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In a perfect world, you'd add the best loam, top soil, manure, etc, then sprinkle the best fertilizer upon it, etc. But I'm asking for the average person, who's on a budget and working 60hrs per week and who's trying to get some OK results with modest expense and effort.

I cut the sod off my lawn because it was hopeless. Now, if I sprinkle some good fertilizer on the soil that's left, then seed, can I expect semi-decent results? Or am I just wasting my time (and grass seed)? Or alternatively, what is best way to get an OK lawn without buying a dump truck full of loam?

This potential lawn is in central Massachusetts and I'm trying to plant right now. (Mid-September)

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    You mentioned that your sod is hopeless. Do you know why? Could it be that the soil conditions are currently not conducive to growing grass? If so, then seed should not be expected to do any better. If you have access to a pickup truck, and a bunch of elbow grease, you should be able to get free compost from a local recycling center/landfill - wherever the landscapers dump their stuff. You'd have to load it and make multiple trips, BUT it is really THE BEST way to improve poor soil conditions - especially if you can mix it in a bit. – That Idiot Sep 22 '17 at 11:31
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    The previous lawn died from a drought and then lack of care resulted in infinite weeds. The soil is so-so, a rich brown color (after all weeds grew in it just fine). And the shady part of my yard still has fine grass. So I was wondering if I could use the soil I have with some additives to grow new grass. – Joe C Sep 22 '17 at 12:49
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    Weeds are often pioneer species that specialize in colonizing poor/disturbed soil. Often times weeds can be reduced simply by providing the grass everything it needs to out-compete them. You will definitely need to irrigate the seed to get it going - but then follow a regimen that encourages it to grow deep, robust root systems. Once you are at the point where you can mow, you should water infrequently, but deeply. – That Idiot Sep 22 '17 at 12:56
  • Nice That Idiot! You are correct! One point though is soil is soil is soil. For lawns his soil will be just fine. I remember lawn growing on gravel happily. We'd lay out extra sod on the gravel of our landscape yard. Hunky gravel! It refused to die. Aeration and proper management and fertilizer...will improve the soil bed over time. But grass will grow just fine with no amendments. Beautifully and happily...do you have a beautiful lawn, That Idiot? You must from what you advise. Healthy lawn = no weeds (well, few weeds)! I think he's already stripped the sod. Not sure. – stormy Sep 22 '17 at 19:07
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    If you are trying to plant now (mid September) you don't have enough time before winter to do anything much to the soil. As soon as the night temperatures start to fall below 10C (50F) grass seed germination will slow down a lot. On the other hand, the best way to make a good lawn is "slowly". Digging the area (or a power-tool equivalent) and leaving it over winter for the frost to improve the soil structure naturally might be a better option than rushing to get "something" growing quickly. Also, choose an appropriate seed mixture - i.e. something tough, not something beautiful but fragile. – alephzero Sep 23 '17 at 6:11
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Sweeping consistent radius for lawn edges, beefed up beds for plants, a peninsula to give mystery to your yardGet rid of lawn and gravel instead 3/8 minusI love your question Joe. Most people who are able to afford to will OVER DO everything. Plants and soil are nothing like humans/animals. Don't fertilize until after the first mow. Did you take the sod off with a sod cutter or are the roots still there? You need to rake, grade, ROLL with a water filled roller, more grading filling holes and roll again. Use a rotary spreader for the seed. Rake with the back of your rake. Roll again. Water 3 or 4 times a day just long enough to keep the top 1/2 inch of soil moist. If your grass hasn't grown enough to be mowed within 14 days, relax and do it again in the spring. Better than seed is sod. Check the prices...you might decide installing sod is worth considering. Fertilize after the first mow...but if it is fall, keep the nitrogen low. Find a product with Nitrogen as the lowest of the three numbers and better yet, find an extended release organic formula made for fall...check Dr. Earth's Lawn Fertilizer. Worth every penny...

Gotta tell you, when we had extra sod we would lay it out over the gravel in the yard and it grew just fine! Do not worry about amending your soil. Get a soil test through a cooperative extension service. At least test the pH. Getting that lawn bed graded and 'compacted' is critical...and grass loves a bit more alkaline of soil. Preparing the lawn bed, creating the edges (6inch by 6inch trench) using consistent radius, seeding over raking, rolling!! Using the best seed you can find with zero weed seed, no peat moss...hey check out grass spray companies! Perfect. They come out and spray great seed with a bit of fertilizer and a weird mulch to keep the seed moist...they do a great job. They will tell you what to do and when, they have to make sure their product sells itself.

For maintenance, you have to read some of our answers on lawns. How to train them to be drought tolerant and save you lots of money on water, watering deeply not watering until you see footprints on your grass, how to keep your lawn weed free by mowing your lawn no shorter than 3 inches. And lots of other basics anyone who wants to grow a lawn should know. Without spending lots of money!

Notice in the two yards that one is unable to see the entire yard from the back door. There is peninsula bed that breaks up the view. Now for kids, whilst they are younguns, the plant material will be too low and new to obscure your view of your kids. Just something to think about as your kids grow up fast! To see your entire back yard from the back door is boring. Something to work on as they grow. They would LOVE the gravel...a few boulders. Heaven for kids. And I have to warn you to never put a play gym out near the green belt, if you have one. Keep your play gym close to the back door. There are cougars, bobcat and bear that come into town. The cats will stalk you and figure out your schedule. Always be aware.

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    Stormy thx for your answer. You are a kind person to give me this much advise. However you are describing herculean effort to grow a lawn. My question was about growing an OK lawn with moderate effort. My wife and I agreed when we bought our home that our priority is raising our children, not our lawn (for now anyway). – Joe C Sep 22 '17 at 12:54
  • Oh I get it, Joe! You don't need to bring in topsoil or mulch at all. How big is your lawn? You could cover it with clear plastic to kill any germinating weed seeds. You could even do gravel! – stormy Sep 22 '17 at 18:46
  • Just thinking about this a bit and other than grading and rolling I am telling you that it would be fine to seed (check out seed spraying though) then fertilize after the first mow. The grading and rolling is critical though, preparing the bed. The roller costs 10 bucks a day I think. I'd also get a grading rake when you get the roller from your rental place, if they have one. Remember you can use the backside of rakes. This isn't herculean unless you've got a massive lawn. In that case, make a nice shape with regular radius and then plant wildflowers or meadow grasses for the rest. – stormy Sep 22 '17 at 18:58
  • There might be an issue of available soil left over. Since OP used a sod cutter to remove previous grass, he may have severed off a good chunk of soil that needs replacing before seeding. Eg, Areas where I live, there is only a few inches of soil. What OP did in my area would be devastating. – Jay Soyer Oct 1 '17 at 18:28
  • Soil is soil. One just needs to understand the management. No SOIL is fertile. Not part of a great soil. The biomass within an ecosystem is controlling the population for health of the plants in the now and the plants in the future. 'Fertility' is simply the tilth of a soil...when the biomass above dies then there is room for more plant life. The death of plant material and after the decomposers have used their nitrogen to do their job...what is left over is meant for the health of the existing botany/biology and if there is EXTRA there might be enough room for another plant. – stormy Oct 1 '17 at 21:16

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