How do I grow grass in a mulched area?
August 12, 2008 1:09 PM   Subscribe

I just want grass! Help me turn the last home owner's garden into a simple grass yard.

OK, so I made the mistake of buying a house that was owned by a gardener. This couple just loved to plant all sorts of stuff, all around the house. Problem is I'm the kinda guy who put off buying a house cause I never had to mow the grass at my apartment.

So over the last year things have overgrown, died, and just all around gone to crap. I've tried pulling out a lot of plants, but they seem to grow back, or weeds (they look like weeds at least) grow in their place. And I'm pretty sure I'm breeding all new forms of grass in my back yard. There's at least 6 distinct patches or varying styles.

The big issue is that a lot of my yard is mulched, where they put all their plants. Can I just put grass seed down and it will grow around/ over/eat up the mulch? That's my biggest question: how do you go from mulched area, to just grass.

Forgive me if this is a repeat question, I've googled and searched, and everything seems to be about putting down mulch, not getting rid of it. I'm just a guy who knows nothing about lawn care, that wants to reset this gardener's utopia to a simple, easy lawn.
posted by toekneebullard to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"That's my biggest question: how do you go from mulched area, to just grass. "

A shovel is involved. I mean, yes, you could throw some seed down and some tufts of grass might come up, but how do you propose to, say, mow it when fire season comes around? You can't mow mulch.

"will [it] grow around/ over/eat up the mulch?"

Not really. I mean, yes, in geological terms, but not in any time frame you are likely to consider reasonable.
posted by majick at 1:22 PM on August 12, 2008

Dig everything up. If it's a plant, pull it up - roots and all - and toss it.
Get a rake and level the yard.
Now go and buy some sod. Lay the sod over the dirt. Water regularly.
posted by GuyZero at 1:28 PM on August 12, 2008

Two words: Sod and Water... But first Roundup everything in site. Become Agent Orange incarnate. Kill everything that doesn't move. Spray as if it were The Day of The Triffids. Then wait the prescribed time for the roundup to dissipate,(probably two weeks) then sod and water.
posted by Gungho at 1:54 PM on August 12, 2008

:( It will take a little more work than you want, probably.

Cart out all the old mulch. Dig up and throw away all existing plants, making sure to get the roots. Turn over at least 6" of soil all over - this means, get out a shovel and literally turn over spadefuls, covering every inch of the yard. Now, rake it all. Spread a layer of fertilizer if you want. Sow your cool-season grass seed - now's actually just the right time to do it, unless it's still very hot where you are - spread some mulch or hay to protect the seed, and water.

A lush, green lawn is a pain in the ass, not just to start but to maintain. Is your yard shady? If so, moss lawns look kind of cool, and are very low maintenance.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:00 PM on August 12, 2008

If you like low maintenance, why don't you try alternatives to grass?

posted by sic at 2:01 PM on August 12, 2008

Response by poster: You guys are all wrong. It's grass! There's got to be an easier way! I see this stuff grow in fields all the time!

Sigh. I was afraid time and a shovel was the answer. Well, if anyone else still feels like adding to the knowledge base, I'd love a link to some place that has straight forward lawn care basics for us lawn newbs.

Thanks to everyone for the advice. I'll now put it off for a couple more months and finally get around to it when my wife nags me enough.
posted by toekneebullard at 2:06 PM on August 12, 2008

Rent a sod cutter, a tiller, or both and lay waste to the existing plants. Then, truck some sod in and lay it down. Water constantly. Mow every 1-2 weeks.

But may I respectfully suggest that you look into alternatives to grass? You've indicated that you're averse to gardening, but as there's simply no avoiding lawncare once you're a homeowner, it's going to be worth your while to do this in a way that's more sustainable. If you can afford some upfront expense and effort, reducing the amount of grass that you plant in favor of native plants will yield you an attractive lot that might require less care and much less watering in the long run.
posted by cobra libre at 2:07 PM on August 12, 2008

Your question (and even moreso Gungho's answer) makes me weep. But, maybe an artificial lawn would be best for you? The installers will do all the work, and you won't have to do any upkeep.
posted by ewagoner at 2:10 PM on August 12, 2008

I see this type of grass everywhere up here. If you do have to bow to the yoke of conformity, at least pick something easy to care for and interesting to look at.
posted by fiercekitten at 2:33 PM on August 12, 2008

Have you considered replacing the landscaping with native plants/grasses? These would be low-maintenance and also you wouldn't have to mow them. Here's a previous thread for the midwest, although you may find some generally useful info there as well.
posted by sararah at 2:37 PM on August 12, 2008

I see this stuff grow in fields all the time!

Do you want grass or do you want a lawn? If you want a lawn, here are some instructions. If you just want grass, haul off the mulch and throw down some seed, fertilizer and water, but be prepared for it to be difficult to mow, develop soggy low spots and be full of weeds and crabgrass.
posted by sageleaf at 2:44 PM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

They just did this next door. I cannot resist saying that you are not putting in grass, you are murdering a garden, but that said, here goes.

You need to dig everything out by the roots. You need to turn the mulch over and level it, but you do not need to get rid of it. You need to do some serious weed prevention. Now here's the thing-- I assume you're murdering (sorry, prejudice showing) the garden because you don't like to garden, but starting a lawn from seed is about the hardest way to do it.

You need to take a deep breath, spend some bucks and have a local garden service come in and prep your lawn, and then Put In Sod. In the long run this will save you all sorts of heartache and work.

As a life long gardener, may I suggest that you please honor the gardener who preceded you and consider keeping at least some of the flower beds? There must be someone who can advise you as to what is a weed and what is a cultivar. Mature cultivars are actually less work than a lawn, and it just looks so much nicer.
posted by nax at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2008

Always hit that button too soon-- the yard next door that they just did this is 30x60 feet. 8 guys did the entire thing (and we're talking taking out a fair amount of hardscaping, 5 mature lilacs and similar shrubs, and 20-year old sedum, hardy geranium, salvia, and more), in about 10 hours. So be prepared. It's a hell of a job. Please let your neighbors who are gardeners know you are doing this. They may want to salvage plants. Be prepared for them to hate you.
posted by nax at 2:56 PM on August 12, 2008

There's actually quite a lot of good information at the Scotts homepage on lawn care, growing, etc. Their Forums are fairly active, and includes lots of tips and help for newbie lawn care.

I highly recommend reading as much as you can there, even if you don't end up buying Scotts products.
posted by stovenator at 6:20 PM on August 12, 2008

Good grief, if there's anything that's not simple or easy, it's a lawn. Mowing freaking sucks, and if you're not going to keep on top of dandelions and quack grass and stuff it'll look like crap in no time. So then you're spending all this time mowing a crappy lawn, and so why bother, and then it looks worse because it's overgrown and crappy.

If you don't want to do yardwork, I would not recommend more grass.

Hire someone to mow your lawn *and* tend/revive the existing garden. It'll be the best money you ever spent. Nice looking landscaping, no yardwork, no fights with your wife because you didn't do the yardwork.
posted by Sublimity at 6:22 PM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your question confuses me. Lawns are much harder to take care of than plants, and use up more money and resources. If you just want your yard to look like a field, don't do anything, and all that stuff will eventually just grow and die and grow again like it does in fields. If you want a lawn, you need to do a lot of work, as people above have pointed out. My only recommendation is to avoid thinking sod lawns are an easy way out- to be successful, you need to do exactly as much prep work beforehand as a seed lawn, and then you've got to start in much earlier with aeration and de-thatching. Seed lawns are generally stronger, more drought tolerant, and slightly less/ much less maintenance (depending on variety) than sod in the long term.
posted by oneirodynia at 7:11 PM on August 12, 2008 [2 favorites]

The same thing happened when I bought my house. Here is my advice. Call a landscape designer and explain how you'd like to use your outdoor space and exactly how much maintenance you're willing to do.

He will come back with a design. You want to hear words like hard scape, perennial and native plant. Unfortunately, he will also have an estimate. You'll see that and go through the stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally Acceptance. Discuss options for work that can be deferred or done yourself. Write check.

I went from having a smallish, awkward yard that I never used to having three patio areas that get used constantly. I have enough shrubbery and plants that the areas feel lush, but they don't require maintenance beyond quarterly trimming. Over time, it'll look better and better as the plants mature.

It was a big investment, but it was also the best money I spent on the house.
posted by 26.2 at 7:38 PM on August 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

The plants won't grow properly if mowed, and if they do, who cares, they'll be mown. All that mulch want to become lovely compost.

Be lazy, and have an adequate lawn. Get somebody to rototill it. Use grass seed, lots of it. Water when dry. Mow it.

Perfect lawns use lots of chemicals, time & energy. Adequate lawns are not that hard, and better for the environment. Tell your neighbors that if they diss your grass.
posted by theora55 at 8:36 PM on August 12, 2008

« Older Disabling The Trackpad on a Dell Inspiron 1525   |   Where can I find this episode of 3-2-1 Contact? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.