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Fixing a deficient lawn

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From: Ken Brockland
Edwards, IL
We recently bought a newly built home in central Illinois with sod laid last fall. Year one has been unsuccessful to say the least. While a great deal may have to do with my inexperience, I reckon the low-cost job and clay soil also played a role in my lawn's inability to flourish.

I'm hoping the experts could provide advice on possible steps to take this fall to set us up for a successful year two. Symptoms today include 1-2 inch gaps between sod strips (assumed to not be butted and watered properly when laid), thick patches of white clover (peppering of clover would be fine, but we appear to have full sod strips of the stuff), and a crunching sound when walking the lawn (layer of thatch?).

I'm more than willing to put the work in, but want to ensure I'm doing the right work. On my mind for fall is a good aeration, over-seeding (bluegrass), top soil for the sod strip 'crevices', and a 13-13-13 fertilizer (wife desperately prefers organics, but I'm not sure we can do it).

Are these the right steps? Also, our dog is burning the grass. Would you suggest over-seeding bluegrass with something less vulnerable to the highly concentrated dog waterings?

Cheers & Thanks!

Extension Message
From: Richard Hentschel
Extension Educator, Horticulture
DuPage/Kane/Kendall Unit
I believe a lot of your questions have answers found in our Lawn Talk web site

You are on the he right track in the renovation of your lawn. Filling in the joints between the rolls of sod and top dressing the sod itself will make a great difference. The fact that clover is present does suggest poor soil prep prior the to sodding. Clover has an extensive root system and likely survived any soil preparation that occurred. One your lawn turns around, core aeration will help with conditioning the soil below the sod. Top dressing with a quality black dirt or composted organic matter will provide the nutrition needed. If the desire is to grow the lawn naturally, regular topdressing and aeration will over time change the soil structure allowing deeper roots, better water retention and supply the soil flora the nutrition they need to feed the lawn grass.

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