoyt (......yet) LOL!
Well first lets rule out overseeding clay soil. You really have to break up what you have to expect to get far with seed. You will just drown it laying on top of clay. As you know, the Bay Area clay can be hard as concrete when wet.
I don't buy the sod as weed seed barrier either but for lots of other reasons I will try to talk you out of sod for your soil type. You really have to make sure sod bonds with the soil and it is so easy to overwater and clog airspace in the clay shut. I have seen sod lawns in your part of the World that struggle after years and are essentially still just growing as a sod layer on top of the clay with gallons of water needed.
I would encourage you again to think about fumigating your soil. It will save you lots of aggravation in the long term. The catch is I suspect use of fumigants is restricted, requires a license and permit, and you will not be able to do it yourself. Check with a turf manager in your area for current use guidelines. The Northern California Turfgrass Council might be a good resource for you to contact. I was a member for many years but admittedly many years ago.
Of course ammending and tilling is imperative and can improve your chances for sod taking. You certainly need to do it for either conventional seed or hydroseeding. If you decide to go for sod, order it through a real nursery or directly from a sod farm (or have your landscape contractor do so) for harvest the same day or within no more than 48 hours to when you will lay it in place.
I would add as much composted organic matter as you can afford to your clay soil. Buy it by the yard from a landscape supply company. Obviously you want to fold it into the soil so you may have to add some, than till, add some more, than till again. You want to be sure to rent a good heavy rear tine tiller for the soil you have. As mentioned, If you can fit a tractor back there hire one to come in with discs to really turn the soil over. You may then follow with a tiller.
If you bring in a tractor with large discs? Make sure to have your underground utilities located. You will want to do this for your trenches for irrigation lines as well.
As mentioned you should get a soil test before you get started. It is unlikely you will need new topsoil and it serves no real purpose unless you till it in with the clay. It will just float as a layer too otherwise. The soil test will tell you what you need to add in terms of inexpensive minerals and so forth to maximize plant growth. You will probably have to compensate for nitrogen organic material takes to decompose. It will eventually be returned to the soil.
As for a seed mix? It sounds like a mix of hybrid PERENNIAL (not ANNUAL) rye, fescue and bluegrass will do nicely. You should be able to buy just the mix you want in bulk come Spring. Where you are you could get away with planting a lawn now though---once you are done sterilizing and prepping the soil. Just be sure to rinse frost off in the morning.
Make sure you plan for regular feeding, mowing high, and watching out for weeds, insects, and fungus. It is best to water early in the morning, just before sun up for lots of reasons.
I hope you are thinking drip irrigation for all but your turf. It is inexpensive, waters just where you want it in gallons per hour instead of gallons per minute, and plants love it! As you know, you Northern and Southern Californians are about to do battle over water. Best plan for rationing and what may come? With this same thought in mind and given turf is one of the most expensive landscape elements to maintain? As you work on your plan, be honest about how much turf you really want/need and your commitment to maintaining it. The more you can aim to plants that will do and look great in the environment without a lot of care, the more happy you may be with your landscape. Xeriscaping is the concept increasingly popular in many areas.
here's an update.
We decided to have SOD installed. We have a local gardener that's been working in the area for over 20yrs. I talked with him for awhile and finally made a decision & the price was right. In the matter of a week, we had the new backyard: tilled, top soiled, plumbed (with drip for the trees) etc. Once the SOD was here, it was a matter of hours = new yard. The typical adobe we have in this area was gone, it appears that the previous owner had quite a bit of soil brought in, it tilled easily.
The first week was horrible :censored: Racoons pulled the lengths up like a blanket to get at the nice soft tilled dirt which was loaded with earthworms :thumbup: (free bait). I got tired of that and purchased a pet fence and a spool of electric fence wire :whistling2: hehehehe No more problems :thumbup:, it's been about 4weeks now and the grass is taking root nicely, spoke to the gardener today and looks like next week we mow!
Anyhoots just wanted to let ya know, now on to my next project :thumbsup:
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