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October 17, 2009 3:48 PM   Subscribe

The greens at Casa de Codswallop are crap. Can someone give me some yard advice?

I'm a noob with lawns and it shows. One problem is that I don't really care; I just want them to be utterly unremarkable. I want a cheap, low maintenance solution that'll keep our house from dragging down nearby property values.

Our yard is mostly thin-bladed grass with sporadic clumps of darker (and faster growing) thick-bladed grass. We have a lot of dandelions in summer but those, at least, I kept in check by decapitating them with a golf putter-style whacker once a week or so.

It's now mid-October. Daily highs are mid-50s, nighttime lows around 40 and it rains at least a little almost everyday.

Is it too late or wet to spread some sort of weed and feed so the lawn looks better this spring? Any other ideas? I'm not really interested in covering everything with gravel or bark chips. Too pricy.

I also want to edge the lawn by the driveway and sidewalks so it looks a lot tidier. Any tips on that?
posted by codswallop to Home & Garden (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Fall is a good time to re-seed - some will sprout now, but some will sprout early in the spring for a better lawn next summer.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 4:03 PM on October 17, 2009

Response by poster: So feed and seed instead of weed? Will the new grass kill off the clumps of the thick grass?
posted by codswallop at 6:00 PM on October 17, 2009

Do you need a traditional lawn at all? Some friends of mine have done some nice native landscaping very much on the cheap by gathering some native plants and seeds and having a little nursery until they got big enough to transplant.

The idea of a lush green lawn seems to be pretty arbitrary and culturally imposed. Penn and Teller's Bullshit! did a show on it once....

If you have a lot of shade, moss can make a nice lawn alternative as well.

I guess I don't see the point in all the work and chemical crap that people put into their lawns. Sure, it makes sense to keep up your property not only for property values, but also for one's own "self-image", but if you put in some initial effort by doing some native landscaping or something to that effect, ongoing maintenance can be kept to a minimum with a minimum amount of chemical crud.
posted by asranixon at 6:14 PM on October 17, 2009

Best answer: I hate lawn care. But when I did have to take care of two acres of manicured lawn I used a commercial weed and feed in the fall. You can also mix in some grass seed. I never did understand the different types of grass, I just bought the one that said it would grown on anything. It really makes a major difference. Mow the lawn once a week, but don't rake it. Just let the clippings turn to mulch. And do not mow too short. It should look lush, not scalped. As for turning it into a field, it may not be an option. My neighbors would have tarred and feathered me. As for edging, there are some nice mechanical tools that will do this for you. Edging does make a difference.
posted by fifilaru at 8:21 PM on October 17, 2009

Best answer: How much do you have to edge? My front yard isn't too big so I bought one of these. It was a huge pain to use and took forever the first time I used it as everything was way overgrown. Subsequently, as long as you don't let it get seriously overgrown again it takes no time at all (<>
If you are looking to step it up a little bit, I think edging gives you the biggest bang for your buck. I have a neighbor that is way more involved in lawn care than me but doesn't edge. I think most people would agree that my yard typically looks at least as nice as his (at least from a reasonable distance) but I spend maybe half the time working in the yard as he does. If you have a lot of edging, I'd consider buying a gas powered model, but for my purposes it definitely would have been overkill.
posted by jtfowl0 at 8:40 PM on October 17, 2009

Response by poster: Xeriscaping is a good idea but it seems like a lot of work and design req'd. I honestly just want a green rectangle. Unfortunately, moss won't work. The neighbors have probably considered tarring and feathering me. I made a crack about turning it into a nature preserve to one and she wasn't amused.

I think I'll just dump weed and feed and seed. I was afraid it might be too late in the season.

For edging, I might bite the bullet and get something powered. I have this weird little half-a-circle flat shovel-looking thing that is a LOT of work. I bet it'd decapitate zombies well, though.

Thanks for the advice and, if anyone has any more, feel free to chip in.
posted by codswallop at 10:58 PM on October 17, 2009

For very little time or expense, you can get your soil tested. That way, you'll know what nutrients/fertilizers to buy, and in what strengths, which is important, because if you blast your yard with nitrogen, and don't have enough phosphorus, your money will run off your lawn with very little visible result. After that, consider putting down a good pre-emergent herbicide, for your area; you do this by early November in the PDX area, and it coats weed seeds and soil, to prevent their germination in the spring. You can fertilize now, too, but hold off on spreading grass seed, until your pre-emergent has done its job. Put out grass seed next April, or early May, about 4 weeks after your spring fertilizer application, for best germination, and coverage into bare spots. Consult your local lawn seed sellers for recommendations about your area, soil type, sun amount, and shade issues, and use popular seed varieties for your area, lightly raked into any bare spots. Water every day until grass germinates and grows to 4" height, before mowing. After that, water entire yard 2 times a week, at least 1/2" at a time, through summer months, until lower temps and shorter days of fall cause your grass to grow dormant. Fertilize again in early fall.

This Black and Decker electric edger works great for me, if you don't mind dragging power cords.
posted by paulsc at 2:44 AM on October 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't think you can do it cheap AND low maintenance. Personally, I'm cheap, but I put a lot of time into the lawn (weeding, cutting, over-seeding, etc.). And it still looks crappy in the summer (but great in the spring). But I have a lot of shade, and my grass is mostly rye/fescue which does poorly in the heat. The few tips I can offer that seem to work:
- Cut the grass high. Never cut more than 1/3 of blade length.
- You can probably water less often than you think. Say, every other day. (If you put down seed, you have to water that more often, until it's established.)
- Weed. Just a little bit every weekend. It makes a difference.
- Over seeding in the spring seems to work better than in the fall. (And it might be a little late to seed. If you're in NY.)

I use a manual edger to keep things neat where the lawn meets the curb/street.

Oh, and if you have crabgrass, use a pre-emergent. But DON'T put down seed at the same time. It won't germinate.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 10:29 AM on October 19, 2009

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