Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Ready to seed September 16, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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The excavator used to dig a trench for the new water line. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted file photo June 2021.

FOR THE PAST THREE MONTHS, our front side yard has looked like a disaster. Not from the drought, although that factored into the issue. Rather, excavation to replace an aged, failing water line into our house resulted in a dug up mess of a yard. I’m not blaming the excavators. Running a line into our house required a round-about and lengthy access route.

So here we are, months later, finally ready to fix our unsightly yard during the cooler days of pre-autumn. I started the process by hand pulling crabgrass, which had overtaken most of the lawn. That annual thrives in dry conditions, quickly spreading and rooting into the soil. I spent hours, days, yanking the invasive grass…until I realized I simply couldn’t do it any more.

Randy used a chemical—what I was trying to avoid by all that hands-on work—to kill the rest.

Since then, he’s tilled the soil, carefully digging for utility lines marked by flags and paint. I appreciate these markings, but wish we were informed as to the depth of these pipes and lines. The last thing we want is to slice through a line and have that added expense on top of our original water line replacement bill of $5,000. Yes, you read that right.

We need to seed this entire side yard, part of the front yard and the entire boulevard. Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo June 2021.

But back to the lawn. The plan is to seed grass. If we were younger and stronger, owned a truck, had endless cash flow, and weren’t in a drought, I’d prefer sod. But grass seed it shall be. Now what to seed…

I just read an article online about research by the University of Minnesota’s Turfgrass Research, Outreach and Education Center (who knew there was such a center?) which suggests Minnesotans rethink seeding Kentucky bluegrass, the seed grass of choice in our state. Rather, the center suggests considering fine fescues. That slower growing grass requires less water and fertilizer and is more tolerant of shade and drought conditions, according to the researchers. Hmmm. That sounds worthy of consideration to conserve water and to deal with dry conditions.

Or, I had the thought of just letting the tilled yard be…and seeding field corn in the spring…because Randy and I both grew up on crop farms and…


TELL ME: I welcome your input and advice on seeding of our now dirt yard.

© Copyright 2021 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


24 Responses to “Ready to seed”

  1. Ruth Says:

    Audrey I am the last person on earth to consult on lawn care. I’ve been reading about pollinator friendly yards. Glad your water line is fixed but what an expense. Oh my.

  2. There are so many types of grass to consider, aren there? We have lived in places with fescue and Kentucky blue grass. Maybe you can try a mix of both together — seems like they do well together as well. Good luck!

  3. YAY!!! Just remember to lay the seed and then dust on some good black dirt. Otherwise the wind could take the seed or may have a bird convention in the yard. You may get patches that are not coming in and then just add a handful of seed. Watering is key too. You will want to make sure the grass is pretty rooted before doing the first mow too. Wishing you the best – green grass thoughts coming your way 🙂 Happy Day – Enjoy!

  4. I am going to attempt grass seed this fall myself. My back yard, for some reason has gone through a terrible period and there is more dead grass and dirt than anything else. Good luck, Audrey. ❤

  5. jhc1218 Says:

    I just purchased a fine fescue blend for some over-seeding and bare spots in our yard. My neighbor had sent me the same article you referenced. If you are looking for lo to no-maintenance, check out Eco-Grass from Prairie Moon Nursery. https://www.prairiemoon.com/eco-grass
    If you are willing to forgo the green turf look, you have an amazing spot to create a native prairie area using sedges, various grasses, plants and flowers. There are so many options for full sun. Even a small native garden in the lawn would look wonderful. Doug Tallamy is a wonderful resource.

  6. Tami Resler Says:

    What about making it a prairie? Planting native prairie grasses? No maintenance! Something to look into. I think if I had my yard to do over, that’s probably what I’d do. Maybe I do have my yard to do over! Imagine the birds you’d get!

  7. Gunny Says:

    I would agree about staying away from Kentucky Bluegrass. I would go with what the University recommends. I did exactly that in California. My water bill dropped and my new grass (another blend) did very well and was a dark lush green when I moved to Texas. Geyting ready to have my lawn dug up to move my water softener to a place less prone to freezing. During the Texas Snovid, we (and many others) lost water due to ruptured pipes. Then the City Water shut off because of all the water line breaks. Oh – such fun and expense. Water here is close to crushed rock. I have been without a water softener for some months now and the calcium deposits are getting to hard to ignore.

  8. Valerie Says:

    I can’t wait to see it coming up green, that is.

  9. jhc1218 Says:

    Hopefully the storms last night didn’t wash it all away. I laid our seed yesterday afternoon, so need to check ours after the storms rolled through early this morning.

  10. Sandra Says:

    You’re about 5 scientific levels ahead of me on grass seed knowledge. Sounds like Randy has it under control (although prairie grass sounded fun). After the same area being torn up 3 yrs. apart with Xcel gas and transformer replacements, restoration reseeding, being done by their contractor, I did take lots of notes. They prepped, laid thick layer of black dirt, heavily seeded with I don’t know, then laid Futerra Environet, a bio-degradeable netting. Great product. Water was the key. First project our lawns never looked better. This year we had drought with St. Paul restrictions based on the level of the river…who knew?!! Yes, big storm last night. For once it missed us. The Hudson library will be a big insurance claim though. Power out everywhere. But sun is shining, church block party will be fun. They’re so much work, thankful for sun.

    • The yard is seeded, watered and now we wait. Lots of watering ahead. Hopefully with water (rain) and sun, the seeds will sprout and the grass will grow. We had a young man stop by today about using the netting.

      Yes, the storms were widespread and damaging. But the most devastating, the death of the 4-year-old South Dakota girl struck by a limb while inside her tent early this morning.

  11. Funny you should be talking about seeding, as Rick just finished seeding the area where we lost that hugh tree in September. Now I know it’s not close to the area that you and Randy will need to seed but it was still plenty of work for him as he sifted through the mulch created by the stump grinder which took a few days, then hauled black dirt (3 trips) from the city compost pile and eventually seeded a week ago. It’s amazing how fast the grass came in, but I’m not sure what he planted. Good luck to you and Randy, I’m sure it will be lovely when you are finished.


    In the long run, you will get the best lawn from seeding. Sod can work well too and give you quicker results. Maybe you have chosen your seed already and have looked at seed for sunny vs. shady areas. That’s important. From a practical standpoint, you want to keep it watered so the seed stays damp and can germinate. All advice from a Master Gardener. Another practical tip from my spouse who has sown a lot of seed; he uses straw mulch on top of the seed. This helps to keep in the moisture. It will be a little unsightly for awhile but by next spring, it will disappear because you will have a nice lawn! Good luck!

    • Colleen, thanks for all your tips on seeding and growing grass. We chose a mix of Kentucky bluegrass, rye and fescues. Now it’s a matter of keeping the area watered, which I need to do in about an hour. I like the idea of using straw to retain moisture. But Randy decided not to use that cover.

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