The Q&A Archives: No grass in my backyard

Question: I've lived in my current house for 6 months and it is a fixer-upper. One of the projects I am getting ready to tackle is my backyard lawn. There are about five trees in my backyard which means I have no sunshine. I am cutting down two of the smaller ones this weekend and trimming back some branches. Hoping that this will help with getting sunshine in. The soil goes between being soaked due to rains to being hard as a rock and cracking when it dries up. Where do I start with planting seeds?

I went into Home Depot yesterday and they recommended I till the whole yard and put fertilizer and Peat Moss down before seeding. Is this the best way? Any other thoughts?

Thank you,

Morgan Johnson

Answer: I think you got some good advice. Improving the soil by adding organic matter will help loosen it, help it drain better and provide nutrients to the roots of your plants. Although there are some shade tolerant grasses available, they never seem to grow lush and thick the way a lawn in full sunshine might. So if you have a choice, why not delegate only the sunniest spot to lawn and plant something else in the shady spots? You can use walkable groundcovers or make flower beds or even park a picnic bench on a concrete slab in the shady spot.

For the lawn area, till the earth, remove the rocks and plant debris, spread 4-5" of aged manure or compost over the soil and rototil it again. Then rake the area smooth and broadcast your grass seeds followed by a thin layer of peat moss. The peat will help keep the seeds moist so they can sprout and will also keep the birds from feasting on the new grass seed. Keep the area watered (several times a day) to keep it moist and the grass should sprout in 7-10 days.

For the other areas, organic matter is an excellent soil amendment and if possible, add some to the soil before planting in it.

I hope this information gets you started on a spectacular landscape. Enjoy!

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