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Old 02-18-2012, 01:56 PM   #1
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What To Do To Improve This Lawn


I'm in Southern California. I just moved into this house last September. I think the lawn was greener then but I'm not sure. It looks the same in my back yard. The lawn also doesn't grow. I don't even have to mow it. I applied some Scotts year-round for all lawn types to the back yard. The result was that a few sections of lawn look way healthier and greener whereas the rest appear unchanged. The greener sections will grow, but not the parts that are unaffected.

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Old 02-18-2012, 02:34 PM   #2
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What To Do To Improve This Lawn


And your complining about not having to mow the lawn?
Have the soil tested is the first step.
Have a look at the Scotts web site. Lots of helpfull info on there.

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Old 02-18-2012, 05:57 PM   #3
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What To Do To Improve This Lawn


Cannot tell for sure by the photo but it looks like it could be Bermuda grass. It goes dormant in the Fall and comes back in the Spring.

It is a shallow rooted rhyzome type turf so you need to feed it regularly and more often than other turf with at least nitrogen in between regular balance fertilizer applications.
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Old 02-18-2012, 08:24 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by sdsester View Post
Cannot tell for sure by the photo but it looks like it could be Bermuda grass. It goes dormant in the Fall and comes back in the Spring.

It is a shallow rooted rhyzome type turf so you need to feed it regularly and more often than other turf with at least nitrogen in between regular balance fertilizer applications.
Forgive me but I'm all new to this. Can you tell me what "feed it regularly" means exactly? And can you recommend a product that contains nitrogen?
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Old 02-19-2012, 05:26 PM   #5
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Fertilizers can be daunting as they come in so many forms. Companies like Scott's have come up with annual turf management programs---keyed to their products of course---to make it all a bit easier and more or less idiot proof. Their approach works but at a fairly high price point for retail products.

Once you get the hang of this you can buy much cheaper and similar products but perhaps without the pretty pictures on the labels. For example, I used to get fertilizers from the bulk suppliers for a fraction of what a 22 pound bag of Scotts cost. I just sealed them up in Rubbermaid containers.

For your lawn, you will want to invest in a spreader. I found the little handheld whirlybird things to work as well as any. Drop spreaders can leave "stripes" if you are not careful (I cut the application rate in half and went both directions) to prevent this.

Plants need three primary nutrients for good health. Nitrogen (N), Phosporous (P), and Potassium (K). All fertilizers sold have the N-P-K ratio published on the packaging and this tells you the amount of each nutrient that is in---for example---a sack. Just to explain, assume you buy a 100 pound sack with an NPK of 10-10-10. The sack would contain 10 pounds of each of the nutrients.

The other 70 pounds, unfortunately, do not have to be disclosed but the ingredients probably include minerals or even plastics to granulate the fertilizer so it can be spread or render it so the nutrients are released over time. Weed and Feed and Weed and DeBug products have herbicides or insectisides in them. Sadly, those who produce heavy metal wastes (seminconductor and hard drive manufacturers come to mind) are in legion with fertilizer companies to let them hide things like chrome, cobalt and aluminum in the ingredients. Concentrations of these are showing up even in the Midwest. Impossible naturally.

Anyhow fertilizers are also sold depending on how fast they break down and disburse the nutrients. For things like bulbs or starting bedding plants you might want organics that break down slowly.

For lawns the plants are generally fast growing so in turfgrass management we strove to have the nutrients readily availed. Lawns also use nitrogen, the nutrient for green growth, the fastest since they are but green plants. So, it was expensive to use a balanced fertilizer every application.

It was probably overkill but the goal for a time in Northern California was to provide 1 pound of nitrogen per 1,000sf of turf, per month. Back to our example, we would apply 10:1 we would need to apply 10 pounds of material from the sack to provide 1 pound of nitrogen to 1,000sf. Sounds complicated but the good news is you only have to do the math once. Then just mark a coffee can or something. And use the same product.

Now as mentioned, if you have bermuda grass, it grows along the surface via rhyzomes that send down fairly shallow roots. Fast dissolving fertilizers will simply be leached past the root systems when you water so encapsulated or time release products are one option. Using a product such as ammonium sulfate with an N-P-K of 10-0-0 is another through the growing season and between balanced feedings is another inexpensive option.

You should also think about getting an inexpensive soil test to see what your soil is like to start and whether you need to add anything to adjust Ph or otherwise make it so it can react with and absorb nutrients.

I know it all sounds like too much to take in but if you do some reading it will make sense. When I lived in California the Sunset Garden Guide (I think that was it---big volume) was a must have investment for the home lawn owner and garden/landscape person. It explains all this in more detail along with information on all aspects of gardening and landscaping basics. It is like a basic cookbook for the yard. Here is an excerpt on fertilizers.

http://www.sunset.com/garden/garden-...0400000015144/

Here is a description of the book. It will save you what you pay for it many times over.

http://www.google.com/products/catal...ed=0CGwQ8wIwBw
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Old 02-19-2012, 09:10 PM   #6
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I had a lawn in a similar situation and here's what I did. Just keep spreading seed every month or so with a broadcast spreader (the thing that has the crank on the side). Try different varieties of seed, sun/shade mix, etc. Every couple of months mix in some turf fertilizer with the seed. I did this for about three months this summer, while watering every day, and finally got a rich mix of grass growing. You will settle on the type of seed that works and you can keep using that. It sure does keep things simple....
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Old 02-21-2012, 05:45 PM   #7
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I took up all the grass in my front yard, planted shrubs and perennials and put mulch in between. People stop to tell me how nice it looks and I get to know my neighbors. Nobody ever stopped when I was mowing the grass.
Also, lawn food and chemicals can cause problems with the environment in your yard and places downstream from it. The little food you need for plants is applied only around the plants, not broadcast.
Sorry if I got on the soapbox.
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Old 02-21-2012, 06:06 PM   #8
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S. California is naturally a desert, lawns are an import. I think a desert landscape would be more appropriate.
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Old 02-21-2012, 06:59 PM   #9
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I took up all the grass in my front yard, planted shrubs and perennials and put mulch in between. People stop to tell me how nice it looks and I get to know my neighbors. Nobody ever stopped when I was mowing the grass.
Also, lawn food and chemicals can cause problems with the environment in your yard and places downstream from it. The little food you need for plants is applied only around the plants, not broadcast.
Sorry if I got on the soapbox.
Not soapbox at all! When I practiced landscape design I tried to abstract from people how much lawn they really needed and why? Usually I could talk them out of turf all together. With the possible exception of a pool, turf is the most maintenance demanding element of any landscape. Trees, shrubs, ground covers, annuals a perennials add much more character and use much less water. As mentioned, their feeding requirements are more sane and possible harmful run-off into the environment is reduced. I forget the cumulative exhaust total from small, non-filtered, lawnmower type engines but combined it is staggering.

The OP has a lawn though and seems to want to keep it. I still think it looks like Bermuda and will snap out of dormancy soon.

Last edited by user1007; 02-21-2012 at 07:24 PM.
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Old 02-22-2012, 10:13 AM   #10
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In my opinion you should if these grass are getting proper watering or not.

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And if it is Bermuda, water it you will! It grows very shallow and unlike other turf grasses where you want to deep water to encourage deep root growth. It is just a waste for Bermuda. It can look beautiful but at great maintenance cost. It thatches up quickly so you have to dethatch it at least once a season. And nothing you can do but dye it green in the winter months will keep it from looking dead.
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Old 02-22-2012, 01:19 PM   #11
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I am a turf manager in Canada so my advice will be a little different based on the seasons. sdsester comments on fertilizer is bang on. The logic is at the beginning of the season (whenever that is for you) you want something reasonably high in N like 30-2-6 that has about a 4 week response. This will kick start some growth. Then a balanced fertilizer something equal if N-K ration ie. 19-0-19. P is important more in root growth at establishment however some per year is important too. Then use that same balanced fertilizer throughout your growing season wither at 1lb/N month or .5lb bi weekly. The idea is to keep a constant feed for the plants without over doing it. Excessive growth is not good so just be careful. Then about 6 weeks before things go dormant apply something higher in K and lower in N with some P. BTW Scotts program although expensive is the best out there in my opinion.

Seeing as bermuda is a shallow rooting grass, cultural practices like aerating and top dressing are extremely important. Aerate in fall and spring if possible (not when it is too hot) and apply a light coating of seed mix organic soil mixed with possibly a natural organic fertilizer and some seed. A trick for this is to mix it in a wheel barrow all together then spread it and rake it.

Our soils in Canada are completely different so some of my advice may not make sense in your climate.

Other notes:
It looks like some time of soil issue there as well because I see a definite square shape in the lawn. An old fire pit? Something used to sit there and someone moved it and sodded or seeded the area? Also I see a few spots that appear to be some time of disease but it could just be because it is dormant. I am not that familiar with warm season turf diseases but maybe I am way off base with my view.

Last edited by RegLearning; 02-22-2012 at 01:22 PM.
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Old 02-22-2012, 03:38 PM   #12
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Our soils in Canada are completely different so some of my advice may not make sense in your climate.
Works for me and not so dissimilar. I remembered de-thatching but forgot about aeration once at least and preferably twice per year. And OP, note our friend from Canada suggested a seed mix meaning a soil type. It serves no purpose to put seed down an aerated plug hole.

Speaking of which, in Northern California many attempted to overseed Bermuda with ANNUAL not PERENNIAL rye seed to provide green during winter months. I never had much luck but you can try. De-thatch, broadcast the seed, top dress and keep moist until it germinates. About 7 days in your winter climate.

And of course, we have not determined for sure you have Bermuda. Attach a close up if you want. Or, stick your fingers under a piece of it and pull straight up. Do you get a string of little plant along a lateral with little roots going down?

Last edited by user1007; 02-22-2012 at 03:40 PM.
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Old 02-26-2012, 08:17 AM   #13
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Your lawn looks good to me, probably dormant. You should see my lawn, it's a plethora of grasses and weeds that come and go on their own cycles.

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