Help Me Fix My Mismanaged Lawn

Adam Cleaver
April 18, 2019
last modified: April 18, 2019

This will be the fourth spring/summer that we have been in our current house and the lawn situation has gone steadily downhill. We are in zone 6a.

First year: the lawn looked alright and I didn't do much to it except manually pull some weeds.

Second year: my wife was pregnant and we were pretty busy, so I hired a local organic lawn care company to handle fertilization and weed control and also had them aerate and overseed in the fall. Things did not turn out great, grass seemed to be in worse shape than the prior year. Also, they used a ride-on aerator when the ground was wet and left a lot of uneven tracks in the back yard.

Third year: Once again, I didn't have much time to dedicate to the lawn with having a newborn. I put down Milo 4 times, watered through July and August and that's about it. We also had our driveway replaced, which tore up the grass on both sides. I backfilled with topsoil and planted a KBG/Rye/Fescue blend. It came in ok in most of the places I planted it, but spotty in a few.

Current Situation: Back yard is a disaster with a good amount of bare spots and grass that is different shades of green. Some is a nice dark blue/green, and other patches are bright neon green. Front yard is a bit better, but the grass seems to be growing unevenly. Some spots look like they need mowed again after 2 days and others look like they haven't grown at all. We have a small dog that you can see in the pictures.

My guess is that the company who handled my overseeding did not match the type of grass that was in my yard.

Any other thoughts on what could cause the uneven growth in the front yard and mismatched colors in the back? How would you approach fixing this? I know that spring is not ideal for overseeding, but this is going to drive me nuts all summer. Any and all suggestions are appreciated.

Imgur album here:

Comments (14)

  • lawniac

    What kind of grass was seeded? If Kentucky Bluegrass it will spread and fill in the bare spots. Fescue and ryegrass will not spread, you would have to drop more seed.

    The neon bright areas are most like a weed. If you see a lot of seedheads in the area, probably Poa Annua. If not, probably Poa Trivialis. Would need a close-up shot of the grass to confirm.

  • rifis (zone 6b-7a NJ)

    IF spots that need repeat mowing in 2 days are dark, explanation may be canine.

  • Joe BigBlue

    What is your fertilizing schedule and when was the last time you applied?

  • mishmosh

    To me it looks like 30-40% of the lawn is poa trivialis. It has a characteristic lime green color. There is no selective control for it. How did this happen? Could be the conditions in your yard that are beyond your control (wetness, shade). Could be mismanagement also. In any case, I'd be inclined to start from scratch...roundup and then seeding in the fall.

  • Rich Lichvar
    Enlighten this person: is poa (whatever) orchard grass?
  • lawniac

    Poa is not orchard grass, that's a totally different species. The Poa family contains Poa Annua and Poa Trivialis which are considered weeds, but also Poa Pratensis aka Kentucky Bluegrass.

  • Adam Cleaver

    Thanks all for the comments and sorry for the delayed response. The lawn is mostly KBG, but I believe the lawn service seeded with a rye/fescue blend.

    After more research, I believe that the higher growth spots are canine-related.

    Fert schedule last year was just milo 4 times - memorial day, July 4th, labor day and late October. Also put down corn gluten as a pre emergent last spring. Was planning the same for this year.

    If wetness and shade contribute to Poa trivialis growth, that would make sense because that side of the back yard is very wet and doesn't drain well. It's also shaded probably 60% of the day. I'll try to get a closeup picture of it tonight.

  • mishmosh

    Well, poa triv is one of the few grasses that does well in moist shade. You can't fight nature so I would probably just leave things be. The rest of the lawn will probably do well with just TLC (deep and infrequent watering, regular mowing--not more than 1/3rd of the grass height, heavy fall fertilization, weed control).

  • Adam Cleaver

    That's unfortunate. but I agree that there's no point in fighting nature. Probably no way to green that poa up is there? Hit it with a massive dose of N or Fe?

  • mishmosh

    I think during certain times of the year, the contrast is less. Certainly N, Fe, and a plant growth regulator like Primo Maxx can darken things up.

  • Adam Cleaver

    Thanks. Will try that and see how things go.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Not a massive dose of fertilizer. Since you've already used Milo, I would repeat that at the bag rate starting now and again at the end of May. If the dog pee is causing faster growth, that means you have a woefully deficient in fertility. The milo will fix that. Repeat the Milo in September.

    Also are you watering deeply and infrequently? If not, watering too often can result in yellowing.

    Adam Cleaver thanked dchall_san_antonio
  • Adam Cleaver

    Noted - thanks for the info on the dog pee. I didn't realize that it meant the entire lawn was deficient but that makes sense. I typically don't start watering until June because the spring here is pretty wet. When I do water, it is twice per week for 45 minutes.

  • dchall_san_antonio

    Where do you live? Zones are all over the place where there are different weather patterns and soil types.

    Watering should be based on the air temperature. There are many factors which go into the watering frequency, but if you go by air temp, you will be close enough to be successful. When you water it works best if you simulate a rainstorm of 1 inch all at one time. Don't split it into 1/2-inch over two days. You want the water to penetrate deep to the cooler levels of soil way down there. That helps to cool the soil and slows evaporation. It also give the roots reason to grow deep where there are untapped nutrients. A good starting point for frequency is this: When temps are in the 90s water once per week. With temps in the 80s water once every 2 weeks. With temps in the 70s water once every 3 weeks. With temps lower than 70, water once a month. And always water the full inch. Measure an inch with your sprinklers by placing several cat food or tuna cans in the yard. Time how long it takes to fill all the cans. That will be your watering time from now on. My watering time with my oscillator sprinkler, hoses, and water pressure is 8 hours. If you have high flow in-ground system, you might get away with 20 minutes. In other words, you have to do this timing testing yourself. Then if you live near the coast where there is fog every morning, consider backing off on the frequency. If you get a good rainstorm, then wait for the grass to dry out and tell you to start watering again. If you have a hot spell with low humidity for a week or so, then water more frequently but, for example, if it went from 100 degrees to 115 and dry, I would change from every 7 days to every 5 days.

    Here is a little motivation for deep and infrequent watering. Morpheuspa, one of the visitors here, posted this picture of his lawn several years ago.

    The picture was taken in July. All the lawns are Kentucky bluegrass. His green lawn is watered deep and infrequent. The rest are watered daily.

    Adam Cleaver thanked dchall_san_antonio

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