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Starting all over from scratch?

Kim Throneberry
3 days ago
last modified: 3 days ago

Calling all much wiser grass, plant, and wildlife enthusiasts. I need some help formulating a game plan for renovating our pitiful mess of a backyard. I'm going to try my best to breakdown all relevant/key info as cogently as possible.
We live in middle Tennessee. Google says we fall in zone 7a. We tend to vary from just slightly to extremely humid, year round. Springs can be fairly wet with flash floods not uncommon. We're just starting to see 60+ days around now. Summer temps are usually 80 and above then temps don't drop to consistently below 70 again until November.
We are hoping to host our small wedding reception in our backyard Oct 5th. We would LOVE to have a useable grass/landscape by then. We don't need or expect Leave It To Beaver manicured perfection. Merely traversable and not a complete eyesore is the goal.
We have two, smallish, allergy prone, dogs. The backyard is their potty and playground. Clearing the space of skin/sinus irritating and toxic plants on their behalf is another big motivator.
There are three tall trees that provide shade for most of the yard. As in enough shade that we are also replacing our deck because it is ruined from not being maintained properly, getting rain-soaked and not fully drying without several days of full sun, low humidity between rainfalls.
The yard was not fenced in when we bought the home and the previous owner, I think, attempted to create a fence like separation...with foliage..that was then seemingly left to it's own devices. Thus, we inherited a tiny jungle.
We have all the major native weed and ground cover players - dead nettle, clover, wild onion, crabgrass, broadleaf - you name it. Plus what the previous owner planted - daylily, cuckoo-pint, yucca, hostas, hostas, and more hostas. Probably others I can't identify. To be clear I know some of these are "desirable" plants. I do not care. 1) They are not desirable to us. 2) the yard was left untamed for so long the desirable plants and weeds are hopelessly intertwined. Getting rid of one and not the other would be virtually impossible.
Which brings us to our current line of thought - we go torched earth. Kill it all. Start over from scratch. With the added benefit of being able to fix/fill/level ruts/holes/mounds along the way. Ideally we're going to DIY as much as we can since the space is small - 1200-2000ish sq ft.So, game plan: dig out roots of larger weeds/plants, as much as possible. Roundup/herbicide everrrryyything. Wait a week or so. Roundup again. Rent sod cutter to fully remove layer of now dead grass/weeds. Dispose of old sod. Test soil. Amend with compost, top soil, sand, etc as needed and till. Then either lay sod or spread seed. Water and wait.
Whether we seed or sod depends on cost and which has better odds of giving us some sort of lawn by Oct 5th. Is that even possible? We could also spread seed AND lay sod? As a sort of an insurance measure? Is that a thing that folks do? Grass recommendations? Or are we better off not starting from scratch and trying to work with what we already have instead? Starting over honestly seems less daunting. Attached are a couple of (not great) photos of the yard the day we first saw it. The clubhouse is gone now. There's been a few vegetation removal sprees since. Now the bushy stuff is looking while the yard/grass is worse.

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