The Q&A Archives: Replacing lawn of ivy

Question: I just moved into a place with a tiny little backyard that I'd like to turn into a grass lawn. It used to be covered in ivy and climbed up a tree there some 15 ft or so. I've been pulling out the ivy by hand, and nearly have the entire area (25 ft x 20 ft) back to just dirt.
What should I do next?
Do I need to worry about killing anything alive in the soil like roots I may have missed?
Wouldn't that poison the soil for new grass seed?
How do I ensure that more ivy won't sprout in a couple weeks?
What is the best kind of grass to use in this environment and approximate cost?
Lastly, is the fall a good time to plant grass seed? Thanks so much for your advice!

Answer: English ivy (Hedera helix) is a very persistent ground cover and often regrows from roots left in the ground. Whether or not it will return will depend on how deeply rooted it was and how thoroughly you removed it. If it does regrow, you dig it out again or you could spot treat it with an herbicide containing glyphosate. It can be applied by spraying or by wiping it onto foliage or wiped onto cut ends where you trim the vine back. Be sure to read and carefully follow all of the label directions.

Grass grows best in an area with full sun, so if the area is shady you may have trouble establishing a grassy lawn area. I mention this because ivy is often used as a groundcover in areas that are too shaded or where surface tree roots make it difficult to grow grass.

To plant a lawn you will need to loosen the soil down about six inches and work in organic matter such as compost. Also run some basic soil tests to check the soil fertility and pH. WOrk in fertilizer and/or limestone as indicated by the soil test results. Then level the area and rake it smooth in preparation for seeding. Keep in mind that you would not want to cause excessive damage to tree roots as this could injure the tree.

September is actually the best time of year to plant grass seed.

I would suggest you work with your local cooperative extension to determine the best grass variety based on the soil and the overall growing conditions in your yard. They should also be able to help you with the soil testing and interpreting the results.

Good luck with your lawn project!

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