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Lawn and order: Renovating a yard

By Amy-Lynn Albertson
Rowan County Extension

I recently bought a home in Salisbury and moved from a 100-acre farm to a ¼-acre lot in city limits. I’m learning a lot about fences and chickens.  Particularly how my daughter’s 4-H chickens don’t believe in fences. Also, there is such a thing as feral sewer cats. Who knew? So we are learning city life and with that comes lawn care. Now in the country, I had a quarter driveway back in the woods, and no one could see our house from the road. We had grass to hold the red mud down and keep it from washing away. If it’s green, it’s OK. Now I live in town, and I have neighbors, and I want my lawn to look beautiful and try not to resemble the Clampetts from the Beverly Hillbillies. As much as I don’t like turfgrass, I’m trying to make my turfgrass look good.  Now is the time to start working on your tall fescue yard. My yard has a lot of shade in the front, so my plan is to convert most of it to landscape beds and just have a small turf area. That way, I have less mowing, and really the majority of our activities are in the backyard, so my front yard can be my flower beds. When it comes to renovating your lawn, you first need to look at the activities happening there. We have five chickens, three cats, two dogs, and one 8-year-old girl.

Rosie, the Basset beagle mix

That equals a lot of running around in my backyard. So I need a turfgrass that can stand up to high traffic and dappled shade from the pine trees. Because I have all this activity, I don’t really want to renovate the yard at once and have a muddy mess of footprints and chicken scratch everywhere, so I’m going to take on this project in sections. Next, I will take my soil test. Since the turnaround time is about two weeks, I need to get this done as soon as possible.  A soil test will tell me what my soil’s current fertility level is and what I need to do to make it more favorable for growing turf. While waiting on my results, I can start killing the grass (weeds) I do have and prepping my ground for seeding. My general recommendation is to completely renovate the lawn if you have more than 50% weeds. If the weed count is less than 50%, you can probably get away with just overseeding. Note if you have a healthy stand of fescue, you should not need to overseed every year. It is essential to create a good seedbed for your fescue seed. Kill all of the existing turf/weeds with an herbicide and then rototill it in 4-6 inches deep. To learn more about starting over with a tall fescue lawn, join me online from noon-1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 3, for Tall Fescue Lawns for the Home course. This is a free online class via zoom. Register at go.ncsu.edu/rowanlawnclass or call the Rowan County Extension Center at 704-216-8970 for more information.

Amy-Lynn Albertson is director of the Rowan County Extension.

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