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Sod died-alternative

    Date Posted: Wed, Aug 18 - 2:07 pm


  • We have a very small 200sf area in the front of the house that was previously sod. That grass has died this summer (we think from a fungus) and we are thinking about doing something lower maintenance like a moss. Any recommendations or thoughts on that? The yard is am sun, north east facing, good drainage. Thanks!
  • Answer

  • Hello there! Since your sod failed it would be worthwhile to have your soil tested. You can request a soil testing kit from the local extension office-the phone number for Richmond City is (804) 786-4150. You can check this link for the process: Also ask about the whether the demise of your sod was most likely due to incorrect ph or a fungus. Once you've established your soil's ph (whether it's an alkaline or acidic soil) you'll be able to make informed decisions about what plants to use. If you want to use moss, you'll need soil on the acidic side-5.5. I've included a link about mosses in lawns and how to grow a moss garden. Skip to the section entitled "Moss Gardens" for pertinent information. Here's the link: You'll have to judge how much sun your space receives and whether or not that might be too much for mosses. In lieu of mosses, there are many alternative ground covers. I mentioned a number of them in the post Dog proof ground covers. Often a combination of them can be very pleasing and generally low maintenance. The addition of shrubs with some good mulch can also add interest with minimal upkeep. Enjoy the project!

Lawn options-seed or sod

    Date Posted: Wed, Aug 18 - 2:00 pm


  • I’m trying to decide what to do about my front lawn. It’s a little under 60 square yards. Everything is killed off and tarps are covering the ground now to keep weeds from growing. There is no shade, all day sun. I would like to know if Tall Fescue is the best choice and also should I seed or sod. Cost is not the issue since it’s a small area. I hope you can give me some advice.
  • Answer

  • Well, I know you didn’t ask this but what about foregoing a lawn and planting a dooryard garden instead?. I’m not much of a grass person. A patch of clover is more to my liking, at least it gives the honey bees a place to land, adds some nitrogen to the soil. Maybe a combination of a lovely shrub border, a small tree, a mix of tall and low-growing perennials, groundcovers? Since it's a small area the expense wouldn’t be staggering and you can always phase in the plantings. Something to consider.... That being said, I think you’re doing a good job of preparing for a fall planting by covering the space and killing off the weeds. If I haven't persuaded you to take a different approach, I’ll try to answer your question about seed or sod. You didn't mention why your lawn was "killed off". Is there an issue with the soil? If so, you should request a soil test kit from the Richmond VA Cooperative Extension Main Office: (804) 786-4150. The results will let you know what, if any, amendments you'll need to add. I think the choice of a tall fescue is fine and fall is a good time to start a cool-season grass. When purchasing seed, check the bag to make sure you are buying all seed and no filler. Look for the two Virginia-Maryland labels affixed to the package so you know you are buying seed mixtures or blends which comply with the quality standards of the Extension Divisions of Virginia Tech and U of MD. First, you'll need to prep the soil. Remove all the dead weeds you've killed by covering and make sure there are no roots left in the ground. This can be tedious but it will pay off in the long run. Work in any amendments your soil test dictates. Add a layer of compost, you can till it in, or if your soil isn't compacted, adding 1-2 inches to the surface should suffice. Grade the soil with a rake so the surface is smooth and uniform. At this point you can seed. Disburse the seed with a spreader and go back and forth across the lawn, then in a perpendicular direction, attempting to get an even amount of seed across the surface of the lawn. You can add another fine layer of compost so that there is good contact between the seed and soil. (For a larger lawn you would roll the seed at this point.) Then you'll need to water immediately thereafter and continue to water until the seed germinates. (Be careful when watering, keep the soil moist, don't wash the seed away.) After that a total of 1-2 inches of water a week should keep the grass in good spirits. Hand pull weeds. An established lawn could take up to 2 years with seed. If this doesn't sound like fun, you can clean up the soil as above, amend as needed, grade it with a rake, and lay sod. Do not let the sod dry out. You'll need to water the sod daily for a couple of weeks (of course, less if there's rain). During this period the sod will be putting down shallow roots into your soil bed. Avoid walking on the sod during this period. After about a month the sod will have established a better root system. Around this time it will need to be mowed. Set the mower to 3 inches. The sod will provide a quicker route to a nice green lawn if the expense is acceptable. I hope I've covered all your options. Good luck with the project!