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[OP]
Newbie
May 12, 2020
45 posts
7 upvotes
Guelph

Grass help!

Hi everyone. I am in the GTA and can’t seem to get my backyard grass to cooperate. We are on a slope and have heard that the previous neighbours had the same issue. I have attached a picture. Any help or tips would be much appreciated!
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13 replies
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
1625 posts
1782 upvotes
West GTA
There is a huge thread on this subforum that can help you, I recommend reading up.

In general you have a lot of bare dirt without much grass on it. So...

1. Is your dirt shaded or sunny? Grass needs at least partial sun to thrive. If you have overgrown trees and shrubs, get them pruned.
2. Is your dirt compacted or aerated? If you can't stick a screwdriver fairly easily into the dirt, get it aerated.
3. Do you have soil issues? Get a soil test and find out, and fix them.
4. You won't be able to fix your lawn without adding more grass. Spring is a bad time to seed as heat waves in the summer tend to kill young grass. you can try if you want, I'd use a nice perennial ryegrass blend or something that germinates and establishes quickly and baby it all summer... but fall is better. End of summer/early fall is the best time to grow new grass.
[OP]
Newbie
May 12, 2020
45 posts
7 upvotes
Guelph
grumble wrote: There is a huge thread on this subforum that can help you, I recommend reading up.

In general you have a lot of bare dirt without much grass on it. So...

1. Is your dirt shaded or sunny? Grass needs at least partial sun to thrive. If you have overgrown trees and shrubs, get them pruned.
2. Is your dirt compacted or aerated? If you can't stick a screwdriver fairly easily into the dirt, get it aerated.
3. Do you have soil issues? Get a soil test and find out, and fix them.
4. You won't be able to fix your lawn without adding more grass. Spring is a bad time to seed as heat waves in the summer tend to kill young grass. you can try if you want, I'd use a nice perennial ryegrass blend or something that germinates and establishes quickly and baby it all summer... but fall is better. End of summer/early fall is the best time to grow new grass.
Thank you for your response.

1. Most of the yard receives heavy sun.
2. I would say most is compacted.
3. I will check out the soil test for sure!
4. Thank you for the seed advice. Will make sure to get after it in the fall.
Member
Nov 13, 2019
229 posts
66 upvotes
Toronto
grumble wrote: There is a huge thread on this subforum that can help you, I recommend reading up.

In general you have a lot of bare dirt without much grass on it. So...

1. Is your dirt shaded or sunny? Grass needs at least partial sun to thrive. If you have overgrown trees and shrubs, get them pruned.
2. Is your dirt compacted or aerated? If you can't stick a screwdriver fairly easily into the dirt, get it aerated.
3. Do you have soil issues? Get a soil test and find out, and fix them.
4. You won't be able to fix your lawn without adding more grass. Spring is a bad time to seed as heat waves in the summer tend to kill young grass. you can try if you want, I'd use a nice perennial ryegrass blend or something that germinates and establishes quickly and baby it all summer... but fall is better. End of summer/early fall is the best time to grow new grass.
What kind of grass do you recommend getting? There are just so many options out thereConfused Face
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
1625 posts
1782 upvotes
West GTA
timofeewho wrote: What kind of grass do you recommend getting? There are just so many options out thereConfused Face
Big question, because it depends on a couple of things: site conditions, what you want, and the amount of work you'll put into it.

For sunny areas kentucky bluegrass looks the best, but it's hard to start from seed due to long germination and long establishment. It also needs a fair bit of fertilizer and water and doesn't tolerate much shade. It spreads which is handy if you end up with small bare spots.

For shady areas fine fescue is the best (narrow blades), it's a bucket of a few species but they all handle partial shade. Still need moderate sun, no grass grows in dense shade. Doesn't handle traffic as well as other grass does.

For low-maintenance areas a cold-tolerant tall fescue can be really good. This is a great grass type now, used to be wide bladed and really clumpy, but modern cultivation's put out products that are finer bladed, dark green and really nice. They do well in sun and can handle drought better than other grasses. They can also handle a little shade (less than fine fescue but more than others). I expect that many lawns will end up using this in the warmer, drier parts of the country.

The other grass is perennial ryegrass, which some people don't like but I love. It's really easy to seed as it germinates fast and establishes fast, and modern cultivation has products that are a nice dark green colour and look great as a lawn. It also tends to green up fast and stay green longer, which is nice in Canada.

So for low maintenance, new lawn in the sun, I'd probably do a blend of tall fescue and bluegrass. Generically for a new lawn I'd probably do a three-way blend of bluegrass, ryegrass and fine fescue. In the shade I'd do tall fescue and fine fescue or straight fine fescue. If you want the absolute nicest lawn in the sun and you'll water and fertilize, straight bluegrass. If overseeding, fine fescue in the shade and ryegrass in the sun.

And as always, always buy the nicest seed you can find.
Member
Nov 13, 2019
229 posts
66 upvotes
Toronto
grumble wrote: Big question, because it depends on a couple of things: site conditions, what you want, and the amount of work you'll put into it.

For sunny areas kentucky bluegrass looks the best, but it's hard to start from seed due to long germination and long establishment. It also needs a fair bit of fertilizer and water and doesn't tolerate much shade. It spreads which is handy if you end up with small bare spots.

For shady areas fine fescue is the best (narrow blades), it's a bucket of a few species but they all handle partial shade. Still need moderate sun, no grass grows in dense shade. Doesn't handle traffic as well as other grass does.

For low-maintenance areas a cold-tolerant tall fescue can be really good. This is a great grass type now, used to be wide bladed and really clumpy, but modern cultivation's put out products that are finer bladed, dark green and really nice. They do well in sun and can handle drought better than other grasses. They can also handle a little shade (less than fine fescue but more than others). I expect that many lawns will end up using this in the warmer, drier parts of the country.

The other grass is perennial ryegrass, which some people don't like but I love. It's really easy to seed as it germinates fast and establishes fast, and modern cultivation has products that are a nice dark green colour and look great as a lawn. It also tends to green up fast and stay green longer, which is nice in Canada.

So for low maintenance, new lawn in the sun, I'd probably do a blend of tall fescue and bluegrass. Generically for a new lawn I'd probably do a three-way blend of bluegrass, ryegrass and fine fescue. In the shade I'd do tall fescue and fine fescue or straight fine fescue. If you want the absolute nicest lawn in the sun and you'll water and fertilize, straight bluegrass. If overseeding, fine fescue in the shade and ryegrass in the sun.

And as always, always buy the nicest seed you can find.
Wow this is awesome!

I do have this huge tree in the front lawn that kinda dwarves the lawnSlightly Frowning Face

Is there a garden place where I can shop for these specific breeds? Because I only see really generic names at big box stores like CT/HD (turf builder! All purpose!)

It appears you're also from Toronto

Thanks!
Deal Guru
User avatar
Sep 1, 2005
13841 posts
8532 upvotes
Markham
Is it like this in the entire yard or just a certain area?

Perhaps the ground is very compacted and because it's a slope water is flowing faster than it's being absorbed.

Ever consider taking some of that slope out - you could make a retaining wall of sorts and make your yard multi level instead of sloped.
We're all bozos on the bus until we find a way to express ourselves...

Failure is always an option...just not the preferred one!
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
1625 posts
1782 upvotes
West GTA
timofeewho wrote: Wow this is awesome!

I do have this huge tree in the front lawn that kinda dwarves the lawnSlightly Frowning Face

Is there a garden place where I can shop for these specific breeds? Because I only see really generic names at big box stores like CT/HD (turf builder! All purpose!)

It appears you're also from Toronto

Thanks!
Huge trees are tough to get grass under, because it's dry, it's shady and the soil typically sucks (poor in nutrients and stuffed with roots). You can try, but it's a bit uphill, and you may end up using a different groundcover (or a mulch ring) instead.

1. Get an arborist in and limb up and prune the tree so more light hits the ground. Or remove the tree ha, which would solve the issue!
2. Buy a grass that can tolerate dry shade - tall fescue can somewhat tolerate dry shade, as can some fine fescues. Forget the rest. A high-end shade blend is fine.
3. Core aerate the soil, top it up with some fresh topsoil or a topsoil and compost blend, and plant it in that soil. If you have no grass and are okay with lifting the grade a bit, add a couple inches of soil and scratch it into your existing dirt (and aeration holes) with a steel rake to integrate it and prevent layering. Might also want to get a soil test as you'll likely be nutrient poor and may have pH issues depending on the tree. University of Guelph does mail-order homeowner soil tests.
4. You'll probably want to water it and fertilize it a bit more than you'd otherwise do to account for the tree taking up water and food. Don't overfertilize, but fertilize at the high end of species recommendation.
5. Cut it high, like 2.5 inches at the lowest and ideally 3.0 (any higher and the fine fescue will flop over). It'll help offset the shade by giving the grass better drought tolerance and shade tolerance.

For shade blends you can buy from Speare Seeds (Vann Beeks stocks it, so does Toemar and a bunch of nurseries, maybe some HHs), or buy from General Seeds, Ontario Seed Company, etc. that will sell through nurseries. Sheridan has a shade blend that's mostly just fine fescues which is okay. You can also buy the fine fescue eco lawn blend, which is pretty shade tolerant (check to make sure it's the fine fescue blend). If you want to go nuts you can order from the US and get REALLY good stuff, but it's quite expensive.
Member
Nov 13, 2019
229 posts
66 upvotes
Toronto
grumble wrote: Huge trees are tough to get grass under, because it's dry, it's shady and the soil typically sucks (poor in nutrients and stuffed with roots). You can try, but it's a bit uphill, and you may end up using a different groundcover (or a mulch ring) instead.

1. Get an arborist in and limb up and prune the tree so more light hits the ground. Or remove the tree ha, which would solve the issue!
2. Buy a grass that can tolerate dry shade - tall fescue can somewhat tolerate dry shade, as can some fine fescues. Forget the rest. A high-end shade blend is fine.
3. Core aerate the soil, top it up with some fresh topsoil or a topsoil and compost blend, and plant it in that soil. If you have no grass and are okay with lifting the grade a bit, add a couple inches of soil and scratch it into your existing dirt (and aeration holes) with a steel rake to integrate it and prevent layering. Might also want to get a soil test as you'll likely be nutrient poor and may have pH issues depending on the tree. University of Guelph does mail-order homeowner soil tests.
4. You'll probably want to water it and fertilize it a bit more than you'd otherwise do to account for the tree taking up water and food. Don't overfertilize, but fertilize at the high end of species recommendation.
5. Cut it high, like 2.5 inches at the lowest and ideally 3.0 (any higher and the fine fescue will flop over). It'll help offset the shade by giving the grass better drought tolerance and shade tolerance.

For shade blends you can buy from Speare Seeds (Vann Beeks stocks it, so does Toemar and a bunch of nurseries, maybe some HHs), or buy from General Seeds, Ontario Seed Company, etc. that will sell through nurseries. Sheridan has a shade blend that's mostly just fine fescues which is okay. You can also buy the fine fescue eco lawn blend, which is pretty shade tolerant (check to make sure it's the fine fescue blend). If you want to go nuts you can order from the US and get REALLY good stuff, but it's quite expensive.
You've been amazing!

I'd love to get rid of the tree but it's on the neighbor's side lol

This might be another loaded question, but is there a type of fertilizer that I should lean towards?

Thanks a ton!
Deal Addict
Jun 4, 2020
1337 posts
1271 upvotes
Clarington, ON
timofeewho wrote: Wow this is awesome!

I do have this huge tree in the front lawn that kinda dwarves the lawnSlightly Frowning Face

Is there a garden place where I can shop for these specific breeds? Because I only see really generic names at big box stores like CT/HD (turf builder! All purpose!)

It appears you're also from Toronto

Thanks!


Look at the characteristics of the species provided. A blend may allow you to cover different areas amd have a decent look. I’ve overseeded with the “beach/Cottage blend” from OSC (https://www.oscseeds.com/product/beach- ... ture-7055/). Happy with results so far. Mostly sun, but a few shady spots.
Deal Addict
Mar 22, 2017
1625 posts
1782 upvotes
West GTA
timofeewho wrote: You've been amazing!

I'd love to get rid of the tree but it's on the neighbor's side lol

This might be another loaded question, but is there a type of fertilizer that I should lean towards?

Thanks a ton!
You can prune anything that is overhanging your property. If the tree is overgrown, you can always split a pruning with the neighbour or just get your side pruned. Just don’t kill the tree!

As for fertilizer it can be somewhat complicated but generally if you get a soil test, follow what it says. It is really, really helpful. Generically grass likes nitrogen and a little potassium but (once grown) doesn’t need much phosphorus. That is why fertilizers for lawns generally have NPKs that have a high first and last number and a low middle number.

Starter fertilizer is different, and is used almost exclusively for helping new seed get going. This is controversial but I believe that applying it a few days after seed has germinated is best.

In general, lawn fertilizer should (my preference, not objective truth) be applied as follows;

Mid spring (once grass has mostly greened up) - light dose of a synthetic.

Late spring (before summer heat, maybe end of May or early June) - light dose organic (or synthetic, I prefer organics).

Early fall (once grass is greening up again from summer stress) - full strength dose organic (or synthetic, or starter if you’re overseeding).

Mid fall (while grass is growing but pretty late in season, will be slowing down soon) - light dose synthetic.

Organics work best with warm soil, so when soil is cooler a synthetic just skips the microbes and goes right to the plant. You can go all organic or all synthetic though and it works pretty similarly, just my preference.
[OP]
Newbie
May 12, 2020
45 posts
7 upvotes
Guelph
gr8dlr wrote: Is it like this in the entire yard or just a certain area?

Perhaps the ground is very compacted and because it's a slope water is flowing faster than it's being absorbed.

Ever consider taking some of that slope out - you could make a retaining wall of sorts and make your yard multi level instead of sloped.
Appreciate the response. Yes, the slope is for sure a problem!
Deal Addict
User avatar
Feb 20, 2015
1752 posts
1188 upvotes
Southern Ontario
Looks like possible Grub damage. Dig a bit and if you see a bunch of white wormy looking bugs, you are in for a fight. If not, go from there.

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