harcoj
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Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:04 pm
Location: West Sussex, England

Autum lawn renovation (with pictures)

Hi all. I'm not an experienced or particularly knowledgable gardener by any stretch of the imagination. But since moving to our current house in the south of England (West Sussex - a clay soil area, if anything) in Jan 2011, our fairly large lawn has never looked as bad as it has this August. I guess this is a US site but I'm hoping I've given enough information below to obtain some help.

The things that have worked against the lawn:

1. We have some shaded areas where moss and weeds seem to have developed
2. Two children and lots of wear have caused some bare patches
3. This summer has been dry for long periods, so a lot of yellowing/browning of the grass has happened.

At the very start of September I used Evergreen's 4-in-one after finding that my lawn was getting overrun with dandelions, clover and other unwanted things. 3 weeks on, ugly black scorch marks appeared and looked pretty nasty. Another week on and it looked as if the lawn had had it.

I mowed very short and used an eletric raker (Black & Decker model with the collection basket that fills up really quickly) on the lowest setting. This was at the end of a long dry spell. The grass had thinned out even more, but still there seemed to be a lot of dead grass in the lawn which was really hard to remove even manually. I went round again with the electric raker and decided that anything that didn't come up wasn't supposed to come up - and proceeded to seed using a slit seeder (using Evergreens Multi-purpose lawn seed) to distribute. I then added Evergreen lawn soil to thinly cover the seed. I went around the whole lawn twice and the patches a few more times.

Just before seeding, I attempted to aerate the lawn with a solid tine fork, but I couldn't get it far into the ground in many areas.

VERY heavy rain followed the day after the seeding and it continued raining for almost a week, with a bit of sunshine in the later part of that week. The daytime temperatures (and a lot of the night time temperatures) were all in the 10c - 18c range ideal for the cooler season grasses to germinate, so with the moisture and sunshine I expected to see some signs of germination after 7 days. But when I did an inspection after 8 days, all I could see was bits of dead grass and I started to wonder if I actually did the previous steps properly, in particular the preparation of the ground. I'm not sure the seed made contact with the soil!?

Given that - at this point - it was September 28th I began to wonder if I could afford to wait 3 weeks to find that nothing had happened. Being at work all day, I have no idea whether birds ate the seed or whether rainfall had caused it to wash away.

Given the heavy, persistent rain and the fact that we were virtually in October, yesterday (29th September) I decided to attempt aeration again. This time I got the fork much further into the ground in many more areas, but some were still tough. I didn't exactly do this every 20cm across the entire lawn, though - but I did do the most worn areas.

I then decided to rake manually in certain areas to get a bit more soil visible - although this was really hard. I used the electric raker again too. Most of what was being dug up seemed to be a combination of dead looking but thick grass and the soil. The area was large so I tried to focus on the problem areas but I had it in my mind that the objective was to get pure soil areas with no other matter or sections of grass, but the reality was that I could see soil but a lot of other stuff too.

I have used Miracle Gro Patch Magic with 100% success in my garden before so I played safe and bought two large (and expensive) bags of the stuff - and used it on the patches. Slightly thinner than I'd used in the past, but the past had been possibly too thick. And the rest I spread across the lawn using the slit seeder again - and for some smaller areas, by hand. We don't have rain forecast until tomorrow, so I hosepipe-watered the lot today fairly thoroughly and finally used up a smallish box of some remaining multi-purpose seed in areas where I appeared to have missed or under-done with the miracle-gro.

Immediately after that, I took pics - that was about 6 hours ago, on today 30th September:

View 1:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden7.jpg[/img]

View 2:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden6.jpg[/img]

View 3:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden5.jpg[/img]

View 4:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden3.jpg[/img]

The met office this week forecasts temperatures of 14/15/16 degrees celsius with rainfall and medium level cloud until Wednesday where sunshine and showers are forecast. Night temperatures are forecast 10 celsius and above mostly until Thursday when there is an 8 degrees low forecast.

Does anybody out there think I've left this all too late, or see any thing in the photos which suggests I've ballsed this up yet again? I must admit, my combo of impatience and inexperience makes me wonder if I have, but I'd like to see what you guys make of it. I'll continue to post pictures every 5-7 days or so.

Please share any thoughts you may have, as I'm pretty new to all this :-)

harcoj
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Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:04 pm
Location: West Sussex, England

Hi Marlingardener ... yeah the top section is tricky to mow but I've done it so much I've got it down to a tee now, just about. It's difficult to achieve cross directional mowing well, which is one of the things that can make it look good.

I hadn't thought of spiked shoes for aeration, nice easy way to do it!

For the grass seed, I'm pretty sure it's suited - it's a mixture of dwarf perennial ryegrass and fescues, which are cooler season grasses. I think the temperatures this week are right for it to germinate, but I need a bit of sunshine too. The grass seed mix I've got is advertised as growing in shady or well lit conditions so my fingers are crossed.

One update is that I woke up to find 5 thrushes pecking at the ground ... I scared them off and have now put up sets of 4 cd's hanging on garden string in 4 places to keep them away. Since that went up, I haven't seen any - but I just hope the birds I saw hadn't already eaten most of the seed!
Marlingardener wrote:Heaven knows I'm no lawn expert--being in Texas anything green that doesn't have thorns is considered "lawn"! But I do have a couple of suggestions.
In picture #1, the rectangular area between the beautiful flower beds must be awfully hard to mow. Why not just extend the two flower beds with a stone path leading to the gravel area? Grass problem there solved.
Also, aeration is really important for good grass growth. If you can get your hands (actually your feet) on a pair of old golfing shoes with the metal cleats, just walk around the yard often with them on. It sounds silly, but it does help!
Are you planting a grass adapted for your conditions? If a sun-loving type of grass is planted in shade it won't grow, no matter how good the care. You may need to have two different types of grass in your lawn--one for the shady area that has moss now, and another for sunnier areas.
If someone else here offers advice, they probably know more about lawns than I do, especially in your zone and with your conditions.

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applestar
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I think thrushes (and robins) would be mostly looking for insects and worms that you turned up. Hopefully they will find grubs and snails/slugs. If the birds were sparrows and doves, or starlings, I would be more concerned.

Actualy the weather forecast sounds pretty good for starting seeds. If it was going to be sunny and clear, I would have said maybe a scattering of straw mulch. I'm not a lawn person either, but I think I would have mixed the seeds with compost -- but it sounds like you used some kind of seed mix that contains some kind of mulching/fertilizing properties.

If birds are going to be a problem, some people cover the lawn with floating covers (normally used for frost cover) until the seeds germinate and take root.

harcoj
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Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:04 pm
Location: West Sussex, England

Just to update, it's the end of day 3 after sowing and the weather / temperatures have been as follows:

Day 1 (Sunday 29th September) > medium cloud cover, small amount of sun, mostly dry but heavier rain at night - day time air temp ~15 celsius, night time temp ~12 celsius.

Day 2 (Monday 1st October) > medium-heavy rain in the morning, lighter rain in the afternoon, sunshine for 30 minutes before sundown, day time air temp ~14 celsius, night time temp ~11 celsius.

Day 3 (Tuesday 2nd October) > medium or light rainfall most of the day, 1-2 hours of sunny intervals from noon, which covered most of the garden, back to rainfall, medium to heavy in the evening, day time air temp ~15 celsius, night time temp ~14 celsius.

No sign of birds so far, the CD mobiles seem to be doing a great job!

I wonder if the lack of sunshine is an issue, but I guess for germination it's more about moisture and soil temperature?

harcoj
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Posts: 12
Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:04 pm
Location: West Sussex, England

I thought I'd post some updates as it's nearly 2 weeks since I originaly posted. There are some new photos below, the angles are slightly off and the sunlight makes it difficult to pick out details, but you'll see some difference.

There has been plenty of rain, a little bit of sun - and the soil temperature has been largely around 10-14 celsius day and night, but forecast to drop to 4 at the lowest over the weekend but still mostly averaging around the 10-11 mark over 24 hour periods. No frost forecast yet, but there are a lot of very tiny grass plants still starting up which could do with some more of the same weather.

The view 2 area barely gets any sunlight as it's right up next to our house on one side and big trees/bushes/fences on the other side.

View 1 after 2 weeks:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden_r2.1.jpg[/img]

View 2 after 2 weeks:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden_r2.3.jpg[/img]

View 3 after 2 weeks:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden_r2.4.jpg[/img]

View 4 after 2 weeks:
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden_r2.2.jpg[/img]

JohnnyB60
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Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Wow after two weeks, that’s great. I’m now getting excited because I just planted 4 day ago, except that I did not use the Miracle Gro. I haven’t seen anything yet, but we a have a couple of days of cold that came in yesterday before it warms up again.

harcoj
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Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:04 pm
Location: West Sussex, England

Hi all, just a quick update. It's been just under one month - and in the at time I've even put a few extra bits of seeds in the super-slow places. Temperatures have been good for cool season grass - 10 celsius to 18 celsius day and night - and we've just hit a cold patch, narrowly avoided frost last night - it's about 7C at the mo.

I also cut the more established areas using the mower at top setting. Not a lot came off, less than one collection boxfull for the whole garden, but i didn't wanna cut it any shorter.

Here's the view from the top of the garden. The near side is the most shaded and has some areas of poor drainage (clay about 5 inches down). I didn't mow this area because there's patches of new seedlings still.
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden-oct27th-2.JPG[/img]

Here's the view of the main garden body. There were some horribly scorched areas which are recovering, but still you can see some patches. Hopefully a bit of tillering will thicken things up in the remaining autumn weeks or in spring. There are also some new weed growth, the ones down the bottom are new to me! - but it's way better than before.
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden-oct27th-1.JPG[/img]

Here's the worst area right at the top of the garden. I say worst, because soil is exposed and was prepared - but the grass grows so slow due to shade and poor drainage.
[img]https://media.twistedfrequency.com/temp/garden-oct27th-3.JPG[/img]

Hoping for a mild November. Wondering about putting down Evergreen Autumn 2-in-1 in a couple of weeks. Any thoughts on that product from anyone?

JohnnyB60
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Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

Wow it’s looking good, I think.
I’m not a lawn expert, but I wish mine were looking so good. I don't have any thing to add, but will be watching.

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rainbowgardener
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JohnnyB60 wrote:Wow it’s looking good, I think.
I’m not a lawn expert, but I wish mine were looking so good. I don't have any thing to add, but will be watching.
Trying to grow a lawn in the desert is a lot different than growing one in Sussex, England!

Personally, if I lived in the desert, I would not try to grow a lawn, I would get in to xeriscaping. I grew up in SoCal (not in the desert, Orange County). I remember being out every morning all summer watering the lawn. Very wasteful of a precious resource. Lawns are for places like where I am now, where water just falls out of the sky all summer (most summers anyway). I never water my lawn.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

JohnnyB60
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Posts: 125
Joined: Fri Oct 05, 2012 3:59 am
Location: Southern CA High Desert

rainbowgardener wrote: Personally, if I lived in the desert, I would not try to grow a lawn, I would get in to xeriscaping. I grew up in SoCal (not in the desert, Orange County). I remember being out every morning all summer watering the lawn. Very wasteful of a precious resource. Lawns are for places like where I am now, where water just falls out of the sky all summer (most summers anyway). I never water my lawn.
I my back yard die out and for 5 years we had so much dust that we could not use our patio. I was shoveling buckets of sand and dirt off the patio every weekend. Plus it was coming into the house and just destroying everything. I also have a small fish pond that was filling up with mud and dirt.
I only have a small little yard with rock all the way around the outside. I have automatic sprinklers with drought tolerant grass to minimize the water usage. Just since I started this a month ago the dust has gone down so much that have not had to sweep my patio in 3 weeks.

We just had a wind storm here in the last few days and I was very anxious to see how much dust it would drop. I am absolutely amazed of how little dust we got. If I would have known life in the desert could be so good, I would have done this years ago.

[img]https://i256.photobucket.com/albums/hh176/SleeperN06/Gardening/IMG_0071.jpg[/img]

Not all of us can move to Ohio! :D

DoubleDogFarm
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Not all of us can move to Ohio!
or want to. :P

Eric

harcoj
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Joined: Sun Sep 30, 2012 1:04 pm
Location: West Sussex, England

JohnnyB60 wrote:Wow it’s looking good, I think.
I’m not a lawn expert, but I wish mine were looking so good. I don't have any thing to add, but will be watching.
Thanks JohnnyB60. It's not perfect still, but I'm relieved that mostly it's repaired from the unexpected weed'n'feed decimation and unkind summer season here. The Autumn so far has been kind. Dewy, moist lawn in the morning with the sun shining - plenty of rainfall and temperatures staying good for germination and growth. The inclement British weather is grim and at times depressing, but for lawns it's awesome.

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rainbowgardener
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I certainly wasn't advocating moving to Ohio! :) I'd love to move back to Calif, if I could. But xeriscaping doesn't have to mean bare dirt. Here's a picture from an article on xeriscaping:


[img]https://www.xeriscapeweb.swiftpromotion.com/images/Xeriscape%20plants.jpg[/img]

It's all about the plants you choose.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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