Well, I shouldn’t say it begins, I procrastinated putting this post together for some time. Hopefully, over the next few weeks, I’ll have a breakdown of what I did to get my lawn looking healthy again. There are many reasons why I let my lawn get away from me, but the main one was just the sheer lack of wanting to put in the effort. Plenty of excuses.
Anyway, here we are. My last treatment of fertilizer and chemicals was back in April of 2019. I applied Scotts Turfbuilder and Crabgrass prevention. It turns out we had a huge amount of crabgrass in 2019 and of course, that led to more in 2020.
All I really did in 2019 and for most of 2020 was mow. Around July 2020, I really started to notice the crabgrass kick in and that is where I decided to make some efforts for this upcoming fall.
My Lawn History
Before we get into all the ins and outs of what I’m doing to repair my grass, let’s go over where I’m coming from in the grass world. Since I was a kid, I loved nice grass. When I turned 12 I started my own lawn company. It was way easier back then compared to the commercial companies that exist today. I was able to build up to about 50 lawns and brought in a partner. That is a substantial amount of grass cutting for a 13-year-old. It also taught me to be an entrepreneur.
Since then, I’ve liked the look of a clean-cut and no weeds. I of course love a clean golf course and although I know I won’t get it that tight, I will strive for a nice look.
Lawn Situation and Size
I’ll get into some of the different situations below, but here is a look at what I’m dealing with. I have around 9,500 square feet of turf that leads up to a bluff. This bluff then drops down to a small beach and into the lake. My goal is to be cautious and environmentally responsible as possible.
The yard gets a lot of dog traffic from my 80-pound golden retriever and three neighbor dogs that love our yard. The yard also gets plenty of soccer and football play on it as well. Although mainly covered up by grass, I do have a large septic tank and leech field as well. Fun right?
Fifteen years ago the area where the grass lies now was all trees and forest. A large tree cutting project took place to free up space and create better views. Over time the area has definitely settled a bit. There are some holes and undulations throughout. Leveling the lawn is almost impossible. Being on the cliff, the yard is always going to shift and create new air pockets and other blemishes. The best thing I can do at this point is to establish a strong root system and let the grass work.
The soil is probably 50% sand but there is plenty of soil as well. I do get a fair amount of sun on the yard, but it is also protected by trees that provide the shade to keep the grass fairly healthy when the heat strikes. As for water, this will be a tough one. We live on a well, so I need to be careful with the amount of water we can waste. Watering the grass is a waste if you ask me. I will do my best to keep things moist during the seeding process, but I really hope mother nature brings the moisture it needs to germinate.
Also, be sure to check out my Rhodendron project post in the future. It will show what we had blocking our view and what I was able to do to bring grass to life.
My number one nemesis when it comes to turf and gardens is crabgrass. I can’t stand this crap and when it takes over I get so irritated. Last year was pretty bad in terms of crabgrass and coming into this year I knew if I didn’t do something crabgrass would be double.
Guess what, it is everywhere. My lawn got overtaken by crabgrass. Quarantine came and I never made it to Lowe’s to get the Scotts crabgrass preventer ( Not the best, but it does help some). I usually put this down to help slow the crab. Unfortunately, without putting this down I received no relief. Just more seeds in the earth for next year. More about this later.
Garden Over Grass
I’m a firm believer in the garden over grass. It is way more important to grow food than grass. My situation has changed quite a bit over the years with all of my moves. My latest move in 2017, brought me to a location where growing a garden is difficult. I’m also located in a spot where I have a septic system. This makes my land difficult to grow food. I decided to stick with grass and make it as nice as I can.
I’ve renovated tons of lawns in my day. This time is no different. The only thing that is different is my experience. I’ve tried different products, systems, and many other things. I feel with more stay at home activity in the future, we might as well enjoy a nice space and view to look at. Actually, I’m on a lake so it will be nice to see a slick grass area leading up to the lake view.
What I’ve Done So Far
So, without much prevention in well over a year and with all of the crabgrass that populated, I decided I had to take drastic steps. I really don’t like chemicals for many reasons. I feel terrible using them, but at the same time, it may help in the long run so I don’t have to use them in the future.
On July 22, 2020, I applied my first chemicals. I used the product, Tenacity. The goal of this product is to kill crabgrass while keeping the good grass alive.
In the images below you can see what Tenacity does to the lawn. It bleaches the crabgrass white. This ugly look lasts a few weeks so be ready for that if you plan to use it.
Results – I followed all directions, used a surfactant, and dye for marking. I would say I killed about 62% of the crabgrass on my property. I thought about hitting it again after the bleaching went away, but I really didn’t want to see that again. Although Tenacity helped, it didn’t fully take care of the problem.
On August 10, 2020, I used a chemical called Quinclorac DF 85. This gets mixed into a sprayer and then applied just like the Tenacity.
Results – I was able to get rid of another 27% of the crabgrass in the lawn. This stuff leaves the dead crabgrass orange until it breaks down. It also burned out some of the areas in the lawn. Timing is key with this product.
Between the two chemicals, I was able to remove around 89% of the crabgrass. Not bad. Not 100%, but I really wasn’t expecting it to be a foolproof method.
Now that we are in September and with a lack of rain this year, I decided to hold off on some of the bigger projects. However, by doing this, new weeds started to pop up. I had a mix of clover, creeping charlie, Violet ivy, and one other I can’t remember. I decided to direct message The Lawn Care Nut on Twitter and he pointed me in a couple of directions. The stuff I wanted “T-Zone” was a few weeks out from being shipped so I went with the product Speed Zone.
Results – I applied using a sprayer and I’m starting to see these weeds die. This isn’t foolproof either, but it will help when I overseed in the coming weeks.
Plans Going Forward
Timing is key in all locations. People love to start applying their treatments right around Labor Day. I’ve done that more than once and run into more problems than I wish to explain. Around here, early and mid-September are some of the nicest weather days. If you push out the projects too early you won’t see the results.
If you have an irrigation system you would be in better shape, but for most of us, it’s best to wait until late Septemeber to put down the seed. This doesn’t mean you should stand idle, it means, don’t force the seeding or overseeding process.
In the past, I planted the seed in early September and for the following two weeks we had the warmest days of the year and no rain. The end result was about 15% sprout. Time wasted.
So, what now?
As we move forward into fall, I plan to do several different projects so the lawn has a fighting chance in the spring. These steps require time and money.
- Dethatch – There are mixed results with dethatching, but I’ve had really good success with it so I will continue to do it. The dethatch post will cover all details about this task.
- First set of fertilizer – Organic and not necessarily a starter fertilizer.
- Aerate – Probably the most important piece to a healthy lawn. I will rent a machine and punch heavily while keeping in mind that I have a septic tank.
- Overseed – I will apply enough overseed to cover the square footage in my yard.
- Starter Fertilizer – Several days after the seed goes down I will apply a starter fertilizer. This will help with growth and strong roots. Timing is key.
- Watering – I will do what I can in terms of watering, but I really need mother nature to help with more than half. I will lose seed, but I can’t afford to lose water.
Details about all of these steps will follow in the next posts. Be sure to be on the lookout for more footage of the renovation.