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My lawn really is in bad shape, I would love any help and suggestions!

5 years ago
last modified: 5 years ago

Hi folks, I am writing with the broad question about fixing a handful of problems with our front lawn which faces south, gets a lot of sun (we are near Chicago. We had really big elm tree (probably a hundred years old) out on the parkway which the city cut down unfortunately when it was discovered it had Dutch Elm disease. Prior to that the only weed/lawn problems we had was the occasional dandelion, it was really pretty healthy. It's probably been about four years since the elm was taken out, it has turned into a weed patch and it has grubs, which we did not have previously, and animals create multi-inch-in-circumference holes in fall, ugly as all get-out. The lawn is MUCH more various weeds than grass now, a total reversal.

I paid a landscaper to do what he described it as power raking which I thought was going to at least get a few inches deep and eradicate the weeds. Cost us $400+ to buy peat, seed and have him do the work.I would've done it myself with the regular 200 lb Rototiller as I had used in our vegetable garden but these days my back would not like like that… Some have theorized that the weed seed was always there but since the sun is fully shining on the whole lawn now all summer long the seed has been “activated” to photosynthesize and grow. After the landscaper did his so-so power rake he spread peat and a combination of grass seed and fertilizer (a Scott’s product called Thik’r Lawn, and I think it has a lot of fescue in it, which I didn’t understand at the time).

At first grass did indeed come up after that work, and I thought we were much better shape. Within a month though it all turned into weeds and some ugly, very coarse thick bladed stuff perhaps that is the fescue or something called barn grass (?), I’m not a botanist but I have included a few pictures. Also the weed that looks like a jade plant is pretty copious.

I am really in pretty serious need of options folks might suggest, we’ve heard everything from (1) sod (several thousand bucks, ouch!), (2) killing everything and applying new grass seed next year including having someone haul in a whole new bunch of topsoil to, in effect, swap for our top several inches. We are not rich, and this has been a real disappointment as the lawn always looked really good. We are gardeners, we love plants, trees, grow flowers, so this is a real bummer.

Any and all ideas are very much appreciated, folks, Thanks very much in advance, I am including 4 pix:

My Barn Grass (which may be a misnomer, maybe it’s fescue, but it is the new/main/ugly plant entirely covering our lawn. (BELOW)


My “Jade Weed”, the 2nd most copious lawn plant currently. (BELOW)


“My Lawn Now” showing the current very brown remains after this winter of our thick clumps of the grass/plant in the “Barn Grass” pix above. (BELOW)


“Neighbor’s Lawn Now”, that is what ours used to look like after the winter and is
regular” grass,. not thick bladed clumps like ours is in “My Barn Grass” pic above. (BELOW)

NOTE: Maybe there is a limit on pic size, etc, the pic of my neighbor's lawn that should be viewable right here won't load, but maybe it's not needed for help/diagnosis/suggestions. Pls let me know if needed for comparison.


Help and any ideas are sorely needed, what was a nice lawn is now an intractable and seemingly potentially expensive debate. Thanks very much, Dave Dorsett

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