Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to Put In a New Lawn

Today the Home Made Austin reigns are going over to my awesome, handy husband Andrew, who’ll be talking about our latest home improvement project, re-doing our front lawn!  He’s been working on this perfect-for-spring project over the last few weeks & our front yard is starting to look soooooo good. It’s been really fun hearing the tips & tricks he’s learned, so I asked him to share them with y’all too!  -Krystal

Hello! I’m Andrew, the husband and home project coordinator of the house.  

I want to share my experiences in re-sodding the front yard.  It was just done and still has to grow to fill in, but is on track to be a beautiful lawn.

When Krystal and I bought this house, one of the things we both liked and disliked about it was the yard.  It was a smallish front yard (about 300 sq. feet), and a decent-sized backyard split into 2 levels because of a big hill.  There is a park behind our back fence which we love, and lots of trees as well.  However, the grass situation was very poor in both the front and back yards.  We loved the privacy, the view, the trees, and most of all, the opportunity to improve it and make it our own.

Our Lawn Before

Our Lawn Before

This winter we seriously started discussions on a complete re-sod of the front yard.  The size was small making this a cost effective project, and the grass had never grown much over 2 summers even with watering and care.  Perhaps the multiple years of lawn watering restrictions due to the Texas drought hurt, but there really wasn't much there to start with.  So I researched several types of grass that sounded like they would grow in our specific conditions.  I read about grass hybrids, seed vs sod vs plugs, optimal climate and shade requirements of dozens of grasses.  Turns out that was a waste of time as none of the local nurseries we visited sold any grass and the only place I could find any sod was Lowes and Home Depot, which sold St Augustine and Bermuda grass only.  We decided to go with the St. Augustine squares at Lowes for $1.99 a square.  They measured 2.5'x1.5' and I cut them into halves before sodding them.
St. Augustine is a beautiful grass that grows lush and thick in Central Texas. This variety of grass likes a lot of water, it's true, but the drought conditions have changed in the past year, so we’re not too worried about it being a problem.  
The next step was to till up the yard.  Luckily my dad has a half acre garden where he grows lettuces and greens, and could provide not only the tiller, but the expertise and operating experience.  With the right equipment, we tilled the yard with 2 sweeps in 20 minutes total.  We also tilled the area between the sidewalk and the street for a flower garden while we were at it. 

Since I also had bought 35 paving stones to extend my driveway by a foot, I dug out the space for those at the same time and put those in first.  I will go back and put sand down below and between them to level and finish them after the yard has dried out a bit and the stones have settled.

Grass sod was actually fairly difficult to find in South Austin in March.  We went to 2 garden nurseries and called another one with no luck before we found it at one of the big box stores.  But the price was right and they had it in stock.  Turns out each store gets a delivery on a specific day of the week and sells out usually within 48 hours so if you don't get enough at first (as I didn't) then you have to go back next week.  I ended up buying 60 squares over 2 weekends at $1.99 a square for a total project cost of $130 after tax.  I won't count it in the cost, but I went ahead and bought a new sprinkler and new hose too.

Sodding the squares was pretty easy once you get the hang of it.  I decided to cut each square in two, and leave 8-10 inches between them to maximize the space I could cover with my materials. Because the grass should spread pretty fast, I only had to level off an area half the size of the big pieces.  You want the level of the soil attached to the grass to be about the same level as the yard so each area has to be dug out 1/2 inch or more.  The corners are the most important. The technique is to dig the area a bit too deep, then add in extra dirt to the lower areas to level out the final product.  You really have to watch for high corners or low patches right in the middle.

If you think one piece is too sunken a day or two after setting the sod, you can still pick it up and add dirt to the low spot. After the first week you don’t want to disturb the rooting process so try to set them as level as possible the first time.  

They need a lot of water at first, so be prepared.  Water daily the first week, and then every 2-3 days after that until you are really seeing the grass root and spread.  After the grass starts to settle in, you can stick to watering once a week or so. 

I just finished laying down the last pieces a few days ago so at this point I just hope it does well, and grows beautiful and green. It’s been a good, fun project and I’m excited to maintain it and see how it continues. I also hope it gives us a place to play in the grass!

Thanks for reading, I will post more pictures of the lawn once it has grown and filled in!