Reader Question: Lawn Renovation

Reader Manny wrote in with some questions concerning my recent organic lawn renovation project.



I am enjoying your blog. Thank you for sharing so much detail. I have some questions. Did you consider verticutting your existing lawn and overseeding, rather than killing your lawn and starting from scratch? It seems that your goal was to amend the soil and this would be achieved by starting anew.

It is now September 24, 2012 and I live in Pittsburgh. I had a late start. I am concerned about the grass getting established well enough before the first frost. Did you have the same concerns when beginning your project?

Regarding your choice of seed...did you consider Pearl's Premium? I noticed that both Black Beauty and Pearl's Premium Sunny both have Dakota Tall Fescue. Pearl's is marketed as needing infrequent watering and mowing i.e. once per 3 to 4 weeks. Black Beauty is not promoted as such, but I am wondering if it does have these qualities. I am wondering which grass seed in the Pearl's blend gives these infrequent watering and mowing qualities.


Manny thank you for taking the time to ask a question and for your kind words on my site. It's always great to get feedback!


I didn't consider verticutting for a number of reasons. First I'm only doing a small area and I didn't want to deal with the hassle of going out and renting bulky equipment.

Second, and probably most importantly, one of my main motivations for doing a lawn renovation was was to substantially change the appearance of my lawn. In particular I was looking for a lawn that was a much darker green than my previous lawn. That's why I went with Jonathan Green lack Beauty grass seed.

Overseeding the old grass with the new grass wouldn't give me that deep, dark look I wanted. I had also overseeded a few times in the past. While it did improve the lawn it didn't change the overall qualities dramatically. Starting over almost completely from scratch seemed to be the best route for me.

Verticutting is better than just spreading grass seed over an existing lawn but I think if you dethatch or core aerate at the same time as seeding you'll get results that aren't too far off from verticutting. It still takes at least 2-3 years of overseeding to significantly have the new grass dominate the old.

Amending the soil wasn't my main factor. In fact as I mentioned in that soil amendment update I didn't even plan to do as much work to the soil as I actually did. My plan was to top dress with a little compost, work the compost into the top inch of existing soil, seed then top dress with more compost.

The composted manure I used was very wet and clumpy and impossible to topdress which meant I needed to do a lot more to get it integrated into the soil. Disturbing the soil like that brings up weed seeds, which I'll have to deal with next spring.

Lawn Seeding Dates

I was concerned about the timing but seeding through September in my area is fine. We're in similar climates but if I were you I would check out the website or contact your local Cooperative Extension Office and see what they recommend.

Pearl's Premium Seed

I had seen Pearl's Premium Grass Seed when I was looking into Dakota Tall Fescue as well but I wanted to use a grass seed that was all Tall Fescue, such as Black Beauty, so I can get a more consistent look. Getting a dark green lawn was also important and the pictures I saw of Black Beauty seemed to have a darker color than Pearl's.

My seed choice came down to Jonathan Green Black Beauty or a custom seed mix. One of the reasons I went with Black Beauty was that it was available at my local garden center. I haven't run across Pearl's anywhere.

Pearl's Premium is a mix of Dakota Tall Fescue, Frontier Perenial Ryegrass, Deepblue Kentucky Bluegrass, Harpoon Hard Fescue and Carmen Chewings Fescue. The last two seeds are fine fescues. Fine fescues are frequently used in low maintenance situations such as the sides of highways. Dakota Tall fescue doesn't seem to be that fast growing compared to other grasses. Perenial Ryegrass and KBG in general require more maintenance. I haven't looked into each variety in depth but I did recognize some of the seeds as ones used or created by Jonathan Green or their seed grower.

Black Beauty is advertised as a grass that requires less maintenance as far as watering is concerned and Turf Type Tall Fescues generally require 3lbs of Nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft as opposed to 4lbs for KBG. I don't know if it's the type of lawn that can go weeks without mowing though. I have seen a tall fescue lawn that doesn't get mowed frequently and it doesn't look good to me.
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  1. I am so glad I found your old blog of Johnathan Green Grass Seed. I'm really curious to find out how your grass/lawn turned out. is it as nice as you wanted. if your lawn turned out really nice can you please post some pictures of what it looks like now being a year later. I have 6 acres I would like to reseed and I am thinking of using jonathan green grass seed so you can see why I'm really curious to see if it works well for you or not. Thanks

    1. Brian,

      I posted the updates. It turned out really nice. I did run into some issues which I discussed in the update. Check out

  2. Brian,

    I'll be posting an update to the renovation soon. I've been spending a lot of time I would normally spend writing for this site trying to figure out why Google has decided to practically stop sending me traffic. There were also some issues as a result of hurricane Sandy that kept me tied up.

    Subscribe to my feed or keep checking back. Picks of the new lawn should be coming shortly. Generally I'm pleased with Black Beauty.

    Thank you for your interest.

  3. Thank you for your blog. It is very informative. Currently looking into Jonathan Green Black Beauty grass seeds. Your site is definitely helping me lean towards using Black Beauty. My only hesitation right now is if its deep root, up to 4 feet deep, is an issue over a septic leaching field. Otherwise, from your blog, it sounds like a good choice for what I want.