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April 20, 2017 3:01 PM   Subscribe

Our lawn has gotten pretty patchy overall and totally bare in some significant areas. I've been trying to reseed, but the birds keep coming and eating all of it. What do I do?

It's a small lawn, maybe 600 square feet, and over the few years we've lived here it's gone from mostly pretty good to mostly pretty terrible. The dog pees out there and it's killed a lot of the grass, plus the lawn has receded away from the tree in the back corner where it's mostly shady. Aside from those problem areas, it's gotten kind of weedy and patchy, including a ton of onion grass (? or actual onions? I'm not entirely sure).

I've tried seeding the big bare patch caused by the dog, but birds swoop in and eat all the seed before it has a chance to sprout. This last time around, I threw a little bit of extra dirt on top and a few blades are poking through, but they still managed to get the bulk of the seed. How do I keep the birds away while the grass grows? And how do I get the rest of the lawn fuller, knowing that the birds are just going to come back and eat all that seed?
posted by backseatpilot to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Reseed and then put a net over the top. Means you can't use the lawn for a few weeks, but should let the seeds germinate & get established.

Alternatively just buy some new turf.
posted by pharm at 3:06 PM on April 20 [1 favorite]

Exactly what pharm said. My father discovered this independently of every other lawn owner. Fresh seed and screening. It looks a bit icky but eventually lush green it is. Tack it down at the corners with clothespins or wood scraps.
posted by Splunge at 3:34 PM on April 20

Quick suggestion on the seeding as well since you mentioned your dog-- have you considered adding microclover? Doesn't need mowing, crowds out weeds, resistant to dog urine, self-fertilizing, good in sun and shade, and makes your other grass greener in general. Apparently a number of golf courses are shifting to it. I just seeded (mixed with regular grass seed) this year and am hoping that it takes over the lawn if it's as good as it sounds! More info here.
posted by mireille at 3:52 PM on April 20 [7 favorites]

Regarding the shady corner, you might consider raising the canopy. It will allow more sun into that corner, which will allow the soil to dry out so the grass can thrive. If it's really bad, you might need to overseed (and follow what other commenters have suggested to shield the seed from the birds) but otherwise the grass will return on its own once the environment is more hospitable. Another strategy apparently is to mix lime into the soil, which is supposed to create a better Ph for grass, or something like that. I tried it once, but didn't pour my heart and soul into the effort and the results were noticeable but not great.
posted by DrGail at 4:38 PM on April 20

I use burlap to cover seeded areas. Stake it down at the corners and don't take it off until your wee grass is growing strong.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:45 PM on April 20

Just a couple weeks ago I bought a large blue tarp for other purposes - can I use that to cover the seeded areas, or is it not going to be breathable/light-transmissible/whatever enough?
posted by backseatpilot at 5:56 AM on April 21

A blue tarp is not going to be suitable. It needs to be something light and water permeable, like a fabric or mesh.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:17 AM on April 21

That tarp will be great for killing grass under the tree so that you can plant appropriate stuff there or mulch it. Grass and trees are completely incompatible and it's not a good idea to spend a lot of time and money fighting against the natural order.

Really unless you play croquet or badminton or have a real need for turf I'd recommend planting non-grass plants for easier maintenance and better environmental impact.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:37 AM on April 21

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