Favorite site for lawn care?

We plan to seed a new lawn this fall - total re-till and re-seed - and I would appreciate some recommendations for informational websites. The property is in Massachusetts.

As I have never been a lawn person, I don’t have any experience by which to evaluate a web-site myself.

Since the OP will gather opinions, let’s go from General Questions to IMHO.

samclem, Moderator

If you just want basic info, Scotts.com. It’s beginner friendly. You can find a basic step-by-step plan designed for your area and you can grow a very nice lawn using Scotts products and methods … however … you will spend more money and apply more products more often than people who learn more about other products.

If you are the type to do a lot research, Lawnsite.com is a professional level site. You can learn a whole lot on the forums here, but be forewarned that the forums are not very friendly to noobs who have not done their research.

If you plan on maintaining a nice lawn, it is worthwhile to learn about professional level chemicals. At first, the thought of spending $85 for 8 ounces of something seems outrageous but you can go through gallon after gallon of $15/gallon stuff in the big box stores and still have weed problems, whereas the $85 stuff is a concentrate that makes 128 gallons, will last for years, and will actually kill the weeds.

Thank you. One of the reasons we want to do this now is to over the overuse of chemicals - I worry about the bees. I want to get a good base down before the weed seeds start to germinate in the spring.

You’re off to a good start by doing it in the fall. That is the best time to establish a lawn. If anybody tries to tell you different, thank them for their opinion and walk away – just walk away. :wink:

The way to do it right begins with a soil test. Your soil will most likely be acidic and will need lime to adjust the pH. Having the proper pH allows the grass to use the available nutrients in the soil more efficiently, thereby reducing your use of chemicals. (Lime is not a chemical, it is a rock … and I predict you will be surprised at how much you need.)

The test will cost you $10 in your state: Umass.edu

Another big benefit of getting the test is that when you walk into the garden center or seed and feed store to buy your supplies with that paper in your hand it acts as a great filter for separating those who know what they are talking about from the ones who will just point you toward whatever is on sale.

With your soil test results you will know exactly how much of what to put on your lawn. Without a soil test, just spread some seed and water it for a couple of weeks. It will look good in October and even better in May, but next July when the weather turns hot and you start wondering why your grass is looking sparse and unhealthy, the answer will be found in what you did in September.

Whatever seed and other products you choose, read and follow the instructions; the manufacturer has put a lot of money and research into devising those instructions. If the seed package says to water it twice a day for 14 days and you only water it once a day for 7 days you won’t see much difference now but you will see it next July because you only germinated the ryegrass seed in the fall and the fescue and bluegrass didn’t become well established.

Thank you.

I’m a chemist from a gardening family (so I can make all kinds of jokes about “organic” materials) … but I’ve never done a lawn before. And now it shows.

Since you seem to know about lawns, may I ask if there is anything I should be doing to the area now, before the big till, rake, amend, level, seed, and water in September? Is it worth my while to start with the lime now, or should I just do it all in September?

My idea of soil amendment is to compost coffee grounds and egg shells together, use soap as a pesticide, and cherish which ever plants survive. Obviously, I need help with something as delicate and fragile as grass.

It’s good that you recognize grass has different requirements than garden plants. Since your soil is most likely acidic and coffee grounds are also acidic, that would be moving you in the wrong direction. Dumping stuff willy-nilly into the soil sounds like a terrible plan to me. Personally, I use the coffee grounds as mulch around the blueberry bushes and put the crumbled egg shells out by the bird feeders.

You should be aiming for a pH of about 6.5 for the lawn. Lime and fertilizer shouldn’t be applied at the same time (at least a week apart); it would be fine to put the lime down now. Weeds like acid soil. Getting the pH right is a natural weed preventative.

Getting the grass seed off to a good start will also go a long way toward preventing weeds so I strongly suggest you plan on applying something labeled as Starter Fertilizer when you plant. Do it just this once. A dense, healthy patch of grass keeps weeds out all by itself; grass seeds like to germinate in the dark but dandelion seeds need light to germinate – that’s why they pop up in bare spots where the grass is thin. Covering the area with straw after you plant will also help prevent the weed seeds you’ve tilled to the surface from sprouting.

As for tilling in soil amendments other than lime, that sounds an awful lot like work to me. I prefer the “better living through chemistry” route so I can’t help you there. Me, I wouldn’t even till the soil; I’d use a general herbicide to kill existing plants and then just scratch up 1/4 inch of the surface.

Here’s my plan for you, with a few optional steps:

Test the pH.
Apply sufficient lime to reach 6.5 (but no more than 100 pounds per 1000 square feet. If you will need more than that, apply half now and the other half in the spring.)
Till the soil and level. (I would use a RoundUp type chemical to kill the existing stuff first. Your call.)
Spread the seed and very lightly rake in. (I would also use a light roller to insure good contact of seed to soil.)
Spread Starter fertilizer.
Cover with straw.
Water according to instructions on the bag of seed.

Enjoy your new lawn. Throw down some of whatever kind of organic fertilizer suits your fancy each fall and check the pH every couple of years.

Okay, well, thanks.

I sort of knew most of that - start in the fall, use lime, pat down the seed nice and firm, but I did not know about straw and spacing the lime and fertilizer.

I’d use an herbicide, except I have a dog, and I worry about the birds, and the bats, and the bees. I study chemistry and biology … I just hate that stuff.

I’ll probably use the starter fertilizer though. I just won’t read to active ingredients too carefully.

“A dense, healthy patch of grass keeps weeds out all by itself …” is the approach I’m aiming for. I can use all the fertilizer I want on this property; there’s really no run off. And we have a nice sharp manual rotary mower perfect for mowing every three days. (Yeah, this is a very small yard.)

The coffee grounds, eggshells, and ash will continue to be used for the flower beds, which, I have to say, are pretty tough.