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  1. #1
    Bronze Member rbstern's Avatar
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    Default Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    I know little to nothing about grass, so please bear with me.

    The front yard of my north Georgia cabin is sparsely covered in some type of grass that I keep cut during the growing season using a rotary brush cutter. It's thin in some places, and completely absent in a few large areas. Those areas get rutted by vehicles, bicycles, whatever passes over them. I'd like to get some grass growing to get the soil more stable and resistent to erosion and rutting. It's hard packed red clay soil. The below picture shows some of the weak areas. I don't have a pic of the bald areas, but it's basically the same topology minus the grass. Ignore the guests. We sometimes put corn in that area, and that's what they're there for. They don't have an opinion on the grass, as far as I know.



    I have a box blade with tines. I don't have any type of rake attachments for my tractor, but the areas aren't so large that I couldn't rake by hand.

    Other challenges: I don't have running water in this area of the yard, as it's at least 150 yards from a spigot. I could probably run a really long hose to it; the problem areas are mostly downhill from the spigot, so I expect water pressure would not be an issue. We're also entering our wettest season, if that matters. Most of the problem areas get full sunlight throughout the spring and summer.

    I need advice on:

    - prepping the soil
    - what seed to lay down and how to lay it down
    - how to take care of it so it grows

    Would appreciate any input.

  2. #2
    Super Member s219's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    Is the clay super hard? I have had very little luck establishing any ground cover on bare hard clay. If you can aerate or break it up and mix in some top soil or other organic material, you can at least get something started.

    Be sure it's a groundcover that can root in clay soil. Around here, wire grass will grow anywhere. If I had to plant something in clay soil, that's what I would use. I wouldn't bother with a fescue or bluegrass in clay. Your state extension service likely has some specific recommendations that would work.

  3. #3
    Bronze Member rbstern's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    Appreciate your comments.

    It's not super hard. There's a slightly sandy consistency to it. I'm pretty sure it is fill from elsewhere. Once upon a time, the property was going to be a cul-de-sac development for a lakeside community. The front yard is where the cul-de-sac was going to be. I think the earth moving company simply used typical GA clay soil to fill it; perhaps with some sand mixed in for drainage.

    Wire grass: Do I need to know anything special about it?

  4. #4
    Super Member s219's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    Quote Originally Posted by rbstern View Post
    Wire grass: Do I need to know anything special about it?

    Wire grass is sort of a local slang name for it, since it spreads by stolons that look like wires. It's really Common Bermuda Grass (which is much coarser than the hybrid Bermudas that people typically choose for lawns and golf courses).

    It's a warm season native grass that is insanely tough, heat/drought resistant, and spreads rapidly. Being a warm season grass, you plant it in the April/May timeframe. It's green from May-October, but goes dormant (straw colored) from Nov-April.

    In my case, it's a weed that I fight every year in my fescue yard. The entire field behind my house is wire grass, and it's constantly trying to creep into my fescue.

  5. #5
    Bronze Member rbstern's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    Quote Originally Posted by s219 View Post
    Wire grass is sort of a local slang name for it, since it spreads by stolons that look like wires. It's really Common Bermuda Grass (which is much coarser than the hybrid Bermudas that people typically choose for lawns and golf courses).

    It's a warm season native grass that is insanely tough, heat/drought resistant, and spreads rapidly. Being a warm season grass, you plant it in the April/May timeframe. It's green from May-October, but goes dormant (straw colored) from Nov-April.

    In my case, it's a weed that I fight every year in my fescue yard. The entire field behind my house is wire grass, and it's constantly trying to creep into my fescue.
    One man's weed is another man's lawn.

    Sounds like exactly what I need. Thank you!

  6. #6
    Veteran Member Bigfoot62's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    s219 gave you good advice. Common Bermuda is what you need. As he said, scratch the surface, (tiller, disc, etc) sow the seed, (about 10# per acre, IIRC) and fertilze with poultry litter, if there are chicken houses (or turkey, etc) nearby. For small areas, you can buy chicken fertilize in bags at farm supply stores, but it will cost more. My neighbor says that "You can grow Bermuda grass on a concrete slab with a little chicken fertilize."
    '12 JD 5083E Cab MFWD FEL
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  7. #7
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    It depends on what you call North Georgia and how much shade you have. You say you get lots of sun so Bermuda can grow if it is not too cold there. Lots of fescue varieties will though. Now is the time to be planting that fescue. Bermuda is not going to do much right now. Scratch it up with a pick, or some other tool, try to find some compost to work in and get the seed lightly covered. You wait much later and the draught will kill young grass. My experience with Bermuda is its reputation as overtaking everything is legendary and not neccessarily true. I have lots of sparse areas on my property. Some crummy soil in some areas. Maybe not enough not lime and fertilizer.

  8. #8
    Bronze Member rbstern's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    Hart County, near Lake Hartwell. We're doing pretty well for rainfall over the last few months. If it's a drought, it's modest. Nowhere near what happened further south.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    County Offices | UGA Cooperative Extension
    Turfgrass | UGA Cooperative Extension
    Anyhow plenty of publications there and the county ag agent should be able to answer your questions and give you an idea about how bad that fill is.

  10. #10
    Bronze Member rbstern's Avatar
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    Default Re: Need some grass growing advice for erosion control (hard red clay)

    Jim, thanks. Via your links, I found a link to the Hart County UGA extension office, and details for soil testing services.

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