grass masthead

You may have noticed that the front lawn of Tuscan School is in sorry shape. The grass has large bald spots and the turf is very sad looking all around. The yard is a high traffic area, and the soil is very compacted. 

tuscan before

The question is how to resolve these issues with out dosing the lawn with chemicals and fertilizers that would make it unsafe for the children who love to play there?

The Tuscan School Green Team, a PTA Committee, has created a partnership with the SOMSD Administration and re:Yard, a community yard sustainability project, to solve this problem. We believe it is possible:

No Chemicals
No Synthetic Fertilizers
Kid/Pet Safe turf

Additionally, we believe that it is possible for your yard as well. Follow along on this webpage as we go step by step through the process to sustainable turf or, as we like to call it, Greener Grass.

So… what’s the plan?

  • Feb/March- Soil testing, diagnosing problem areas, including “Mysterious Bald Spot”.
  • Late March- Prepare yard for reseeding with organic soil amendments.
  • March/ April (Spring Break) Aeration of soil and reseeding of yard.

How will you prevent this problem from reoccurring?

We wondered the same thing ourselves. After a lot of research, we think we have an answer. We are using a blend of ryegrass, bluegrass, fescue and microclover specially designed for high use turf with low water needs.

Micro-clover, what’s that?

  • Micro-clover is a safe, sustainable source of the Nitrogen, keeping your grass healthy and green.
  • Micro-clover is a smaller leaved, less flowering variety of clover that maintains a more uniform, traditional look in lawns.
  • Is drought resistant keeping your lawn greener during the blazing hot days of summer.
  • Is not killed by dog urine.
  • Is easily seeded into your existing lawn, which makes this an easy, affordable way to reduce chemical and carbon use.

Here is a article about Micro-clover from the Penn State College of Agricultural Science.

What’s Greener than Grass?  At Tuscan we are preserving the mowed turf lawn because of the play space it offers for the children.  To maximize the sustainability of your lawn, you might consider turning some or all of your mowed turf into a native planting area, edible garden, or other sustainable alternative.  The re:yard guidelines feature several options for turf alternatives.  At Tuscan, we are also installing a Native Wildflower Garden near The Dell and an Edible Garden this year.

Questions about this project? 

E Mail them to us and we will post them, along with our answers, on our Greener Grass Q&A Page.


Feb 29, 2016 We learned the probable cause for the Bald Spot. 

Today members of the Tuscan Green Team met with Claudia Thornton, a local landscape architect who specializes in sustainable landscaping.  Claudia went over the plans for the project with us and gave us a probably cause for the “Mysterious bald spot”.  She pointed out to us that the bald area has a high proportion of gravel mixed in with the soil. Perhaps there was a gravel path in this area in some point in Tuscan’s History?  Regardless of how the gravel got there, it is problematic because it heats up the soil at a higher rate than the non graveled soil and kills the grass. Claudia Thornton recommend removing the top 3-4 inches of top soil in the “Bald spot” and replacing them with fresh soil.

Also, the soil sample has been sent to the lab and we are looking forward to uploading the results and recommendations here once we receive them.

March 17th– We got the results from the soil test. See them here R48999_2016-03-17_16-44 (1)

April 4th– Aeration and reseeding are scheduled for this weekend.  So Exciting!  A note about the MYSTERY BALD SPOT: We priced having the soil removed and replaced as per the advice from Claudia Thornton; and, it won’t be feasible budget-wise.  Instead we are doing the next best thing, volunteers will remove the surface gravel and the area will be top dressed with fresh soil.  Time will tell if this is a workable solution.

April 9th- Aeration happened today, very exciting!

Because of the constant use of the lawn for play and gym classes, the turf is deeply impacted. Aeration is breaking up the impaction and allowing oxygen back into the soil and support grass growth.

Because of the constant use of the lawn for play and gym classes, the turf is deeply impacted. Aeration is breaking up the impaction and allowing oxygen back into the soil and support grass growth.

Here is the "Mystery Bald Spot" after aerating.

Here is the “Mystery Bald Spot” after aerating.

April 13- we seeded the lawn and now we wait!  Also, the soil in the bare patches was drying out too quickly so we spread pennmulch, a compressed paper product that keeps the seed from drying out between waterings.

April 15th– Today we added some soil high in organic mater to the trouble areas to help them retain water.  So far, this is working much better than the pennmulch.  Organic matter matters when it comes to retaining water.


Greener Grass Question and Answers:

Q) I know that you are getting the lawn at Tuscan aerated.  What is aeration and does the average resident need to get there lawn aerated?

A) Aeration is when the surface of the soil is punched with hollow spikes that remove cores of soil and allow oxygen into the soil.  At Tuscan the lawn is such a high use surface that the soil is very badly impacted.  Aeration is optional (though always beneficial) if your lawn is healthy. If your lawn is struggling, aeration (along with mulching clippings) is often the best first course of action.