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Considerations for installing a new lawn in Alberta

If you are considering installing a new lawn this year in Alberta we have many options for you. Please consider the information below and feel free to call or email us to discuss your specific needs or local soil issues.

Before we present the options you should be aware that Alberta has problematic clay soil. Clay soils do not provide a good base for lawns unless specific considerations have been made.  Depending on what area of Alberta you are in, you may have terrible clay soil problems or just moderate ones, but almost every community in central Alberta has this issue.

The most common problem is when you try to mix clay soil with sod. Please read through the info carefully. There is more information on clay soil and how to treat it here at www.claydoctor.com

The good news for existing sod lawns  and even new sod lawns is that we still treat the clay soil by application of Clay Doctor on the grass. It will fix the soil under the lawn. Once treated it makes a huge different to the lawns health, vitality and ability to store water.

Sod Vs Hydroseeding?

You will have to excuse my obvious bias against sod in this article. I regularly install and even recommend sod to some of my clients as it is totally appropriate . It does have it's good points.

..However (here it comes) Most sod is made from 80-90% Kentucky blue grass, the most water loving and highest maintenance turf grass ever used.

Sod cannot easily be made from other types of grasses as Kentucky blue grass (KBG) is the only grass species that can product a dense, shallow mat of roots that a machine can cut and then roll up so efficiently. This wonderful feature is also what makes KBG sod such a poor choice for many homeowners and businesses.

The short root system of KBG grass means this grass is highly susceptible to drying out and it also means that a lot of fertilizer is required to keep it alive because it's roots can't get down deep enough to extract the deeper moisture and nutrients in the soil. This is also why weeds can get into the turf as well as other species with deeper roots.

Dandelions just have to punch through about 2 inches of roots and then it's got all the soil below for itself. With Eco grass those same weeds need to penetrate almost 12-14 inches of root mass which is much more difficult.

If you have built in irrigation or don't mind extra work or using a lot of water, sod is great. In some communities like Langdon and Strathmore irrigation can leach alkali or sodic compounds up to the surface which over a short period of time can kill blue grass as it has very low tolerance to these compounds. Anywhere you have a white crust on your soil or grass, this is an issue. Plus i was told by a few Langdon residents that their water bills were well over $100 to $120 per month.

Most sod is bought and installed because either we are just aware of other options or we cannot wait long enough for other varieties of grass to grow in.

Most Alberta people want the yard the green and they want it now, if that's your need..sod is the only choice you have. You get a two or three year old patch of grass in a matter of hours. Many families with kids and pets do not want to wait due to the open dirt which can cause cleaning headaches. Be aware that the new sod needs to watered almost every day can not be walked on after installation or used for 2 weeks or more, so it's not that instant.

This is where planning can help, if you have the luxury of time! If you know you are going to be moving in on a certain date often it can be arranged with the builder to have the lot hydroseeding in advance. I know most builders are not that organized and are often still working on the home right up until the move in day (and often after) this is a chronic problem here in Alberta.

We have many clients where we have hydroseeded (using enhanced hydroseeding, not regular hydroseeding) a lawn in and in under a month they have a pretty decent thick lawn in place. We use natural growth enhancers and an intense nutritional solution to rapid grow the grass in at a faster pace and with thicker results. We do not use any chemicals to accomplish this and we do not use regular cheap wood fiber hydroseeding mulch. The mixture is highly engineered and works very well. A standard hydroseeded lawn will take at least another 3 weeks to catch up to this specialized mixture.

NOTE: even a sod lawn will take 3 to 4 weeks before you can use it like a lawn. It will be a soaking, mushy bog you can't walk on during 2 to 3 weeks, so one of enhanced hydroseeded lawns is pretty close in time.

From an environmental perspective sod is a poor choice not only due to the high water needs but also the high maintenance involved. Sod often requires a lot of chemical based help in the form of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers.

Read my article on the eco grass page "is your lawn making you sick".

The other pollution factor is the mowing, if you are a very ecologically minded person you will find that blue grass needs a lot of mowing compared to other grasses. Lawn mowers produce a lot of emissions. Technically even electric powered mowers produce pollution because most of electricity in the west is coal generated. I know this may sound a bit excessive, but this where longer term planning can really help. If your grass only needed to cut once a month instead of weekly and you multiplied that by millions of people, it can have a significant impact on pollution. If you are concerned with being as ecologically friendly as possible, KBG sod is not the way to go.

Extensive use of Eco grass instead of sod can have that beneficial effect, which by the way is why we call it "Eco Grass" due it's ecologically friendly attributes, it's not a species, it's a generic term for a blend of grasses.

NOTE: We have a variety of types of "Eco Grasses" that are blended for specific expectations. Some do have a blue grass content and varying degrees of other fescues depending on what the client want's as attributes in their lawn.

Blue grass is also very intolerant of salt, which means our Western Canadian clay soils, which are high in sodium (salt) and alkalinity can often have very adverse effects on our blue grass lawns. If you have already sodded your lawn or want to sod it, we have a product called Clay Doctor that can solve that problem. Clay Doctor soil modifier changes the clay based soil into a PH neutral loam that supports good grass growth. It works especially well for lawns with fussy KBG grass

Family pets have an adverse effect on sod lawns as their urine is high in salt, this is one of the main factors in dog spots, or dead grass spot in our KBG lawns. Again Clay Doctor can fix this problem and restore your lawn.

NOTE: for larger areas like acreages we have other options like no till seeding into existing turf and mechanical seeding for open soils.These methods are dramatically less costly for larger areas over an acre and up to 20 acres.

Weeds : Weeds will always be an issue. Where ever you have open soil, there will be weed seeds in it. even new soil bought from garden centres is fully contaminated with weeds unless it has been sterilized. Packaged soils are usually sterilized, however the popular "big bags" of soil are not. They will contain weed seeds.

The Hydroseeding process and mechanical seeding does not introduce weeds into the soil, our seed is certified 95% weed free, However we cannot guarantee in any way shape or form that weeds will not grow along with the grass, in fact I can assure you that weeds will grow in the soil, that is a given. This also applies to sod lawns. The weeds in the soil beneath the sod will produce weeds if not treated first. It is naive to think sod will choke out all the weeds in the soil it is laid on, weeds like thistles and dandelions if they exist in the soil will still come through the sod within a matter of weeks.

Weeds can easily be controlled after the grass has reached the 3 leaf stage (about 3 weeks) . Spraying a mild and safe, yet effective in-turf broad leaf specific herbicide like Killex will kill about 95% of the weeds. usually 1 or 2 treatments the first year will suffice and allow the lawn to establish to a thick enough cover to prevent weeds from being a major issue again.

With any lawn , sod or seeded regular spot weeding is required to maintain a weed free lawn.

A healthy lawn will not allow a lot of weed incursion in most circumstances.

Enough negativity about so, as I said it does have it's good points.......

Sod Installation

Mistaya Land and Water will install your new sod and insure that it is done properly.

With a stronger focus on soil conditions and proper installation techniques our sod installations have a much higher success rate than most other companies.

Unfortunately most sod installations in Alberta are not done correctly. With many developers, the idea is to just get it on the ground so they can check it off of their list. Remember it's usually the last thing they need to do before they can get final payment. For most developers and builders the installation just needs to be done, it doesn't need to be done right.

Sod is unique in that it can be kept alive for almost an entire summer by just watering it. The sod can be laid over the worst soil (and often is) or even on raw clay.... soil so bad that the roots can't penetrate it but if you keep it wet, it will stay alive and green for an entire summer by living on the thin layer of water between the roots and the clay soil surface.

However, it will not survive the winter or will just make it out of winter with significant die off and dead patches. You can liken it to a deadbeat child, still living at home at 28 years old because mom and dad are supplying food and doing the laundry etc..why leave ? why improve.. I'm happy living off of them.

Sod can be like that..it will not spread it's roots deeper and grow if you keep a constant supply of water and fertilizer supplied to it, it doesn't need to grow roots to search deeper for water. This is called a chemically dependent lawn.

With clay soil however a bigger problem can result for over use of chemical fertilizers. Most store bought fertilizers, especially the popular brand name ones contain salts. Excess salts used in synthetic fertilizers cause 2 problems.

First, they reduce the moisture holding ability of soils and cause what moisture is present to be bound more tightly to the soil making it harder for plants to absorb.

Second, salt exposure reduces a plants roots ability to absorb water even if the soil is fully saturated. Since most commercial fertilizers are composed of soluble salts (ammonium nitrate, potassium chloride, etc.) and as these salts build up in the soil, more and more water (irrigation) is required, the plants are weaker and more susceptible to insects and disease hence require more pesticides, fungicides, etc. In Alberta's clay soils all of these factors are magnified.

Clay soil is a big issue, almost all of Alberta soil in the major urban areas is on clay based soil. Most of the soil or "loam" sold will be clay based soil, most of it seriously bad high clay content soil.

The point I am trying make here is that it is very important to have good soil that your sod can grow and thrive in. The loam provided by most builders is terrible stuff. it's the soil and mostly clay underneath the top layer scraped off the area that was developed .Those big scrapers they use are NOT accurate, they strip off equal amounts of the underlying clay and mix it all in. Blue grass based sod does not like salty or alkaline soil. Clay is often very salty and alkaline.

However we can treat that with Clay Doctor. Clay Doctor is a cutting edge soil modifier that will turn the worse clay soil into loam. Once treated it is permanently fixed and will not need further treatments. It is very affordable and prudent to treat a new lawn with Clay Doctor at the same time the lawn is put in. Newer lawns and older lawns with compacted clay soil can be treated as well, it makes a huge difference on watering, growth and overall lawn health.

The other problem I see most often is that the soil used for these new homes is completely infested with weeds and the installers will lay the sod right over that. This often results in a weedy lawn a year or two down the road. Mistaya Land deals with that problem right up front before laying the new sod.

You'll pay forever and ever with a costly to maintain and water needy lawn if you don't pay attention to the soil you have before you get sod installed. Often it's not that expensive to bring in some proper soil or treat the existing soil with Clay Doctor in order to provide a good working layer that will help your sod grow well the first year.

If you've been "had" by buying or getting poor soil, we do have some soil treatments, including Clay Doctor and Terraform that can be applied after the sod has been installed, even a few years later. Note: these soil treatments are not do-it-yourself applications, specialized equipment and knowledge is required. We offer them as a application service only.

Contact us and we'll discuss your options.

Cost for Sod installation

Typically our cost for both supplying and installing sod is about 75 to 95 cents per square foot, however that doesn't include all the costs, so talk to us about a quote before comparing or shopping around. There may be soil required and labour to spread and level that along with other amendments and things. The cost per square foot is close enough to get a good idea of the finished cost.


"Enhanced Hydroseeding" and Hydro Mulching

Hydro Seeding and Hydro Mulching are basically the same thing. With HydroMulching you just add a lot more of the mulch and seed mixture than normally used (in Hydro seeding). Hydro Mulching will give you close to sod like results as the seed density is extremely high.

Enhanced Hydroseeding is where we use a custom blend of organic materials and fibers to produce a mix that is more like liquid soil. This blend contains a huge amount of organic nutrients and natural growth hormones. The blend helps the grass germinate and grow at a much faster rate than is possible with standard wood fiber hydroseeding mulch.

The equipment used is specialized as well. Regular hydroseeding machines cannot mix and pump this thick, fibrous slurry without catastrophic clogging. We are basically applying a liquified soil and organic nutrient slurry as a top dressing over your lawn or on bare clay/sand/soil.

Standard wood fiber mulch is completely inert. meaning it adds NO VALUE for the grass seed to use to germinate and grow. In fact in dry and windy conditions common in Calgary and area, wood fiber mulch is a detriment as it acts like a wick sucking moisture from the mulch mix instead of holding on to it like it is supposed to. Plus wood mulch will "steal" nitrogen in the soil from the grass roots in order to decompose itself.

Overall enhanced hydroseeding and liquid soil matrix hydroseeding produces a fast growing, fantastic thick lawn compare to slower growing standard hydroseeding techniques.

The deeper root systems of Eco grass and the low mow or low maintenance blends Mistaya Land uses in hydroseeding are more aggressive and efficient in pulling out the moisture and nutrients in our soil. Our blends contain mostly native grass cultivar blends ideal for turf. These species produce lawns just a beautiful and soft as blue grass based sod lawns. Have no fear, it's more advantageous and just as nice to walk and play on.

The cost of hydro seeding is far less than sod and it produces much better results than broadcast or surface seeding which does not work well in Alberta due to the dryness, high altitude UV and cooler night time temps.

No-Till Drill or Mechanical seeding work well for larger yards like acreages and the cost is a lot lower than hydroseeding for larger areas (this only applies to areas over half an acre, under that hydroseeding is the better value)

We offer many kinds of grass when seeding or hydroseeding, your choices include Eco grass, Premium golf course mixes rich in blue grass, native grasses, drought resistant blends, sports field blends and even grazing mixes for those people with horses on their acreages and farms. We can mix the varieties on an acreage, such as turf grass near the home and grazing mix out in the farther reaches etc.

You can read up on Eco grass by clicking here.

For enhanced and soiless hydroseeding the growth rate is faster, usually you have a good growth in a month or less.

For standard hydroseeding a new lawn takes a bit more patience in the beginning as it takes about 4-6 weeks for the seed to germinate and grow in thick enough for a first mow. Watering, like sod is critical in the first 20 days for residential yards. Acreages can be left to nature (rain) if desired.

The spray on mulch will seal in the dirt and seeds with a layer of paper mache like crust held together with a natural gum compound. You can walk on it and it's not like a raw dirt surface. the mulch has green dye in it that will last about a week before fading so it looks neat and you can see where the seed/mulch has been applied.

Other options

For larger areas like large acreage's and commercial properties we can offer mechanical and drill seeding at lower rates than hydroseeding. We do get great results with these methods if everything is done correctly and good moisture is present. Early spring and summer is best, but we can seed all summer and right until freeze up and snow cover.

Cell (403) 519-8200

or leave a voice or email message

voice (403) 638-8090

email: ecograss@mac.com


Hi Pierce:

Three weeks ago when you came to rejuvenate my lawn, I was anxious to see results ASAP, especially after the experience that I had with the lawn care company I had used the year before.  I was hopeful but reserved in thinking that I would actually see improvements in three weeks.  Well, my lawn has gone NUTS just as Clarence Patton's lawn did.  I'm mowing every other day (and happy to report that I am)! 

The neighbor across the street whose grass has been the envy of the neighborhood (the grass on drugs), stopped this week and commented that my grass is looking greener than his!  I couldn't be happier. 

The grass seed has germinated, the thatch is breaking down and my once "skinny" lawn is beginning to fill out (finally!).  The east side has a green carpet that is filling in nicely.  Who knew (not my landscaper who said that grass rarely grows on the east side) !  Thanks so much!  If this is only the first three weeks, I can't wait to see the end result.  I look forward to the fall application.  

Janet H - Airdrie, Alberta
Hi Pierce: 

I Thought I'd give you an update on the Lawn rejuvenation you did on my property. 

I followed your instructions and watered consistently.  The germination was a little slow but after two weeks everything exploded.  With a few good rains the new grass went nuts and is extremely thick.  The areas you seeded are all a luscious green and thicker than they have ever been. 

To say I am happy is an understatement....

I would recommend you to anyone

I'm having a big Historic Society tour come through my gardens this Sunday, and it will be with great pride that I watch the reactions of the visitors.

Clarence "Clancy" Patton
Calgary, Alberta.

"Growing Naturally"

Mistaya Land and Water corp
Environmentally friendly commercial and residential solutions
Toll Free 1-877-894-9378 - Direct Dial 1-403-638-8090
Email : ecograss@mac.com

http://www.purewest.ca & http://www.needanewlawn.ca