The Q&A Archives: Unhappy With New Lawn

Question: Our home was built approximately 9 months ago. A fescue blend was sown that is not doing well. Older lawns in the neighborhood look just as bad. Our entire yard is in full sun for most of the day. There are no mature trees on the lot. For our West Tennessee climate, we want to sow bermuda grass. Is this a good choice? When is the best time to sow? Will we need to kill all of the grass that is already there?

Answer: Actually, most of Tennessee falls into what is classified as the Eastern Transitional Zone, meaning that very few cool- and warm-season grass species thrive there. To choose the best turf type for your yard, it's best to consult with a local landscaper or with your Agricultural Extension Service (ph# 901-668-8543) to get a recommendation for a locally adapted variety. Since your yard is so exposed to the sun, Bermuda may be a wise choice after all.

Also check the condition of the soil. The soil around newly-built homes goes through a lot of abuse from heavy machinery and other activity. It's likely been compacted, reducing drainage and making it difficult for roots to penetrate. The topsoil may have eroded before the turf could really get established, and who knows what kind of nutrients it may be lacking. Before you sow seed or lay sod, have the soil tested (the extension service can help you with this), and amend it as recommended by the test results. This will give you the best foundation for growing a healthy new lawn.

Check the sales agreement for your new house, too. See if the lawn and foundation plantings are guaranteed to any degree. Perhaps the builder has some liability if there were terms defined around the condition of the real estate's green and growing things. Best of luck -- and pass your findings on to your neighbors!

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