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Avatar for random_bunny75
Aug 6, 2017 1:49 PM CST
Name: Random Bunny
Indiana (Zone 5b)
I have a relatively smaller area where I have lawn, roughly 3000-4000 sq ft. Since water bills are so high in our area (Central Indiana) I have not watered the lawn in a long time- basically I have relied solely on rains, which have been infrequent. Last time I watered the lawn was probably about 50 days ago. I am a first time homeowner of 3 months now.

Now the front yard has turned completely brown- I think almost all the grass is dead there. I don't even have to mow it since there is no growth.
The backyard is not too bad- looks like the lawn there has survived better- of course, there are brown patch but not as bad as what I see in the front. I still have to mow it.
The sides of the house have brown patches- of dead grass as well as dormant grass.

Now I have a few questions.
- How do I restart the grass in the front yard (it is small, probably about 700-800 sq ft). The soil there seems to be very compact- wonder if this is the reason grass died there completely. Do I aerate here or do I till with a tiller rented from Home Depot- aerate vs. till?
- Before tilling- do I have to kill remaining grass that is in small patches?
- The grass in the front yard is dead vs. the back is not- I wonder why. Is it because the grass type is different? Or the soil compaction is playing a role?
- The front yard has a pretty steep slope- not sure if this causes any problem with water retention.
- What type of grass do you recommend that does not need a whole lot of water, again for whatever reason- water is so expensive here (I pay like $120 for a family of 4 with 2 small kids- and we are very conservative with water)
- Do I need to put straw and fertilizer together?

- Do I need to till here or aerate? Or just what they call over-seed or re-seed... something like that
- If I just over-seed, how would grass seed come in contact with soil if there is already some grass there with patches of dead or dormant grass?
- Do I just start watering this part of the lawn now- to make sure what I have does not get killed completely like the front yard?

- How can I keep costs down? Can I rent aerator/ tiller etc. at a small cost? Or are there other way to do this?
- How much seed will I need- and are the low-water grasses more expensive?
- What else do I need?

I suppose I need to water the new lawn every day? This is the irony I guess- I did not water the lawn because of high water bills but it looks like as I try to restart the lawn- I have to water every day and expect a huge water bill :-(
I wonder if sprinkler system causes so much water usage vs. using a hose and oscillating sprinkler head.

So many questions. Thank you for reading. Here are some pictures of the yard.


Thumb of 2017-08-06/random_bunny75/b9465f

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Aug 6, 2017 1:54 PM CST
Name: Celia
West Valley City, Utah (Zone 7a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Garden Photography Irises Plant Identifier Hummingbirder Birds
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Cat Lover Butterflies Enjoys or suffers cold winters
A quick question, how important is having grass to you? Watering a lawn is expensive. If I could start over here, I would spend the $ I spent on grass and put down hardscape and more drought tolerant plants.
Aug 6, 2017 2:29 PM CST
Name: Elaine
Sarasota, Fl
The one constant in life is change
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I can see why you'd want some lawn space for your small kids, but maybe think about using flower beds, shrubs, ground cover and mulch in the front yard rather than spending a lot of time, effort and money on re-doing that lawn. Yes, the slope is very likely the reason the grass died in front and not in the back. You'll always have to water it to keep grass alive there. Same thing will happen next year, if you don't change the scenery.

The back yard lawn may come back once it cools off and starts to rain, too. To save money on watering, reduce the area of lawn in the back yard, too. If there are flower beds, expand them. Plant drought-tolerant perennials and shrubs. Fall is a great time to plant a lot of those things because nurseries and garden centers clear out their plants in the fall at big discounts. It's good for the plants to plant in fall as well because it's cooler, usually rainy and they have all winter to grow roots and get established so they're ready to take off in the spring. Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil around any new plantings. You can often score free wood chip mulch from tree trimming contractors and they'll even deliver it to your house.

Some counties allow gray water systems - in which you're allowed to re-direct your bath, shower, laundry and dish water to be used for irrigation. This can save a lot on watering in the long run. Short term, keep a deep dish pan in your shower with you, and you'll collect a few gallons of water each time somebody has a shower. Use that for watering the lawn or other plants.

"Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm." –Winston Churchill
Avatar for Shadegardener
Aug 6, 2017 4:19 PM CST
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Random - I'm up in NW IN and we have a few browning patches but not completely dormant. We're getting ready to get our lawn in shape for fall/winter. We have someone come in and aerate the lawn (removing little plugs of soil) but we've also rented them in the past. I recommend making two passes over your lawn. You can then put down gypsum (helps with clay soil), fertilizer (with no weed killer) and grass seed. Yep, you'll have to run the sprinkler every day to get the grass seed to germinate. And then every couple of days once the grass starts growing unless you get some good rainfall. Our soil is fine silt over clay and lots of oak trees. Best time is mid-Aug to mid-Sep for this. You're using a cool-season grass seed like fescue or bluegrass?
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Avatar for random_bunny75
Aug 7, 2017 12:27 PM CST
Name: Random Bunny
Indiana (Zone 5b)
Cindy- what type of grass do you recommend that is hardy and will not need a lot of water in Indiana?
Also any bushes you have planted that are native to Indiana and do not need a lot of water?
Avatar for Shadegardener
Aug 7, 2017 12:36 PM CST
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
Some of the newer grass blends are a little more tolerant of less water but they still need adequate water to germinate. Some of the Pennington blends might fit the bill for you. I would do a blend if you can rather than one specific variety. And you may not have to do anything with the dormant patches as long as they're not totally dead. You'll be using an "over-seeding" method there. As for shrubs, I haven't planted true natives here but you may want to go to some of the Indiana wildflower websites to see if they have recommendations for your soil type, sun exposure and rainfall amounts. I have a lot of shade that you might not have. Viburnums come to mind though. Serviceberries (I have a few natives ones here) might be good as well.
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
Avatar for Shadegardener
Aug 7, 2017 2:57 PM CST
Name: Cindy
Hobart, IN zone 5
aka CindyMzone5
Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Plant Identifier
random - here's a great website for IN natives -
Just watch for any with thorns - you have little kids, right?
Only when the last tree has died and the last river has been poisoned and the last fish has been caught will we realize that we can't eat money. Cree proverb
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