New Lawn - Knowledgebase Question

St. Louis, Mi
Question by kcpoko
March 15, 2010
Hi Home Depot! I just bought my home and the backyard is a mud pit because of previous owners not caring about the yard. There is a HUGE tree which provides a lot of shade, but I know grass can grow because of neighbors telling me it's been there in the past. Should I do grass seed or sod (I enjoy instant gratification) and whichever option you tell me to go with, how do I do this successfully?

Answer from NGA
March 15, 2010


Sounds like you know that turfgrasses will struggle in the shade so I'd suggest using a mixture of the most shade tolerant grasses - a mixture you'd only get in seeds, not sod. Although sod provides an instant lawn, you'll still need to prep the soil and seed really only takes 10-14 days to sprout and begin establishing. Another 3-4 weeks of growing (and mowing) will help it thicken up to nearly the same density as sod. So, from an economical standpoint, I'd go with seeding. A really good mix would include 40% Turf Gem II Tall Fescue, 10% Kentucky Bluegrass, 10% POA Trivialis and 40% V.I.P. Perennial Ryegrass. This mixture is formulated to provide a good quality lawn in moderate to dense shade, as well as in areas that are transitional from shade to light. Maximum performance will occur in areas with shade of less than 50% of the day. This mixture will perform well in damp areas, but excessive moisture should be avoided. Responds well to a medium intensity fertilizer program, and a mowing height of 2" is recommended. The fescue adds drought tolerance to this mixture. Look for shade grass lawn mixtures in your local garden center. If you can find these exact percentages, just find one with similar grass types. As for prep, here are the steps to follow: 1. Remove the old lawn and/or weeds, if any exist. 2. Break up the compacted soil with a tiller. Tillers (also called rototillers) can be rented from your local rental center. 3. Spread a starter fertilizer over the now-loosened soil. This type of fertilizer is high in phosphorus, the middle number in the NPK sequence on a fertilizer bag. 4. Also spread a soil conditioner over the soil. "Soil conditioner" is often what it's called at the store, but if you have a good supply of compost at home, it will serve just as well as a soil amendment. 5. Again using the tiller, till the starter fertilizer and soil conditioner (or equivalent) into the soil. I know this seems like a lot of work, but good soil preparation is one key in seeding lawns successfully. 6. Now rake the soil to begin to level it out, removing any rocks and debris that you find. To avoid problems with excess water-runoff, make sure that any site grading you do allows water to flow away from your house. 7. This step requires a roller. Rollers, like tillers, can be rented from your local rental center. Fill the roller's drum with water, then use the roller to finish leveling the soil. Water the soil lightly. 8. For this step you'll need a seed spreader. Following the recommended seeding rate, spread 1/4 of the seed over the entire lawn area. Then repeat times, each time using 1/4 of the seed. However, each of the 4 times you distribute a load of seed, push the spreader in a different direction, to encourage even dispersal. 9.Rake lightly, so as to cover the seed with a thin layer of soil. 10. For this step you'll use the roller again. But first you'll empty out the water from the drum, because you want it lighter this time. Now roll the lawn surface. 11. The seeds must be watered properly, in order to germinate. Use just a fine spray, as you don't want to create a flood. The soil should be kept evenly moist, which may mean several waterings per day (depending on the weather). 12. After the grass blades sprout, you'll still need to water a couple of times per day. Best wishes with your new lawn!

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