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Good evening Landscapers. I hope you are all well. I've looked around the web and am excited to be here; I wish it was under better conditions. I'm a renter who has, to be frank, neglected his lawn, and now I want to fix it. Last year before the summer, the valve on our sprinkler system went out, and I took too much time to get it fixed. Half assed hose attempts to nurture a large yard were in vain, and it caused a gorgeous, green lawn to turn into this.

https://imgur.com/a/bY8F1

At first i thought it was a weeded mess; I called a few people out, had plenty cancel, and just got fed up of it all and have tried to save the lawn myself. First, I thought, just to spread fescue seeds after reading that raking/dethaching a lawn and sowing Scotts easy seed (with the fertilizer/compost mixed all in one thingy) would work. That spawned some of the top lawn you see in a few of my pictures.

I have tried to ID the grass, but those stalks in some pics, I can't tell what type of seed they are, nor which type of grass the dark green, flourishing patches are.

I was told to ID the grass, rethatch, and aerate the lawn, before spreading seeds and watching the magic happen. Get it tall, and then mow it. Thing is, I have anxiety, and am terrified of seeding the wrong stuff and creating a mutant lawn. To make it worse, code enforcement wants to see some work done, but I'm leaving out of the country for two weeks in March when they want to see progress, so it's really got me and my anxiety (and the wife) on edge.

I'm in Riverside County, CA. The weather is high 50-60s and lows of 27-35 degrees F. I am a total noob, and have no idea what the soil condition is. It's well drained (I'm on a slope) and the lawn is on the East side of the house. Budget is about $200ish.

For the pictures I labeled them 1-8 in [brackets] to make responding to an individual one easier. The grass I'm trying to ID is in 4,7,and 8. Trying to see what the seed things on those stalks are, and if my plan of action would be one to start with. Thank you

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I sure hope we can help you. So, I am understanding that although YOU are the renter the landlord has no say in this matter? Perhaps some negotiation would work; you do the labor and he pays for the equipment and sod?

Looks like you had a cool season grass mix and all that is left are the bunch grasses possibly some fescue. Your lawn is very dead, not dormant. To bring it back via thatching? Forget it.

The best as well as easiest way to fix your lawn is by renting a sod cutter. Cut out all that dead grass/thatch and use it to make a new plant bed somewhere. Grade and rake and do not forget to roll with a water filled roller before laying the sod. Raking and rolling the soil some more. Lay the sod tight. Roll it one last time. Give it a heavy watering and allow to dry until you are able to see your footprints. Only then do you water again. I'll explain more in the following...

Cutting out that dead grass, roots, thatch, removing it and then laying fresh sod back down, is really the best way to go...sod is just not that expensive and you will have instant lawn that you will:

Water only when you step on your lawn and you see your footprints stay down and then you SOAK your lawn (at least long enough to get water down 4"). You do not water again until you see your footprints staying down in your grass. This trains the roots of your lawn to grow deep deep deep and makes your water bill happy and you'll be the only one on your block with green grass in the middle of summer. Do not hand water or give shallow watering every day.

I recommend Dr. Earth's Lawn Fertilizer. You will only need to do 3 applications versus 4 of the Scott and Ortho stuff. This fertilizer amazes me. The inherent slow release and proper formulations for the time of the season make a huge difference.

Never ever mow below 3 inches. Not 2 1/2 inches. Three full inches. Best is
3 and 1/2 inches if you can get your mower's height adjusted that high. I took my mowers in and had them custom raised to allow that height. Saves water, weed seeds are unable to germinate and your cool season grasses come with genetically large root systems. These large root systems need at least 3" of top growth to feed. If the grass gets cut too short, then not enough food for the maintenance of that grass and your grass is whimpy, dying and weeds take over.

Aerate once per year. Period. Great to share with neighbors.

Sharp sharp sharp blades.

Always bag those clippings. Use them in your compost or thinly on the weeds creeping into the back of your plant beds.

Water ONLY when you see your footprints on your grass stay down. The blade isn't turgid enough to spring back up. And water like crazy. I use a cheap oscillating sprinkler...the cheapest one you can find; $10? Otherwise, using the tuna fish cans, make sure you put one inch of water on your lawn per week.

Set your time on a zone for 15 minutes. This is just an example. Use a shovel to see how far down the water got into your soil. If your tuna fish can got 1/4" of water then you need to set the timer for one hour once per week. You'll train your grass at the beginning for a month or two but your goal is one inch of water per week, applied once per week.

How large is your lawn by the way? What agreement do you have with your landlord about the property maintenance.

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