Let There Be Grass! (Seeding Some Bare Dirt Spots)

Back on this hosta post I left a not-so-subtle indication that we were planting some fresh grass ’round these parts.

Though as pretty as superimposed text looks in that area (not), we’ve been working on getting the real thing for a while now and it’s finally (mostly) photo-ready. But let’s head back to the beginning, which is actually one step before the photo above… when it still looked like this:

Yep, we still had some weird liriope lingering to the right of the brick path, so we dug that up (to the point where it was even with the stone border on the other side) and called this area ready for grass seed.

Here’s the strip from the other side of the house. If you recall, this is where we used to have a line of boxwoods making the pathway look very, um, boxed in.

The area near our front porch wasn’t the only spot in need of grass seed. We also had a stripe of dirt (and ivy) where our “bush fence” once resided at the front of the property.

So once we ripped out all of the ivy, this area was also ready for some serious seedification.

Because this is not a good look. And we’ve been living with it like this since last fall. And we’re pretty tired of being “the house with the dirt path to nowhere.”

As for actually spreading the seed, we didn’t use our usual routine of starter fertilizer followed by grass seed in a broadcast spreader (detailed here). Since we were getting towards the end of the grass growing season (once it gets really hot the seed can burn before it begins to grow) impatience got the best of us and we bought this “seeding mixture” that has fertilizer and seed in one. I think it was about $20 per bag (sorry, lost my receipt to double-check).

I worried my broadcast spreader would waste a lot of seed by tossing it way beyond the bare strips. So instead I just tossed it by hand – kinda using the motion I imagine one might use to feed a bunch of chickens. Not that I’ve ever done that, so maybe I’m way off.

Once it was all spread, I got my water on. Again, since it was such a small area I skipped our usual sprinkler routine and broke out the hose. So picture me out there once a day (usually in the evening or the early morning, so the sun wouldn’t just burn it off) soaking both areas.

Now, to force a little bit of delayed gratification in this story (since it there was about two weeks of daily watering that delayed any real life gratification) I’m gonna switch gears momentarily. Let’s talk about these random ferns that pop up under our magnolia tree.

We both like ferns. Just not in this spot. It just looks messy to us and we have other plans for under this tree someday. So we dug them up.

They were actually a bit of a pain to get up – and there were lots of them too. I filled two whole wheelbarrows full of them (which I hauled to our naturalized side yard, where I’d be happy for them to take root). I also like how this photo unintentionally looks like our West Elm ceramic speaker-pig is trying to escape up the tree to avoid the wheelbarrow. #PigProblems.

Now it’s a big empty round of dirt – but at least it doesn’t have those gangly ferns creeping all over the place anymore. And someday we’d love to plant some green low-lying groundcover for a more seamless look (that screams big-ring-of-dirt-under-a-tree-where-grass-won’t-grow a little less). Someday.

Okay, now back to grass mode. It took about 10 days for any hint of grass to start showing up. A bit longer than our past experiences (which were usually seven on the dot), but we chalked it up to being late in the season when it was a bit warmer out.

Here’s a farther-away shot of the area just starting to get a subtle green tint to it around ten days in.

Fast forward another week or two and things are finally filling in pretty nicely:

You can still see the distinction between the fresh grass and the mature grass, but once the new stuff starts to grow out of its neon green newness it should be less obvious.

We can’t tell you how much this excites us just to see a carpet of grass here, totally unobstructed by bushes, ivy, or dirt. Kinda wish it hadn’t taken 18 months of living here for this to finally get done!

It’s also much easier to mow now that I don’t have to weave around a bunch of bushes (these pics were taken right after mowing, which is why you can see some fresh wheel lines in some of the shots).

The stripe closer to the house is having a bit of a rougher go at filling in. The area by the street is lower, so water runoff seems to go there – which makes all of the grass down there a little lusher. We might end up overseeding this path area another time this fall, just to help it fill in more evenly.

Here it is from the other side. Again, not perfect…

…but definitely an improvement!

And while we’re looking at old before photos, let’s take a peek at how the view from the front has improved. Here’s a before shot taken about a week after we bought this house (even before Sherry trimmed up the magnolia).

And here we are today.

It’s pretty grass-tastic if you ask me. And thankfully since it’s only a three-foot strip of grass out front and next to the path that we added in place of all those bushes, it only takes a few more runs of the mower to get ‘er done (five more mowing minutes are definitely worth the curb appeal that we gained).

Has anyone else played the grass seed game yet this year? Or have you had any past triumphs (or trials) with planting grass around your home? Are you slowly inching along with outdoor improvements? It used to make us so sad that outside things seem to take forever, but we learned with our first house that a lot of little updates over a few years can definitely make for some dramatic results. So keep the faith. And make sure your ceramic pig isn’t trying to run off…


  1. Marie says

    We’ve been playing the grass game this year (we moved in a year ago). I love that ours is finally starting to fill in as well. So fresh so green! Your yard really looks amazing, I love the before and after.

  2. says

    It is looking pretty awesome guys! We’ve got some grass planting to do but we’re saving it for the fall now. We also need to treat our yard for grubs :(. I’m going to start with the Milk Spore Powder – going to try to avoid using Grub Ex but I’ll probably still go that route since Milk Spore takes so long to really make a difference.

    And I wish I had real pigs running around :)…someday when I have a farm.

    • says

      My friend’s mom tried to pet a pig that escaped from a farm and onto her yard once because she thought it would be soft and she told me they’re so hard and wiry. Just makes me want to pet a pig even more now. Haha.


    • says

      Haha their hair is really wiry (except the babies are so soft and adorable)…awww you’re making me want to pet one now! I haven’t been that close to one since I left my Dad’s house after high school twelve years ago.

  3. says

    I am so sad. I planted a bunch of grass seed over a huge ant hill I got rid of and the grass was growing wonderfully at the end of April… but we were to Europe on vacation and came home and it was ALL DEAD! I have to start all over. Not fun! I guess Ottawa, Canada had super hot weather while we were away and there was no one around to water the grass :(

    • says

      Oh no! Maybe if you water it it’ll come back? Sometimes burned looking grass is just “dormant” to conserve water, and once you water it, it can magically come back to life!


  4. says

    Looks fantastic! What a difference a strip of grass makes. :) I can’t wait to finally get grass in – I’m sure our neighbors look sideways at our weed filled corner lot. Granted, it is a new build so these things take time but I’m impatient. And, with a busy 3 year old, I just want a space for her to run around in.

    Once we have a good stretch of no rain (please, please, please) we can till, rake out the weeds, and level. Then we are going to hire a hydroseeding company to come spray. We are going this route instead of sod because the hydroseed is a mixture of a variety of native grasses with fertilizer and mulch whereas all the sod around here is Kentucky Bluegrass which a) is not native and b) is a water hog.

    So, long story short, I love your yard! :)

  5. Jenny says

    Looks great–a big improvement. I am actually doing the reverse at my house…”de-grassifying” the front yard. It’s fairly shady and the grass doesn’t grow well anyway, about half the area was garden already, and my husband does not enjoy mowing. So I am replacing the grass with low-maintenance perennials and ground covers. It’s a slow process but already looks much better–every weekend I make a little more progress!

  6. Jess! says

    I broadcasted Corn Gluten on my front and back lawns this year, and it’s really made a difference. People told me it didn’t work, but I insisted on trying, and it worked.

  7. says

    We ripped some rail road tie and gravel steps to nowhere out of our back yard recently and seeded the area. At first the grass was doing great but as soon as it hit 90 the grass in the full sun areas of the steps started to wither and get patchy. We’re trying to save it with more water STAT but I have a feeling we’ll be seeding again this fall. Bummer.

  8. says

    We planted grass last fall and it came up pretty quick, and it was neon green like you were saying! The brand new thin blades are hard to mow too–very strange! It seems to be normal now, though! We took a page out of your book and embarked on some mulching endeavors. Got our flowerbed half done on Tuesday after work, and we’ve got a date with the un-mulched half this evening (if we don’t get rained out!) http://myfriendstaci.com/2012/05/30/mighty-mulch/

  9. Anne says

    Looking great! That expanse of green is so pleasant to look at. You’ve also inspired me to look for the type of seed that you bought. I’ve got a couple of areas that need grass, and I think I’ll give your method a whirl! (I don’t have one of those push-and-the-seed-flies-out-jobbies anyway.) I learn so much from you two!

  10. says

    Hey guys – quick question – what happened to your light post that is in your ‘before’ pic? Our’s has not worked ever since we moved in so I want to just get rid of it – didn’t know if you guys had done that or I’m just not seeing it in your ‘after’ pic!

    • says

      Oh the lamp post is still there! It’s just slightly out of frame in that after picture, but you can see it in a few other photos of this post!


  11. says

    There’s been lots of grass planting at our house (almost an entire acre of seed). Long story short, we planted rye grass in the fall because the house was still under construction and we didn’t want a mud pit all winter. It was lush green and growing all winter. We planted fescue in early spring, but there was too much to keep watered so nothing came up. The rye grass is nearly completely dead now :-( So no pretty yard for us this summer. We’ll try again in the fall.

  12. says

    It looks great you guys! But every time you post a photo of your house ‘before’ I wonder if the previous owners were nudist or something… There is just SO MANY ‘privacy bushes’ up in front of your house.

    • says

      Haha, I think it’s a function of having an old house! Things get planted when they’re small and cute and over decades they’re suddenly giant and you can’t even see the house!


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