I recently purchased a home that literally has no grass in the yard what-so-ever. I would love to grow some, but I don’t know which kind would survive in our soil. I did a soil test and got a 9.0 on the pH, low levels of Nitrogen, medium levels of Phosphorus, and high Potassium. Our property has pine trees on it. It is even possible to grow grass here?
Congratulations on the new home Jade. The good news is that you can grow a lawn in just about any soil including yours. . . . The results of your pH test are a little confusing though. One would expect a yard with pine trees to have a low ph (more on the acidic side) than you 9.0 which is quite alkaline. There are a 3 reasons I can think of that would lead you to get such a high reading. The first is that the soil is clay which is very alkaline. If the soil isn’t clay then the previous owner might have been spreading lime or wood ash on the lawn without checking the ph and has overdone it. The third reason you might have gotten such a high reading is that you used tap water instead of distilled water when you performed your test. Tap water will contain minerals and chlorine both of which will make your reading come out higher than it should have. Distilled water is neutral and won’t affect your test. If you used tap water or well water then you should redo your pH test using distilled water. . . I like blends and of the blends we have at Hewitt’s, I like the Sandy Blend the best. It has 3 types of deep rooted tall fescue grass types. Tall fescues will have the best chance to grow and thrive in your difficuly area. . . . The next step in starting a lawn from seed is to turn organic matter into the area to be seeded. The more organic matter that is turned in, the thicker and more drought resistant the lawn will be for years to come. Peat moss is the easiest form of organic matter to use for improving the soil before seeding. Peat moss is capable of holding 20 times its weight of water. In very sandy soil, the addition of one 4 cu. ft. bale of peat moss per every 100 sq. ft. turned in to a depth of 6” will be necessary. This sounds like a lot of peat moss (and it is) but it is well worth the effort. For a large area, you should rent a roto-tiller to blend the peat moss and lime (if needed) into the soil to a depth of 6”. Once the soil and peat are blended together, the area should be raked smooth. This is easier to accomplish with one of those extra-wide aluminum rakes. If you can’t borrow one, a metal bow rake will do but it will take longer to get the contour you’re looking for. Next you’ll need to roll the soil with a water-filled roller to compact the soil. If you can’t borrow one, rent one. Again, if you skip this step, the project won’t come out as you’d hoped. After you’ve rolled the soil, take another look at the area to see if it is nice and smooth and has the proper contour. If not, rake and roll the area until you’re satisfied. You’ll be looking at the results for many years so take the time now to get it right. Once you’re satisfied, lightly rough up the surface of the soil with your metal rake. Finally it’s time to broadcast the seed. Consult the folks at your local garden center to determine the best grass blend for your particular soil and light conditions. For late–summer seeding, avoid cheap blends that contain annual ryegrass. Broadcast the seed evenly over the area at the recommended rate. Then roll the seed with the water-filled roller to press it into good contact with the soil. If it is a large area, you’ll want to cover it with straw. A smaller area can be covered with burlap or horticultural fabric. The reason you cover the seed is to help keep the sun and wind from drying it out while it’s germinating. After all this is done, you can start watering and watering and watering. This is the trickiest and most important part of the project. No matter how high the quality of the seed used, it won’t germinate unless the area is kept moist CONSTANTLY. It can’t be allowed to dry out, even for an hour. IF THE AREA DRIES COMPLETELY, THE SEED DIES AND CAN’T RESTART. Premium blends of fescue and bluegrass will take 2 weeks just to sprout so be diligent about watering and be patient. If you use a blend that has perennial ryegrass in addition to bluegrass and fescue, be aware that the ryegrass will sprout a week or more earlier. Even after the ryegrass sprouts, continue watering as if nothing has happened to ensure the germination of the desirable fescue and bluegrass seeds. After the young grass is up, apply a slow release winter or starter type of lawn food to stimulate quick root growth. Look for a starter food with a higher middle number (phosphorus). When the grass finally grows to 4”, mow off an inch (and no more) to promote even more root growth. In spring, apply another shot of the starter lawn food to insure that the young grass develops a mature root system