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Overseeding

                          


Joined: May 02, 2006
Posts: 1
First, I wanted to say this is a great site, good sound advice and very amusing!

I live in northwestern Ohio, zone 5, and know that tall turf fescue is best for my lawn, but don't want to start from scratch.  Any tips on overseeding? I will get my pH tested.

I also have a 1-year old, so I refuse to allow chemicals not safe for him, so I think I am asking for advice in the right place!  Also, love the spell check option!
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Overseeding tall fescue within anything else probably won't work.  Tall fescue is a very slow starter.

To be cheap and lazy, the best thing to do is make the best of what you have. 

If you are loaded with money and time, you could try to kill off the old stuff and start some tall fescue. 


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Joined: Aug 09, 2006
Posts: 26
I'm dealing with a similar issue.  My lawn is fairly full, but the grass is pretty wimpy, with thin blades and shallow roots, despite infrequent deep watering.  I'd like to introduce some tall fescue, but I agree that overseeding is unlikely to work.

If I plant tall fescue in a few small bare patches, what are the chances that it will eventually spread to the rest of the lawn and (hopefully) outcompete the existing species?  Is that wishful thinking?  Are we talking about a decades long process?
Gerry Miller


Joined: Aug 29, 2006
Posts: 32
Location: Midlothian, IL Zone 5
Tall Fescue is a Bunch type grass. Bunch-type grasses are named for their bunchy appearance, caused by the production of many tillers from the crown of the plant. These grasses expand only by tillering.

Turf Grasses, on the other hand, like Kentucky Blue Grass, spreads by underground rhizomes that can self-repair injured, worn, or damaged spots. Kentucky bluegrass produces a dense turf.

I don't know what zone you live in or what kind of grass you have now. But if in the right zone, I would recommend KBG.

Gerry Miller


Gerry Miller
Organic Consultant
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
It could take five to ten years.

Although tall fescue is a bunch type grass, most commercial cultivars are so close to turf type grass, that they could be reclassified.

While KBG is a cheap seed, it is needs a lot of water and care.  Especially when compared to tall fescue.

Gerry Miller


Joined: Aug 29, 2006
Posts: 32
Location: Midlothian, IL Zone 5
Actually, Kentucky Blue Grass is 2 X more expensive than Tall fescue, and not even close in color. If you have the correct soil biology, your imputs for water and fertilizer will actually be less, not more.

Summit Seed:

Midnight KBG $6.06 per pound

AMIGO Tall Fescue (most expensive one I could find) $3.13 per pound.

Most Tall Fescue sells for around $2.95

http://summitseed.com/products.asp

Gerry Miller
                                        


Joined: Aug 09, 2006
Posts: 26
Thanks for the replies.  I'm in central NJ, so the climate should be amenable to either TF or KBG. 

What if I went with a blend like this?

Semi-dwarf mix looks good enough for the front yard, but can take regular hard use once established. Good choice for athletic fields as well as home lawns. Winter-hardy and holds its color well in cold weather. Excellent tolerance to drought, heat, and shade. Seed is endophyte-enhanced to maximize pest resistance (endophyte-enhanced seed cannot be used for pasture). Contains 90% Guardian Turf Type Tall Fescue, 10% Marquis Kentucky Bluegrass. Seed at 5 lb/1000 sq ft.


Is this project/approach even worth bothering with?  (I'm neither cheap nor especially lazy, but I am committed to building up a strong, durable, dense lawn by using organic practices...)

Thanks again.
Gerry Miller


Joined: Aug 29, 2006
Posts: 32
Location: Midlothian, IL Zone 5
Hennagaijin;

I've never heard of that mixture. However, when it comes to buying grass seed, you really get what you pay for!  Not the place to try and save money, don't get cheap grass seed. Buy the best you can afford.  Better the seed, the better results.

Don't buy seed from Home Depot or Lowes.....not the place to buy seed.

Check out that summit seed link I sent.  Or check out Seedland.com

Gerry Miller
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Don't get a blend.  It is usually blended with something cheap and an annual. 

Seedland is where I've shopped before.  In fact, because I would have ruminents that would be grazing, I got MaxQ tall fescue.  About $5 per pound.

The house brand of KBG was about $2 per pound.

It does look like the prices varry about the same at seedland. 
                                        


Joined: Aug 09, 2006
Posts: 26
Thanks.  Seedland has quite an extensive selection!  How do I know which fescue strains will spread by runners and which will bunch?  Is it as simple as getting a "turf" variety?  (I don't actually know what that means... I suppose it could just mean that it's intended for lawns and not livestock.) 

I also notice that seedland sells a blend of tall fescue and kbg.  Maybe this is a chance to hedge my bet and simultaneously take the advice of both competing experts? 

Sorry for all the questions.  I really appreciate your help!
Gerry Miller


Joined: Aug 29, 2006
Posts: 32
Location: Midlothian, IL Zone 5
Tall fescue is a bunch type grass and as such does spread by tillers. Although they may have short rhizomes, they still spread slowly by tillers. I've never heard anything about this type of grass being 'reclassified'.

This is one of the reasons I like Summit Seed Co as you can pick the best they have available and mix your own seed without purchasing some cheap annual grass seed. They even provide a section where you tell them what you want, and they will give you what blend they feel works best for your area. This is a most important consideration. Grass in Northern IL won't grass as near as well as in say Virginia. These companies test seeds for performance in various areas around the country and can give you very good and free advise. Also be advised there is a huge difference in color as well. Midnight and Midnight II are two of the darkness varieties of KBG you'll ever find. Much darker than other varieties of KBG. So color has to be of consideration as well.   

Go to Summit Seed and see what they recommend for your needs:
http://summitseed.com/products.asp

Gerry Miller
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
The answer to KBG vs. TF would be a seven page essay. 

I've been an advocate for TF since I wrote the cheap and lazy article in 1994.  Since then there have been variety improvements in both species. 

The strengths of KBG has always been color and lots of rhizomes. 

The strengths of TF has always been deep roots and tolerance for abuse.

I remember lots of stuff years ago pointing out how TF required less water and fertilizer than KBG.  It would stand up better to people walking on it and was a favorite for playgrounds.  TF is exceptionally drought tolerant.    The major downside was that the blades were coarse.

If you are attempting to kill weeds through water deprevation, I think you can go far longer between waterings with TF than with KBG.

TF has been used as a turf grass for decades.

Frankly, I'm a bit surprised at Gerry advocating KBG.  It seemed that most folks have been bashing KBG for years.  I always figured that KBG seed was still being sold because "that's what my daddy used and if it was good enough for him it's good enough for me!" - but Gerry is clearly knowledgable and a powerful advocate, so the choice is not to be dismissed lightly.

After reading all the stuff that Gerry has posted here ....  I would guess that if Gerry and I moved in to two identical houses with crap lawns, Gerry would spend about $180 that first year and I would spend about $15.  I suspect that Gerry would spend about 40% more time on his lawn.  And his lawn might look 10% to 20% better than mine.

(hmmmm ....  i seem to be off on a tangent ....)

Don't get a mix.  Some grass seed germinates in two days and some takes two weeks.  Usually, it's the good stuff that takes two weeks. 


                                        


Joined: Aug 09, 2006
Posts: 26
Great stuff, both.  I'm slowly beginning to get a clear picture. 

At this point I'm leaning towards a high grade KBG, if only because I've already annoyed my wife by insisting on mowing high (I think she'd be happiest with 1" or so), so I should probably throw her a bone in the form of some finer blades!  (I also like the idea of aggressive runners.)

Anyway, thanks again for all the help.  I'm really digging this site.
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
One more important thing to add here:

I would rather avoid buying any seed if I can help it.  The grass that is already there will probably be just fine.  And in 90% of the lawns I have seen, it is KBG.




Gerry Miller


Joined: Aug 29, 2006
Posts: 32
Location: Midlothian, IL Zone 5
Paul;

Since I advocate and use Aerated Compost Teas, by soil has a very good balanced soil foodweb. Because of this, I can go longer without watering. My guess is, I could go as long if not longer than your Tall Fescue.  In fact, my first watering in my lawn didn't come until July of this year. No water added the entire spring!  That's 3 months. Could you do that?  

As far as time spent on my lawn, well, that's my hobby. I enjoy it, so I don't mind puttering around. I raised hosta's, daylilys, clematis vines and various summer and spring bulbs, so I do spend more time fertilizing these plants than my lawn.

As far as cost go, the most expensive fertilizer I purchase is Corn Gluten Meal. I purchase 2 50 lb bags in the early spring and apply when the Forsythia blooms. That cost me $14 per bag. So that's $28.00  Late May I applied Alfalfa Meal, 2 50 lb bags cost me $7.00 per bag, so that's $14.00.  We are up to $42 now. I apply Soybean meal in July, 2 50 lb bags at $8.00 each, so that's $16.00. Now we are up to $58.00 Up to this point I don't have any increase in my water bill since I haven't watered all year.

I'll apply one more application of Alfalfa meal and soybean meal this year. That is $30 more dollars for a total of $88.00  With two applications of ACT, lets say it costs me $100 over a 6 month period. That's a little over $16 per month. or about 53 cents a day. A mere bag of shells! If you are a beer drinker, you spend more than I do on my lawn for beer!

However, my lawn would look at least 50% better than yours, with not that much more work. Color of my lawn would be superior and it's texture would be fine grass blades and nothing compared to coarse TF. My grass will remind you of a golf course, your's might be more like green acres. LOL....just kidding.

There is nothing wrong with mixing grass seeds regardless of their germination time. In fact, that is one of the reasons people use perennial rye grass is it gives you coverage very quickly and prevents weeds from moving in. One of the main reasons you mix seed is that if one type of grass comes down with some disease and wipes out that species, the two or so remaining grass types should survive and still provide you coverage and not bare soil.

I might add as well, that it's a good practice, in my opinion, you overseed your lawn every few years with newer, more advanced grass seed to help diversify your lawn and protect against disease. Of course, this cost money, and is just a option to those would like to improve their lawns over a period of time.

Gerry Miller
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15219
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
If we wanna get into that sort of pissing match, I think I could put something together with tall fescue where it never needed any water or fertilizing.  Just mowing.

Most of my focus these days leans more toward permaculture, fruit trees, vegetable gardens, farming, etc.  To me, an ornamental lawn is a second class citizen.

I've heard of ACT and read a little about it a long time ago.  I wrote it off as not much better than old fashioned CT.  But your zeal for it has peaked my interest.  When I get a bit more caught up, I might look into it again.  But for now, the thing I use on the stuff I'm most passionate about is thick hay mulching (ruth stout method).  Which, when watered, provides a sort of poor man's compost tea (hay has many of the same properties as compost, including the same C:N ratio).

No doubt - my lawn looks more more like a mowed pasture than a golf course green.  And I prefer that. 

When I live in town, I like my lawn to look better than anybody else on the block.    But if you are on my block, I'd be pleased as punch to give up the "best lawn on the block" trophy.  I'd be powerful interested in seeing your operation and hearing about your experiments.  I suppose by your standards, your lawn might be 50% better than mine.  And by my standards, I think your lawn would be only 10% better than mine.  I'll take comfort in knowing that I tossed out a bit of ringer about four times and that $15 bag will last me about three years.  While it sounds like you made several trips to several stores, put loads of stuff out, had several batches of ACT and, well, spent lots of time and money relative to what I did. 

I'm glad you're here Gerry.  I like your theories on building the microbial populations.  Damn good stuff. 

No, I'm not a beer drinker.  I never acquired the taste. 


                                        


Joined: Aug 09, 2006
Posts: 26
Might I ask what is ACT?

(EDIT: never mind... figured it out.  Aerated Compost Tea, I assume?)
Gerry Miller


Joined: Aug 29, 2006
Posts: 32
Location: Midlothian, IL Zone 5
Paul;

Well of course, you can raise grass without any fertilizer, but without water, that ain't gonna happen, no matter how drought resistant a type of grass is. Even buffalo grass needs at least 20% of normal rain fall to survive. But, what will it look like? Proper mowing and watering are the most important cultural aspect in regards to lawns. Fertilizer is not needed for a lawn to survive. If you want you lawn to just survive or to be all it can be? That is your choice, of course.

Here is a web site you should investigate when you have time. It will tell you everything you need to know about ACT.

http://www.soilfoodweb.com/03_about_us/approach.html

This is the web site of Dr. Elaine Ingham, a leader in the field of soil biology.

Here is another site that provides info on ACT:
http://www.intlctc.org/default.asp

While I have several fruit trees on my property, everyone has their own choice what they wise to raise on their property.  You opinion of an ornamental lawn is just that, your opinion.  The truth of the matter is, a well maintain lawn has many useful purposes. One, it increases the value of your property, which after all, is an investment. Just make good common sense to protect your investment.

Climate is controlled at ground level by turf grasses as they cool temperatures appreciably, thus working as exterior "air conditioners".

Eight healthy front lawns have the cooling effect of 70 tons of air conditioning – enough for 16 average homes.

Dust and smoke particles from the atmosphere are trapped by turf which helps make the air cleaner.

Fire retardation buffer areas of well maintained lawn grasses around buildings is good insurance.

Groundwater is enhanced in two ways by a dense turf. Turf grasses increase infiltration of water and also clean the water as it passes so that underground water supplies are recharged for use by us all.

Health of humans is enhanced by turf grasses as they function in cushioning, cleaning air, generating oxygen and creating a serene landscape.

Lawns are estimated to occupy an area of between 25,000,000 to 30,000,000 acres in the United States (the size of the 5 New England states) and as the population increases so too will the amount of turf grass acreage.

Noise is absorbed by grass areas which cut down on the excessive sound, a growing problem in urban areas. Grassed slopes beside lowered expressways reduce noise by 8-10 decibels.

Oxygen generation by turf grasses has a major impact in making our environment habitable. A 50x50 lawn produces enough oxygen for a family of four.

So, as you can see, a well maintained lawn is more than just a 'pretty face'!

But if one grows veggies and plants a row for the hungry and supplies a local food shelter, well that is a worthy cause to be sure.

Gerry Miller
                            


Joined: Jul 23, 2006
Posts: 17
Location: Central New York
I'm no expert in grass varieties, but before you buy I think you should look at tall fescue again.  The turf-type tall fescues have been bred to provide finer blades, and after you get your lawn and soil established, require very little work.  They also stand up real nice and straight while having the finer blades.  The areas of my lawn which are kbg (based on what the previous owner told me) are fine, but when they get at all long they fall over.  You can look at http://ntep.org/tables.htm just go to the type of grass you want and I reccommend finding the closest location (data by location) to you and just looking for the important factors to you.  For me it was leaf texture (based on blade width) and color.  Also make sure your significant other isn't around when you look at the stuff, or you will be ridiculed.

Also, paul, we need fescue(s) added to the spell check
                                        


Joined: Aug 09, 2006
Posts: 26
Thanks, op157 - that's a great resource.  I've also grown accustomed to spousal ridicule whenever I get fetishistic about gardening/lawncare.

As for The Great Debate that I unwittingly sparked... I think the only way to settle this 10% better vs. 50% better question is for you guys to post some pics!    (Actually, I really would love to see some if you have them...)
                            


Joined: Jul 23, 2006
Posts: 17
Location: Central New York
Here's my tall fescue grass (it was ~10% by weight kbg so about half the grass is kbg.  That is if it germinated, which it may not have since I didn't water as much after the 2nd week)

http://www.angelfire.com/crazy/lawn/

As you can see in the 2nd to last pic, removing all the weeds did help a lot.  I did it all by hand over a long week and did not get much done each day.  I had to go on a business trip the week after i started so I just mowed the rest of the weeded area short and threw down the seed hoping for the best.  It's not bad there either.  I'm probably gonna buy an aquarium bubble maker thing and make some compost tea to put on that area, then go to a feed store i just found today to fertilize it.  That should get rid of the clover there.  The area where I used the last of my compost, which is at the bottom middle, I just mowed short and put the compost ontop of a single layer of newspaper.  That was enough to stop all the weeds from coming up and it came up really nice and thick there.  Though I did have some of that cover for that area as well which probably helped.
                            


Joined: Jul 23, 2006
Posts: 17
Location: Central New York
unfortunately my camera is only 2-3 megapixels and 4 years old so you can't see the detail.  I have people stop their cars by the tttf/kbg spot and stare at the grass.  It is real nice looking stuff.  I just need to figure out a way to make my whole yard like that.
John Meshna


Joined: Jul 22, 2006
Posts: 111
Location: Vermont
Hi,
  Overseeding in the fall is a good idea.  Never hurts to do some in the spring too.  The more grass you have, the fewer the weeds.  Crab grass dies back in the fall too so, flooding the area with grass seed you like can crowd it out.  If the soil is poor, you may need to work on that too.  Unfortunately, weeds can survive in a wider variety of soils and conditions than the grass we plant so, good soil quality and proper ph, close to  (6.6) is necessary for keeping up a healthy lawn.
  Overseeding with a single species is okay if that's all you can get but, it's not recommended.  A variety of grass seed species will produce a healthier and more attractive lawn.  The following species are a good mix.  You'll need to scarify the soil if the soil is hard if you want the seed to take.  Some organic fertilizer will help too.  Good compost as a top dress is always a good idea when it's available..
    *50% Creeping Red Fescue
    *30% Kentucky Bluegrass
    *20% Perennial Ryegrass

My Best, John


John Meshna (owner)
Green State Hydroponics
1195 Dog Team Road
New Haven, Vt 05472
                        


Joined: Sep 20, 2006
Posts: 3
I am always wondering in the spring, can I do overseeding a couple of weeks before I put crabgrass preventer.
I never do this before. But I guess if the weather is good enough for grass seeds (around at least 60F?), it is also ok for crabgrass to germinate? So can I do both: overseeding and spread crabgrass preventer after the grass seeds germinate (a couple of weeks later).

What is your thought?

Also what is the best time to spread preventer? (In NE area.)

Thanks.
Linda Henderson


Joined: Jun 16, 2013
Posts: 2
Location: Kansas
I am wanting to get my lawn looking better but I can't really dig up and put more seed down. I have 3 young kids that wouldn't stay off the lawn and I don't think my landlord would allow me to do that anyway. I have more weeds than I do grass. Dandelions and some others I am not familiar with. I do have some grass but not sure what kind it is. The blades look wide then there are some very short thin grass, if that is even grass. The grass isn't really seeming to be short like the weeds are over taking them but the weeds are taller and the dandelions always pop up tall seems like over night after I mow. I am wanting grass not weeds and a sturdy grass because of my kids. What do you suggest I do to get my lawn looking like a lawn? I live in a nicer neighborhood so I kind of want to not have lawn that makes the neighborhood look bad since it does have a height restriction for grass. It can't be more than a certain height. Is it ok to overseed and maybe put some organic compost and or fertilizer on it?
Linda Henderson


Joined: Jun 16, 2013
Posts: 2
Location: Kansas
Or can I just kill the entire lawn by poring either hot water on it or spray a mix of acv, salt, and soap on the entire thing instead of just the weeds and then put seed down? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks
Julia Winter
volunteer

Joined: Aug 31, 2012
Posts: 943
Location: Moved from south central WI to Portland, OR
    
  77
Unless you are in a cool-summer area, it's too late this year to plant grass seed. I wouldn't spray acv, salt and soap anywhere you wanted to plant seeds. I would see if you could find moldy hay and sprinkle it all over before you mow, and keep mowing at 4" tall whenever the weeds poke up. Pull out the most egregious weeds, like thistle or truly giant dandelions. You may find that the appearance will improve to something acceptable with just these measures. Have you read Paul's article on "Organic Lawn Care For the Cheap and Lazy?"

You could plan on reseeding this fall, and kill what you have by putting down something over the ground in August (or September, depending on where you are--where are you?). Solarizing is harsh, but it will give you a clean slate: you mow as low as possible, water until saturated, and then put down clear plastic (you'll have to do something to keep it from blowing away). This creates sort of a super greenhouse effect and kills what is there. Sadly, it also kills the microorganisms in the soil. Then after everything is dead, ideally you put down some compost, sprinkle grass seed and cover with chopped straw. Then get ready to keep your kids off the lawn and water every day until it is well established. Putting in a new lawn really is a lot of work.

Maybe a combination of these two strategies will work--just solarize and replant the very worst area, or the most public area.


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