So not thinking too swiftly, we have just tilled hog fuel (very large shredded bark/wood fibers) into our soil in prep for seeding lawn. This is soil that was previously farm land. We laid down a layer of hog fuel to keep down the mud for the winter (dogs) with our new build house. The company we bought the hog fuel from told us it would be a wonderful soil amendment to till in at planting time this summer. The landscapers who put in our sprinklers were horrified when we showed them our newly tilled yard with the hog fuel all nicely mixed in. After research, I now see the error of our ways and the nitrogen problem. We REALLY need to plant grass ASAP for mud control for THIS winter, if at all possible. Please tell me there is a way around this mess without digging all of the soil out and bringing in new soil?? Unfortunately, this is a very large yard.

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    pictures would help of the hog fuel and the site and how large is large? dimensions, budget?
    – kevinskio
    Jul 3 '16 at 1:12
  • Not sure a pic would help, we've really tilled that stuff in and it looks pretty much like a nicely tilled yard of just dirt. So in other words, we have minced up that hog fuel nicely with the tiller. This is approx an acre of lawn, all wrapped around house, not easiest to get to with a loader, and honestly money is now an issue because of what we have put into the sprinkler system (and the home build).
    – Cindy
    Jul 3 '16 at 1:19
  • You need us to tell us what your objective is. Did you plan to have an acre of grass that was going to be mowed to 3 inches? Is the site flat? Do you want trees, shrubs a vegetable garden? What you have will make for a lumpy lawn but just fine for trees/shrubs/perennials
    – kevinskio
    Jul 3 '16 at 1:25
  • Yup, Cindy...take a picture of your hand after grabbing a big gob of the 'lawn bed' dumping it out slowly. If you haven't done the irrigation, you most certainly can wait! Irrigation should be done at the very end after all plants are planted. They know how to not tear anything up and they will know what it is they are watering. little 6" trenches that get filled back up and the sod replaced and it'll look like they weren't there. I think you'll be ok, sod will be the only way to go, I think. Send pictures, need to see slope of land...
    – stormy
    Jul 3 '16 at 1:47
  • As I said it was in prep for a lawn, mowed to 3". Flat. Trees, shrubs, veg will come later. I get the lumpy lawn part. What I am panicing about is the nitrogen issue we have set ourselves up for. Will the seed germinate? Will it die after sprouting? Can I safely counteract with lots of added nitrogen in the next year or two? Sprinklers are in, they knew exactly what we wanted and did that well. There is no way we can afford an acre of sod, it has to be seeded. I can take pics tomorrow when I've got some light. Thanks so much for any advice on the nitrogen problem we will likely have.
    – Cindy
    Jul 3 '16 at 2:29

Hopefully you aren't seeding, if so do all of this except the fertilizer and get your lawn sprayed onto your nicely prepared lawn bed. Crazy to spend all this effort and money just to go throw (please use a spreader) seed and regret that you didn't do just a bit more.

So you've already installed the sprinkler system, (I am a bit of a ditz today)...I'd fertilize lightly after final rake/grading with high nitrogen, extended release and roll, with a water filled roller to compact soil. Go back with your grading rake and fill the holes knock down the hills. Roll again. Do not forget this step!

For just a bit more sod will get you a nice crop of lawn without weeds. The weed seeds and weeds below the sod are snuffed out. It just is worth the little bit of extra money.

The fertilizer is primarily for decomposition of the hog fuel so for the first year expect to use slightly more. The decomposers will get the nitrogen first, lawn second. Make sure the turf is laid perpendicular to the slope. Tight connection from piece to piece edge to edge, and roll the entire lawn again. I would go both laterally then perpendicular to the first rolling. It will be worth the time and it isn't tough. Get two rollers, no big deal but not rolling is just lame.

Don't cut edges until very very last. Use a garden hose to make curves and only one continuous curve/one radius before curving the other way...similar radius doesn't have to be the same! The fewer curve changes the better (telling you this because this will come up sooner than later and the edges are a big deal). Don't use concrete or rocks to line the edges... just a 4-6" trench between plant beds and lawn. Work on that little by little over time. Makes a very pretty edge and the edge is what the human eye sees first! Put the sod against the sidewalk tightly.

Please send pics to show slope of area and where everything is draining if possible.

I've laid sod out on gravel and had it last for months. Don't think a little hog fuel with be a bother. Do not forget to roll or it will be a lumpy mess. Did I tell you to roll after you've laid the sod? Flag those heads and just use your knife to cut a circle to allow the heads to pop through.

You will need mowing for any kind of success; a lawn mower hydraulic is best, check out commercial decks versus riding lawn mowers. They have little 'decks' to stand upon for the commercial and I liked far better than riding...make sure that you are able to set whatever mower you get so that you are easily able to keep the height at 3". Always have an extra sharpened set of blades to change out when the cuts are frazzled on the ends...a line trimmer and I'd get a stationary head and remove the bump and go including the shield. Just be careful, don't aim at the windows or people and always wear glasses and ear protection. No ipods....grins!! Get the star cross section trim line and use a light hand. Quite an easy skill to learn. And get a great blower... all of these should be gas powered (Stihl is very dependable) the world won't be helped at all with electric. An acre of lawn? Also a rotary spreader for fertilizer. Drop spreaders make too many mistakes. Just remember to blow any fertilizer off concrete. Once a year aeration pulling plugs.

I know, this is long but I do know lawns very well and hate to see people start out wrong. Lawns are a very interesting monster that if you understand what you are doing won't cause you any regret.

Allow 2 weeks before mowing...you should not be able to pull up sod at all!

Fertilize with an organic high nitrogen fertilizer (inherently slow release) that comes with micro nutrients and bacteria for thatch. A good example is Dr. Earth's Lawn Fertilizer. Have to pay more but it evens out as you only have to use 2-3 times per season versus 4. Check the ingredients but fast release high nitrogen from Scott's or Ortho is not that healthy (better than nothing) for your lawn.

At first you'll have to keep your soil bed under the new sod shallowly watered. When your grass has been integrated with your soil bed, you can start training your grass to be drought tolerant by watering deeply down 4-6 inches and allowing to dry out before watering again. The best indicator is when you walk over the lawn your footprints will stay down. Then water deeply again...allow to dry out again before watering.

Always use sharp blades. 3" for leaf blades, no shorter! Cool season grasses have genetically huge root systems and if they aren't at least 3" high there won't be enough photosynthetic growth to feed those roots. (Fertilizer is not food) Line trimmer for the edges, easy peasy. With all that hog fuel you'll have to be on your toes with fertilization. Allowing the grass to stay at 3" there will be very little every weekly mowing to remove. This height will prevent weed seeds from growing, too much evaporation and the most lush dark green lawn you could imagine. After training, only 1" of water per week will be necessary unless you've got sandy soil and a lot of slope. After training your lawn, your lawn will stay green whilst others have gone dormant (not good for a lawn btw). The lawn, as you are seeing, is a very expensive item. Do it right you won't have to do much to keep it the best lawn you could imagine. (Hey, not 2 1/2", 3"...seriously).

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    Oh dear. I do not mean to sound ungrateful...you have put in a lot of effort in your reply. However this does not answer my original question. I have propagated 5 lawns in the past and am aware of the steps of how to do this. My only mistake this time was my ignorance of soil chemistry and the error of tilling in hog fuel prior to planting lawn seed. Can anyone tell me if this means death to sprouting? Or can it be counteracted with extra nitrogen? Any ideas? Again, there is NO way we can afford to lay sod on an acre of ground. And waiting a season or two is not a real option either.
    – Cindy
    Jul 3 '16 at 13:44
  • I know you are getting a bit overwhelmed, I am not the most succinct gardener on this site, grins. I am glad you know most of this stuff...I just know the expense and gee just a little bit more, oh a little bit more and I end up embarrassing most on this site! Again, I've installed lawns for big bucks and although the hog fuel wasn't the best idea it shouldn't be a deal breaker. You'll just have to watch the grass telling you what it needs and it'll be sooner than later for nitrogen, but your baby grass will be fine...areas this big are better served by spray companies...honest.
    – stormy
    Jul 4 '16 at 21:33
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    So just in case anyone else reads this after the fact....I did seed and the lawn came in beautifully. In fact this lawn is the most spectacular I've done yet and it is so thick- amazing! The most amazing part is that it sprouted in 5 days- NO LIE. The weather helped- we have had about 2 weeks now of 75 degree days, unheard of in July, so that helped enormously. Anyway, I will be keeping an eye on the nitrogen issue I've set myself up for, and in fact will fertilize again after the first mow. By the looks of things, that may be in a another week or two! Truly crazy, this lawn!!! Thanks!!
    – Cindy
    Jul 23 '16 at 23:11

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