I had always worked with Doug Oster concerning photographs for the Post-Gazette. As high school sports editor, I used to go to photo editor Doug for help with anything from Friday night football photos to Fabulous 5 basketball pictures.
Doug always came through (well, at least most of the time, Ha Ha). I never knew he could also come through with saving my lawn. I now call him Doug Oster the miracle grower.
Maybe what I did, at Doug’s suggestions, can help you.
Let me set the background. I had pretty much lost my back yard last year. No, let me rephrase. I totally lost it. By the middle of July, I had no grass. The summer before, I started losing it some. But in 2011, it was gone.
I had fertilized in previous springs, used other products in summers and falls. But the lawn was gone and it did not come back when it started to cool in September. It started going when it got hot in July and the heat, I guess destroyed it. What else could it be? I admit I never really watered it in the summer, but it still shouldn’t have been this horrible.
The lawn was pretty much brown dirt by August of last year. The side yard had total bare spots also. “It looks like a vacant lot,” my wife would say about the back yard. What to do? I watch many games on green fields, but I’m a sports writer. I can’t tell you how to get grass green. I thought about calling a landscaping company and having it totally dug up and redone.
But I thought, “let’s try Doug first. Maybe he has a suggestion.” Doug came to my house in mid to late September last year. He and I thought maybe the problem was grubs. Doug dug up a number of spots. No grubs anywhere. Doug said the soil was bad and it needed more water in the summer. Fine, but that didn’t solve the problem of how to get the lawn back.
We discussed having someone come in and totally re-do it. Dig it all up, put down soil and totally re-seed. But that wouldn’t be cheap.
“Let’s try something first,” Doug said. “A friend of mine used to work at PNC Park (Luke Yoder) and suggested this one time. Let’s try it.”
The conclusion of the story is this: I now have a great-looking back yard because of Doug Oster, and I did it for probably about 250 dollars or so. Let’s re-trace the steps in case you want to try it. Hey, I am certainly not the best handy man around the house or the sports writer with the green thumb. So if I can do it …
I did this last fall and the grass was tremendous in about two weeks. Now it is green and full. Just check the picture.
Here are the steps.
1. Doug suggested I go somewhere like Home Depot and rent a thatcher (verticutter). At Home Depot, I seem to remember if was 45 dollars for four hours. They’re not hard to work. Even I did it, although don’t put the thatcher in the back of an SUV without anchoring it. I went up a hill and it almost went sliding through the back window.
2. Buy some grass seed and spread some of it over the lawn BEFORE thatching. That way the seed gets into some of the holes the thatcher creates. This was Doug’s “special” suggestion.
3. After throwing down some seed, I thatched. Doug suggested to “get down” to the soil. So I did.
4. Then spread more grass seed over the area that I thatched.
5. I would say I probably ended up using about 80-100 pounds of grass seed. Doug suggested the Penn State mixture. So that’s what I bought at a local gardening center.
6. Doug thought about putting straw over the seed, but we decided against it. I bought two large blocks of peat moss and just sprinkled the peat moss by hand lightly over the grass seed.
And that was it. All told, I would say this took me maybe 5-6 hours. But oh, was it worth it. I did the same thing with some big spots in my side yard and it worked also. I had patched areas of grass before, and never had grass grow so fast and thick, so quickly. I had grass coming up within 3-4 days. Within a week or so, I had a lot of grass growing. I did have a nice amount of rain a day after I planted. And I watered it once a day – and sometimes twice - for another week or two. Doug said I would need to water it a little in the hot weather this summer, too.
I couldn’t be more pleased with the lawn, and I did it for a very good price. I’m sure the same thing might work in the spring.
Now I have to go back to Doug and ask what fertilizer to use. Hope he’s right again.