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:
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