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Old 04-18-2010, 02:17 PM   #1
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New kid on the block, needs lots of help


I have rather a complex series of questions, and I'm absolutely new at lawn care and gardening, so please forgive any ignorance I show. I also apologize now for the extreme length of this, but I am including everything I think you need to reply to me.

I live in North East Tennessee, I have three dogs, all over 50 pounds, two small children that occasionally visit, and I have what I believe is at least one acre of yard, possibly a bit more, but not likely two. My yard has several large and old trees that will need some care before I actually go forth with what I am going to ask you about, including removal, pruning, and trimming to make the lawn part shady instead of the almost full but not deep shade it is now, as well as possibly planting a Eucalyptus tree should research bear that it will thrive in my area. I also have plans to do some landscaping and gardening, which have not been entirely worked out yet, but will probably include both ornamental and fruit bearing plants, in a large range of sizes.

The lawn here has not been well cared for in the past, and while I have been doing my best to revitalize it in the few years since we moved in, it doesn’t seem to be doing much good, and I am loath to cover the it in chemicals, since either my animals or my sisters children are on every inch of it at one time or another. The soil I believe is going to need some work before I actually do the seeding, and I am unsure how to proceed with that given all the trees and their root systems.

My animals and my niece and nephew are of primary concern to my questions, and with them in mind I started researching a more natural lawn that will be beneficial, environmentally friendly, and beautiful. I personally do not care for the “manicured” look of most lawns, nor with the effort they require and dangers they pose. I have finally decided that I need some sort of custom mixed lawn of traditional grass, herbs, and flowers.

I created a list of plants that seem to me to be the best way to go, but with no experience and such spare knowledge I’m not sure how to proceed from here. The list I have is very large, and includes plants that repel fleas, ticks, and mosquitoes, as well as aromatic herbs that seem to be safe for pets and children. I don’t think I need to use them *all*, but I am unsure how to choose which to use and how much. I know some of them are considered “weeds”, but that is not a concern to me, as I said, I do not care for manicured lawns at all. Just in case it is important, I do not mind at all if birds are attracted, and butterflies would be a wonderful addition.

The list of plants I’ve come up with is –
Mint, Sage, Catnip, Thyme, Fennel, Juniper, Marigold, Citronella, Henbit, Pyrethrum, American Beautyberry, Rosemary, Lemon Balm, Artemisia, Basil, Rue, Tansy, Alfalfa, Clover, Chamomile, Self-heal, English Daisy, Snow in Summer, Sweet Alyssum, Birds foot Trefoil, Blue Pimpernel, Creeping Daisy, Pinks, Johnny Jump Up, Yarrow, Blue Eyed Grass, Blue Sedge, Horse Shoe Vetch, Fog Fruit, and Oregano.

Please note that I am still researching, so if there is anything in that list that is not animal or children friendly, I do not know it yet. I am still trying to figure out the grasses, so far I have only gotten to some very basics of Bluegrass, Rye Grass, and Fescue Grass, but I’m still working out what would need to go into which part of the yard, it all seems to be very complicated. I also hope to incorporate Vanilla, Lavander, Tea Tree, and Clove somewhere in the landscape, but that is in later plans once the lawn is sorted out, I mention them because their insect repelling nature may help choose what goes into the lawn.

So, my questions are this.

1. What do you suggest is the best way to ready the soil? I do not feel the need to tear up what is currently growing, but I do want to give the lawn the best chance for survival without endangering my animals or the children. I know I will have to work on it in patches, since I can’t keep the dogs or kids off all of it for the entire time it needs get established.

2. A lot of what I have been reading wants me to rotor till the yard six inches down, working in compost of all sorts, along the way. As I have mentioned, I don’t feel the need to destroy what is already there, just make it better, is this really as necessary as it seems to be? Is there no way to improve without destruction?

3. If there is no way to make the ground better without destroying it, how do I deal with the old trees and their root systems? Mowing the grass and leaves to mulch the yard now is rather a tricky operation, I’m not sure I can rotor till the majority of the yard without risking damage to the trees. I would not be adverse to building the lawn up a little, and probably will to level the ground some anyway, but again I must be careful of the trees.

4. Once the dirt is figured out, how do I choose which plants and grasses best suit my needs and area?

5. How do I know how much of each type of seed to use in the mix? I want what I am afraid is a dream – strong, repellent to certain insects, beautiful, safe, environmentally sound, and if at all possible, retaining some beauty year round, though this last one I am not absolutely insistent on.

6. I do want to use seed, not plants, as I want to give the lawn more of a natural look, rather than choosing where each plant goes and making it look too structured. Does this make a difference as to which plants to choose?

7. Once I know which seeds to use and in what measure, how do I know how much I need to put down to be fairly sure of success? We live near woods, and get plenty of birds already, I’m fairly sure that would increase with such a buffet offered.

8. Once the seed is down, do I need to cover it with some sort of mulch or something else to protect it, and if so, what kind and how much?

Again, I apologize for the length; I just didn’t know any other way to cover everything in order to get the information I need. Thank you for your time.
Char

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Old 04-18-2010, 06:30 PM   #2
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New kid on the block, needs lots of help


Wow!!!
Not sure where to begin. I have never attempted anything like which you have described. Although I can guess you are looking for a natural meadow kind of look. There are a few plants you listed that would want to really spread and take over like clover, mint and vetch.
You can always add ammendments to the existing lawn. There are a variety of pelletized organic substances that would act as a fertilizer. Milorganite, blood meal and things like that. I have never used them so I'm not certain of their application but there are organics out there to replace the "chemical" fertilizers. You can also simply spread compost on your existing lawn a little at a time.
I would begin with an aeriation to help the soil "breathe". This will allow nutrients, air and water into the soil. As far as seeding and coverage that would all depend on the seed. Instructions should be on seed packets. Perhaps a research into meadow lawns would help. Sorry I can't be of more help.
I first read the post and I admit I was scared away by the complexity of something I really knew nothing about. However plants are plants and soil is soil. Stick with the fundamentals and you will be allright. I would suggest starting in a small area that you can monitor and adjust as needed. You can gradually add on to it and before you know it you will have what you desire.

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Old 04-21-2010, 01:36 PM   #3
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New kid on the block, needs lots of help


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
Wow!!!
Not sure where to begin. I have never attempted anything like which you have described. Although I can guess you are looking for a natural meadow kind of look. There are a few plants you listed that would want to really spread and take over like clover, mint and vetch.
You can always add ammendments to the existing lawn. There are a variety of pelletized organic substances that would act as a fertilizer. Milorganite, blood meal and things like that. I have never used them so I'm not certain of their application but there are organics out there to replace the "chemical" fertilizers. You can also simply spread compost on your existing lawn a little at a time.
I would begin with an aeriation to help the soil "breathe". This will allow nutrients, air and water into the soil. As far as seeding and coverage that would all depend on the seed. Instructions should be on seed packets. Perhaps a research into meadow lawns would help. Sorry I can't be of more help.
I first read the post and I admit I was scared away by the complexity of something I really knew nothing about. However plants are plants and soil is soil. Stick with the fundamentals and you will be allright. I would suggest starting in a small area that you can monitor and adjust as needed. You can gradually add on to it and before you know it you will have what you desire.
Thank you so much for the response. And yes, it is a little scary to see that wall of text. I'm sorry for that. Theres an awful lot of information out there, and figuring it all out gets very complex! LOL.

I think you are right though, I need to break my little (ha!) project down some and find the fundamentals of each part and go with that.

Thanks again!!

Char
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Old 04-21-2010, 04:35 PM   #4
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New kid on the block, needs lots of help


I commend you on your desire to better without chems.
I have less than an acre and over the years noticed the over all look of the yard wax and wane. I decided to take action. Last fall I added a weed killer to the lawn and followed that with seed a few weeks later after thatching and aerating. I already see a noticeable difference.
This year I am concentrating on a 16X8 garden for the wife. It is raised using landscape timbers two high and filled with compost. Last year we suffered from too much rain, thus the raised. All efforts will be made to remove excess water.
As for the lawn, I am in need of a cheap re-grade as the rains have washed away a lot of the topsoil and I have a swamp in places. A well-placed French drain will direct water to an established drain behind the property. I will then do the whole weeding and seeding over in the fall with the hope that it will be that much better next year...

Good luck
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