Overseeding the lawn

prairiemoon2 z6b MA
April 14, 2018

I was going to attempt to improve the lawn this year. I don't enjoy it so I keep putting it off. [g]. I have a natural lawn with clover in it. It also has some white violets that come up in it. I don't want to make it a huge project. I'd like to fertilize it with something organic. I don't want to spread compost on the whole thing. I don't want to buy bagged lawn fertilizer. I was thinking of. spraying fish emulsion over it, not sure if that's going to have much effect. I'd also like to overseed it with a grass seed mix that I mix myself - grass and clover and ... ? looking for ideas on what kind of seed I can sow that will work in a lawn to produce flowers at some point in the season and that is complimentary to grass.

Comments (9)

  • kimmq

    How much organic matter is in that soil?

    How well does the soil drain? How well does the soil retain moisture?

    What does the soil smell like?

    What kind of life is in that soil?

    What is the pH of that soil?

    What about the major nutrients, what does a soil test say?

    The UMASS Master Gardeners offer a free soil pH test and UMASS does a good soil test relatively inexpensively.

    Perhaps these simple soil tests may also be of some value.

    1.Testing for organic
    matter. Put about 1 cup soil (enough to fill the jar to 4 inches) in
    a clear 1-quart jar, with a tight fitting lid. Fill that jar with water and
    replace the lid, tightly. Shake the jar vigorously and then let it stand for 24
    hours. Your soil will settle out according to soil particle size and weight.
    For example, a good loam will have about 1-3/4 inch (about 45%) of sand on the
    bottom. about 1 1) Soil test for organic material. From that soil sample put
    enough of the rest to make a 4 inch level
    inch (about 25%) of silt next, about 1 inch (25%) of clay above that, and about
    1/4 inch (about 5%) of organic matter on the top.

    2) Drainage. Dig a hole 1-foot square and 1 foot deep and fill that
    with water. After that water drains away refill the hole with more water and
    time how long it takes that to drain away. Anything less than 2 hours and your
    soil drains’ too quickly and needs more organic matter to slow that drainage
    down. Anything over 6 hours and the soil drains too slowly and needs lots of
    organic matter to speed it up.

    3) Tilth. Take a handful
    of your slightly damp soil and squeeze it tightly. When the pressure is
    released the soil should hold together in that clump, but when poked with a
    finger that clump should fall apart.

    4) Smell. What does your
    soil smell like? A pleasant, rich earthy odor? Putrid, offensive, repugnant
    odor? The more organic matter in your soil the more active the soil bacteria
    will be and the nicer your soil will smell, to a point. Too much organic matter
    can be bad as well.

    5) Life. How many
    earthworms per shovel full were there? 5 or more indicates a pretty healthy soil. Fewer than 5,
    according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, indicates a soil that
    is not healthy.

    prairiemoon2 z6b MA thanked kimmq
  • Festiva Maxima (MD 6B)

    I know I'm too late with this piece of advice: collect fallen leaves and spread them all over the lawn. Then run over them with a mower as many times as necessary to make the leaves seem disappear. Worked for me pretty well.

    As far as including flowers with the grass, I can only recommend very early and tiny bulbs, like snow crocus, which will survive your first spring mowing. Are you planning to stop mowing and create a meadow? Including flowers will be very hard if you live in an area that does not support naturally occurring meadows. If you have a natural lawn and you stop mowing on a weekly basis, after a while it will become a vast collection of weeds which can't be removed because you will have to step on the flowers in the process. This is all explained in the wonderfull book by William Alexander, "The $64 Tomato: How One Man Nearly Lost His Sanity, Spent a Fortune, and Endured an Existential Crisis in the Quest for the Perfect Garden." There's a chapter there "Nature Abhors a Meadow." :)

    Sorry if I misunderstood you post!

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA

    Festiva Maxima - great screen name and gorgeous flower. :-)

    Well, we always add leaves to the lawn in the fall and run them over but then we empty the mower bag onto the top of the vegetable beds. So you are saying run over them with the mower w/o the bag and leave them?

    I do have a couple of crocus, one in particular seems to be traveling a little - reseeding, which I am trying to accomplish. The others not so much. They seem to be smaller and fewer this spring.

    No, I don't want to create a meadow. But our grass has been in place since at least the 1980s undisturbed. The house was built in 1950 and for all I know, it could be the original lawn. It is slow to need cutting in the spring and has a fair amount of clover in it. So I thought maybe I'd do some patches in the lawn around the edges so I could leave it even longer for more time. Maybe English Daisies - was what I was thinking, though I'm not sure they are reliably hardy here.

    I did add chionodoxa hoping that would reseed and spread, but this is the 3rd season and it looks like the original amount, which was small. I was wondering about Scilla around the edges and Snow Drops. I do have Viola labradorica around the yard, but it has not taken up residence in the lawn.


  • Festiva Maxima (MD 6B)

    Yes, shred the leaves with the mower and leave them where they are. You may see bits here and there for a few days but they will be gone soon. I see more and more of folks in the neighborhood doing this.

    Our lawn was installed in late 1940s, so it also contains a fair amount of clover. By now it's a mix of cool-weather grass, warm-weather grass, clover, wild onions, dandelions, you name it. I'm not obsessed with lawn maintenance, but I do have to mow frequently, sometimes twice a week, or it will get too tall to cut properly. So no flowers for me... :(

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA

    Wow, the 1940s. That's something. Sure they evolve. Ours has dandelion too, but we've been lazy and not done much reseeding of different grass seeds. [g] I don't know what kind of grass we have, but we really don't have to mow for at least a week to 10 days.

    I will try the leaves in the fall. Thanks for that idea, too. :-)

  • party_music50

    Mine isn't exactly lawn, but I like it. It's mostly blue or purple in spring with forget-me-nots, violets, grape hyacinths, speedwell, etc,. I have some grass and lots of clover and let things like red sorrel, buttercups, and daisies do their thing, then I mow them when needed. :)

    Definitely use a mulching mower for grass and leaves. I also fill in low spots and rake some compost into any thin or bare areas.

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA

    PartyMusic - It must be very pretty in the spring. I wonder if you have any photos? :-)

  • party_music50

    I think it's pretty! :) naturally, I can't find any good / comprehensive photos at the moment, and everything is still dormant here... I did find these photos where I was making a willow tree... It shows some FMN near its end... And another that shows a bit of a small side yard that I converted to "no mow".

  • prairiemoon2 z6b MA that is what forget me not does. It really travels into the lawn. Thanks for sharing your photos. You have a LOT of spring bloom, very pretty! I like your picket fence, the Iris next to the house and nice collection of Hostas. Maybe you'll come back and post more of your lawn as it blooms this spring? If you think of it.

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