Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:09 am
Location: Reston, VA

Trying to repair lawn in bad shape in Northern VA

Our property has a relatively small lawn for the quarter acre or so, and just in the front yard - about 500 square feet give or take. Unfortunately I haven't had the time/money/energy to maintain it the way I would like in the 3.5 years we've been here, so it's slowly deteriorated. It has a lot of weeds, but also has had leaves sit for months in the fall, producing bald areas (at least right now). We were considering moving for a while to a place that I would not need to be spending much time on lawncare, but we've just decided to stay for the time being, so I'm in need of some advise as to how to go about getting the lawn in better shape.

I've read about the basics. and have already followed some (mowing and only reseeding in the fall), but not others (preemergent broadleaf weed preventatives, no real watering or feeding).

I guess my main concern right now is whether or not I should attempt to put down any seeds for the Spring. I know it's considered somewhat of a waste of money given the small germination window before it gets too hot for the seedlings to survive. Do you find that it's worth it to try to do this anyway, perhaps in early March when temps might be finally into the 50's on most days, which would give 2-3 months of germination, or is this generally considered a complete waste of money?

Barring doing any seeding this Spring, what can I do before Fall to help get my lawn in better shape? I figure doing some watering during hot dry spells will be needed, and also putting down some corn gluten meal (trying to keep things organic /sans chemicals, since I have a 7-year-old who likes to play a lot outside). I'm thinking of compost (leafgrow) for feeding at some point, maybe early summer?

I've also picked up some tall fescu and rye mixes at Home Depot, but I suppose I should probably just go to a real garden store and ask for recommendations for the best grasses for this area given the fairly small amount of sun we get (3-54 hours per day), drainage, and traffic. I'm just wondering whether paying for a more targeted blend at premium prices is worth the money or can I get away with this big-box-store stuff and do ok?

Thanks for any tips!

Newly Registered
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Feb 23, 2013 7:09 am
Location: Reston, VA

The other item I didn't mention is that after about 7-10 ft in, the ground slopes up at about a 30-45 degree angle till it gets about 3' higher ground. The slope has grass as well, but since it is in a lot more shade then the front part, it has deteriorated much faster and so is pretty bare at this point. I just wonder if we should replace what's on there with something else - some kind of groundcover, and for that matter whether we should replace the whole lawn with a groundcover. I know it's a bit hard to give advice without seeing the actual property, and this particular question might be more relavent in the landscaping section...

Senior Member
Posts: 156
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:00 pm
Location: Chicago area

Hello dvdmon. Ken here. Welcome to the Forums.
What you have there is not an ideal situation for a lawn.
The tall fescue grass seed that you bought will tolerate the shade,
3-5 hours, but you also have drainage and traffic problems. I think
that a lawn is going to be too much trouble and time consuming.

The first thing to do before you plant anything is to take care of the
drainage issue. I would aerate the area by renting a gas powered aerator
or buying a step tool aerator. Both take a plug of soil out of the ground.
This allows the soil to expand and water to drain deeper.

Now go out and see if you can find the walk on lawn substitute
Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’ and Chamomile. It is a nonflowering
variety and needs no mowing. It can handle part shade. If there is going
to be a lot of traffic, create a pathway to help with the health of the plants.
Plant 1 foot apart. Give it moderate water when established.

If you make it a non-traffic area, use Vinca minor. It will take the shade and
give you a 4-6 inch groundcover with blue flowers. Be sure to prune occasionally
to keep it from growing into adjacent areas. Give it little to moderate water when

Keep us posted on your progress.

Return to “Lawn Care”