Green Thumb?: The Lawn Gets a Makeover

Forgive me readers. It has been 23 days since my last blog.  A lot has gone on since then. You see, my folks just made the trek from NH to TX to visit us for Easter.  If you are anything like my husband and me, then the prospect of visitors is enough to get you off the couch and out working on projects that have been on the to do list for far too long. Couple this with spring-time in Austin, and there was quite a bit to do in our little yard.

Last summer in Austin was brutal.  I swear it hit 100 degrees by March, if not April.  And we had one of the worst droughts in history.  Typically, we are in stage 1 watering restrictions of 2x/wk starting in May. This was upgraded to stage 2 watering restrictions of 1x/wk. All that stress took its toll on our garden beds and especially our lawn, which appeared to have just upped and died.  It is currently in a sad, sad state. The solution: a partial make-over.

Dress Me Up and Dress Me Down 

Topdressing is a common solution to lawn woes here in Austin. By definition, it is a procedure in which you add a very fine layer of compost or other organic material over your lawn so you can improve the soil quality without killing existing turf.  Topdressing can be performed in the fall or in the spring.  We typically de-thatch the lawn at the end of it’s growing season and topdress bare spots with Dillo dirt or other compost. Then we do a more through treatment in the spring when the grass starts to come back to life. It is also helpful to aerate your lawn every couple of years.

This year, we found that the entire middle of the back yard was bare after raking leaves and de-thatching. We have St Augustine grass, as do our neighbors.  We didn’t see much St Augustine grass filling in the bare spots, mainly weeds and bermuda grass that birds likely brought in by seed.  Clearly, this was not going to be a job where we could treat a spot here and a spot there, so we decided to call up our local landscape supply company, Daniel Stone, and order several yards of topdressing material to do the entire back, front and side yard. They recommended landscaper’s mix, which is a combination of topsoil, rice hull compost and cow manure. We ordered 3 yards, but you can determine the exact formula for your yard by multiplying length (ft) x width (ft) x depth (in) and dividing by 324 to get the amount of cubic yards you need.

Once the material is dumped in your driveway, use a wheelbarrow to make small piles all over the lawn.  This is what it looked like at our house. As you can see, we didn’t have much lawn to speak of.

Then, use a rake, leaf rake or large broom to brush the piles of soil out over the lawn. Ideally, you want the material to be 1/2 inch thick or less. Any more will suffocate your lawn.

Finally, water all the top ressing in. We used a soil activator called Terra Tonic Super Soil Activator, which is sold at Austin’s Natural Gardener to give things a jump start.  It is composed of humid acid, seaweed, compost tea, cane molasses and other good stuff.

When you’re done, your lawn should look something like this:

And a grass close-up like this:

Now we sit back and wait for the grass to come back to life. A little praying never hurts.

I Prefer a Green Dress

As the majority of our grass in the backyard did die, we had no choice but to resod in areas. Warning: this is not an instruction manual in resodding.  In fact, what you are about to see is a very unorthodox method.  The proper procedure is to get rid of the dead thatch, lay down some topsoil (our top dressing took care of this), get each piece of sod real wet and lay it down as you would bricks, making sure each piece is flush with the adjacent piece. The problem is that we needed at least 2-3 pallets of sod to get the job done.  We learned this after marching to Home Depot and loading as much sod as we could fit into Dean’s SUV. This amounted to 40 pieces, which did not even put a dent in the backyard $60 later. So, we decided we would make some cheerful cross designs in our grass in honor of Easter. We know the St Augustine to send out runners like a weed and could already see several areas where it was starting to fill back in after top dressing.  So we created little bridges and are currently watching and waiting.  We probably will have to add many more pieces of sod, but my parents’ arrival put much of the landscaping projects on hold.  This is what the lawn looked like immediately after resodding (yes, I am aware it is a bit crazy).  I am watering the sod daily and desperately praying some grass fills in and then stays alive once the heat gets dreadful and the rain ceases to be common. It is already starting to fill in some more, so things are hopeful.

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2 thoughts on “Green Thumb?: The Lawn Gets a Makeover

  1. Thanks on your marvelous posting! I genuinely enjoyed reading
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