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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hello everyone! I've been a long time lurker on the site but this is the first time I am posting.. I am looking for advice on my 2018 lawn rehab.

Here is the background on the lawn from what I know and what I have done so far.

We purchased our house a couple years ago and before us the House was rented and the lawn was extremely neglected. It also didn't help that the people who lived here ran a pet care business out of the house. For the first year we had a family friend mow our lawn. Unfortunately, We were in the process of selling our old house and I didn't have time to do it myself. He mowed when the lawn was looking like a field and would butcher it every time. The weeds were out of control, it was an absolute mess.

Once we moved in last spring I decided I was going to take back over my lawn.. unfortunately, a local pay and spray came by with a pre-emergent without our knowledge so it slightly stalled my plans for the year.

Last summer I managed to fill in some low spots and spot seed some areas that were extremely thin. I used multiple different blanket and spot spray apps of weed killers to keep the beasts at bay and prep for a fall boost.

In fall, I power raked, aerated, and slit seeded. Threw down some starter fert and picked it up with a .7lb/k rate of Milo. I used 100% certified Midnight KBG. I got a decent increase in density before winter struck last year but I am still very far from where I would like to be.

We have about 8,000sq ft of lawn, which was patchy at best and mostly kbg and I believe some tttf. All of which I'm sure were old cultivars from 1991 when the house was built.

Here is what I have planned for this year.

I am starting spring with a soil test to really see what I need to get things moving in the right direction.

I know many people will tell me not to do it but I am also doing another round of aerating and overseeding in spring as soon as soil temps hit 50 degrees. I understand the risk but without addressing the patchy problems we have in spring I don't stand a chance this year.

After seeding I am planning on a starter fert and milo application right away. I also have some low areas and would like to start to get into leveling them out. I was thinking to topdress with a sand and peat mixture but I do not know what type of sand to use (any help would be appreciated).

As long as things don't go south and everything stays on track, I plan on another aerate and overseed with a few different cultivars of kbg in fall.

I am in Metro Detroit and everyone around here has clay soil so I plan on doing a super high tech jar test in spring also to see what it looks like.

Photos to follow. I will keep updating with my progress.
 

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It is not possible to aerate too often. That is why every greenskeeper on the planet does so frequently.
Unless someone has already tilled lots of organic matter into your lawns soil. And especially with clay soil or very silty soil
(like mine with low organics).

The guy that did my soil tests said you can't really distinguish between silt and clay by looking at it. There is considerable technique involved in the settlement testing (Boyoucos hydrometer method).

It sounds like your situation is similar to mine but I am in the transition zone. It sounds to me like you are very much on the right track. In Detroit you are likely to have more success with a spring overseed than here in St. Louis
 

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Although it goes contrary to popular opinion, I have seeded in the spring and would seed again in the spring or summer if need be. As long as you keep it wet or moist it works. Maybe not as good as in the fall but you'll be fine.

Heck.... I cut my lawn at 5/8....that is the definition of going against the norm with a cool season lawn. Lawn care is personal. There is more than one way of doing things. Do what works best for you.

I'm sad to hear that you didn't do a full kill. Getting all that old tired grass, and fescue cultivars would have been best.

As for leveling with sand, it can be done but it's difficult to do when the lawn is long. The shorter the better when it comes to sand. Get any sand you can from a bulk supplier that is free of pebbles.

Keep at it and you'll have the best lawn in your area for sure. Time and patience is what it takes.

See this leveling video.

https://youtu.be/uiB0FsXsYvM
 

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Dan, welcome to the lawn forum.
My opinion would be that you take soil samples as early as you possibly can in the spring. That should be right around March 1st or so depending on the weather. I would wait to get the results back from those test before I make any more definite plans moving forward. When you're taking soil samples make sure to isolate your areas of your lawn. With this I mean take a collaborative soil sample for the front lawn, another calloborstive soil sample for a side lawn, and in another collaborative soil sample for your back lawn. In most cases soils can tend to different from other areas around your home. That test should tell you a myriad of things about your soil. Things like text soil texture, physical properties, cation exchange capacity, water percolation and infiltration rate etc.
As for topping off or leveling your existing lawn I would recommend using just a regular topsoil. Especially if your soil around your home is a fine textured soil, meaning the high percentage of clay and or silt. The reasons for this are so numerous. First it is easy to get, you can get as much or as little as you need from plenty of suppliers, it is cheap, and it more closely matches your existing soil composition. Many people will top dress with sand and I agree that is a very good way of doing it, however it. Is considerably more expensive than topsoil, you may need a lot more of it to get your desired affect, most likely you'll have to do it multiple times over several seasons ,and sand can tend to dry out the existing top surface of your soil profile causing some more possible complications. It is the best whenever possible to match your existing soil composition as much as possible with a slightly more coarser textured material.
Your planned Spring fertilizer application with some phosphorus a.k.a. starter fertilizer would not be a bad plan since you are trying to push seed establishment from last fall. But I would wait until you got at least two or three mowings before you apply it. Also, make sure that you read the label on the fertilizer bag and follow its directions or even better yet calibrate your spreader to your specific target rate of product.
Your plans to aerate and seed in the spring Is not deal but not inherently wrong either. The situation or challenge may be however that if you purchase Kentucky bluegrass seed it is very slow to germinate and you may not see the full benefits of that seed. An option that you could use however would be to purchase what is called a "sports turf mix" seed. It contains mostly Kentucky bluegrass but also has some perennial ryegrass and a little fine fescue in it. This will alleviate the germination problem and get you some grass up in the spring. However, if you are not careful and don't know the specific cultivars of your previously seeded areas the seed might not match in terms of color and you may be looking at isolated patches of lighter or darker color green depending on what you get. I have used a sports turf seed mixture for a considerably long time in mixed turf grass stands and I have not had a problem with it looking consistent.
Hope this helps..
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for all of the input so far everyone.

Connor, I've watched your videos and have seen how you leveled with sand.

All of you bring up very good points. Here are a few photos from last year, as you can see there are some major issues going on.














 

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I'd suggest you not bother with the grass this spring. Go ahead with the soil test, but forget seeding. The two most important things for grass is sunlight and water. If they aren't available you can't grow grass. The areas of your lawn that look pretty good appear to be getting enough sun (6 hours of direct sunlight for KBG), the poor areas don't look like they get sun and/or enough water.
My guesses:
Pic #1 looks pretty good, TLC is all that's needed.
Pic#2 Is that the North side? Suggest landscaping, maybe a mulched low light plant garden along the house. That tree is badly wounded. Removal is your big priority. Also, get a sawsall and remove whatever that is to the left of the tree.
Pic #3 pretty good, TLC
Pic #4 Too much shade, too little water. either remove the trees, possibly thin them or landscape around them with a bed.
Pic #5 pretty good. Maybe nutrient but probably just TLC
Pic #6 Water, maybe also nutrient
Pic #7 pretty good, LDS, TLC
Pic #8 pretty good, TLC
TLC= regular mowing, sufficient water and nitrogen fertilization. You'd be surprised with the improvement those three things can make.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks ridgerunner. The bush to the left of that tree is my neighbors so unfortunately I can't do anything about it. We just removed a big maple in the back that had some rotting issues at the base, before we completely clear out the entire back yard we want to plan out the cost of tree replacements. I am aware that the tree in that photos is in poor health and it also has an insect issue. And you are correct, it is the North side of the house.

These photos were after some of the fall overseeding started to show. I also have a google street view that is from before we bought the house which I've attached below. Once the snow melts and the grass greens up a bit I will take a photo from the same vantage point.. as you can see in this photo... this was the front of the house which was in better condition than the rear. We have done a lot of landscaping changes which have opened up the yard a lot but there's still a long way to go.
 

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The reason I suggest you skip Spring seeding is if you decide on tree removal, thinning or mulch bedding, the traffic over the lawn from machinery, even wheelbarrows, can damage young turf and make ruts. Other than the totally large bare areas, it looks like you have enough established KBG that it will spread this second year with some extra care. KBG can really fill in. I would agree that a Spring seeding could be used for the area in Pic# 6 and along the drive.
The property line is really close to that tree then. I don't know that I've ever seen a bush so drastically cut back and recover. Is that the same type of bush as the one in the foreground?
 

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One of the reasons I finally decided to give up on a spring seeding (aside from the fact that in St. Louis it probably is not a great idea anyway, a gamble) is that I am in the process of getting a tree company to come in and go through my yard.
They are going to take down part of a stockade fence down so that they can get a cherry picker and chipper into the back yard.
No point in seeding until that is all over with. When people cease caring for their lawns that usually includes the trees even more so. If you are going to play catch up you have to sequence things which for me has been one of the more difficult parts.
 

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Welcome to the forums.

I'm with Ridgerunner and avoiding spring seeding except in the areas you want to fill in and just give the other spaces some TLC. KBG can rebound and fill in quite nicely. I'm also in the camp of avoiding spring aeration as it may lead to weed seeds being disturbed and leading to issues. Instead of spring aeration would you be open to trying soil conditioners / surfactants https://thelawnforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=208?

I'd also highly suggest using a pre-emergent and avoid the areas where you want to seed. In those areas you could use Tenacity or even Scotts starter fert w/mesotrione as those two will not suppress grass seed germination.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
The soil is in really bad shape, nearly as hard as concrete in some areas. It has gotten a bit better since I started to add organic material and after aerating. I am really going to try to do it without any pre-emergent and just stay on top of spot spraying and hand pulling. I think I will be able to stay on top of our size yard.

I plan on adding some surfactants and soil conditioners in addition to aerating.

Another reason I want to push it and do the spring overseed is that although I will need to water the seedlings more and may have more pressure from disease and weeds I haven't had much luck with fall overseeding in the past as by the time temps are right for a typical germination they will he bit off by a frost too soon. I guess it would be easier if I decided on a tttf instead of kbg.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
The snow around here finally melted and I got a couple photos of some of the lawn. As you can see, this spring is definitely a step in the right direction compared to the photos from last year.

I cleaned up the laves and debris, and used a metal tined rake for some areas and my backpack blower in others to get some of the matted areas some more airflow.

When should I do my first application of milorganite and at what rate should I put it down?

Thanks for the help.




 

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That's decent recovery already. Much of the N and P in Milorganite is dependent on micro-life activity for release and Detroit in February is going to be a bit cold for them to be active. However Milo is about 40% fast release urea and that will be available. Once you see active turf growth, you could apply Milo at something like half bag rate every two weeks or a starter fertilizer at a third of bag rate every two weeks to help KBG spreading and growth.
 

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wardconnor said:
Although it goes contrary to popular opinion, I have seeded in the spring and would seed again in the spring or summer if need be. As long as you keep it wet or moist it works. Maybe not as good as in the fall but you'll be fine.
I actually agree 100%. Especially when poa annua germinates in the fall, which is much harder to deal with than crabgrass. Then if you are doing a KBG lawn it can easily spread and fill in any spots where you had to kill crabgrass.

I found seeding in the fall here to be more difficult because water restrictions prevent us from watering daily till September. Well when I did my reno it got cold early and the KBG takes up to a month to germinate, so the grass didn't take off. It worked but there were lots of patchy areas that I had to really spoon feed in the spring to fill in. The hill that I seeded in the spring however came in faster and thicker and caught up to the rest of the reno no problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Welcome to a day in the life of Michigan residents... the last photos I posted were yesterday and today we got nearly a foot of snow.. going to be a little while before the lawn starts to green up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I bought the 11lb bag on amazon for $30, I also have a liquid humic acid that I will be applying after the weather finally breaks. I am going to really try to feed the soil as much as I can this year and increase microbial activity. When we had some rain and nice temps a week or so ago I saw a lot more worms than last year so everything it looking better than before.

I will be mixing the Humic DG with Milo and applying it at the full bag over 8,000 square feet of lawn and mulch bed areas. With all I have planned for this year I won't be able to pin point if any specific product performs well as I'm sure they will all help.
 
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