The lawn in our backyard gradually thinned and changed color from a deep green saturation to a sickly looking light green hue over the course of a year. Summer is coming soon and our son loves to run in the backyard. We are also on a waiting list for a Doberman pinscher puppy later in the year and we plan to have it get a good portion of its exercise in the backyard, so our goal is get our backyard back to tip top shape with a lush, thick green lawn.
I had no idea how badly our lawns have deteriorated until I looked back at photos I took of the backyard in late 2017, before we moved into our current home. Come to think of it, I have zero green thumb experience and allowed all this to slip right underneath my nose.
We recently went to a fair held at a small park. The grass on that park was well kept and unbelievably thick and lush. The grass was so thick and interwoven that the soil beneath the grass cannot be seen! I could lie on my back on the grass and not pick up any dirt! Seeing this reaffirmed my commitment to revitalize our yards.
Our Backyard, October 2017
Our Backyard, Present Day (after rain)
This prompted me to extensively research lawn care. I was unaware that lawn care is a science in itself (and a little art); from season-specific fertilizing, application of weed and moss killer, grub and pest control, soil testing and pH levels, grass going dormant, overseeding, zone-based watering requirements, cool or warm weather grass types, drought tolerant grass variants, soil aeration and dethatching. I pretty much just relied on the sprinklers and our gardeners to do the job (all they did was mow the lawn, trim hedges and raked up leaves). I would spread grass seeds on bare spots of our lawns with minimal result and only to have birds eat them. Now I understand why.
The more I researched, the more I suspected the soil in our backyard has become acidic from telltale signs – bare spots, proliferation of lawn moss growth, weed of all sorts (crabrass, clover and dandelion litters our backyard) and a thinning lawn of green-yellow hue. This prompted me to go out and purchase a soil test to verify my suspicion. Unfortunately, our front yard fared no better, if not worse but in the opposite condition. It is too alkaline, pH level 8 – 9.
I also looked into DIY lawn repairs without having to spend a fortune hiring a lawn specialist or rent/buy heavy equipments to get the job done, something that anyone reading this entry can benefit from. Our backyard is approximately 885 square feet according to the lawn calculator in the Scotts “My Lawn” iOS app, so it should be manageable. For this entry, we are focusing solely on our backyard. It is smaller than the front yard and I figured whatever works in the backyard, I’ll apply to the front lawn. Better to mess up one yard instead of two!
One day, I came across a lawn care subscription service known as “Get Sunday” and it piqued my interest.
What is Get Sunday?
Get Sunday is a subscription based lawn care start-up service whose goal is to take away all the guesswork to attain a fuller, greener lawn. The concept is great for folks who are busy, don’t want to hire lawn care specialists or can’t afford the time to babysit gardeners while they work.
You basically enter your address in the calculator tool on their site and Get Sunday will estimate your lawn’s square footage, your regional climate and your soil composition pulled from satellite and public data. Get Sunday uses this information to craft a personalized lawn care plan and subsequently send out 3 shipments of lawn fertilizer based on your climate timing and soil condition. To fine-tune the type of fertilizer they send you (and to improve their data collection), a soil test kit is included. You collect and send back a sample of your lawn soil to Get Sunday for them to analyze (and update their database) and the next fertilizer pack will be better tailored for your soil type.
Apparently there was a hiccup in getting the first shipment (their first ever shipment, a common disappointment with today’s start-ups) to customers who have pre-ordered. I wasn’t aware of this until I’ve read through several comments from irate customers on several of the social media platforms in which Get Sunday has a presence. Some customers pre-ordered their Get Sunday starter kit as far back as October 2018! Fortunately, I did not share the same delay and frustration. I placed an order in mid-April and got a tracking number on April 26, 2019 as promised by Get Sunday. The starter kit was delivered to my residence, instead of my work as requested, on May 2, 2019. It contained enough fertilizer to feed our backyard, front lawn and the small strip of grass on the side walk in front of our house.
How Does Get Sunday Work?
Once your Get Sunday starter kit package arrives, application is simple. The package includes a custom hose attachment, a plastic siphon straw, a soil test kit, soil extraction tool, instruction and two fertilizer packs.
The Get Sunday lawn fertilizer pack attaches to the included custom spray nozzle which then attaches directly to a garden hose. A plastic straw is inserted to the custom hose nozzle before the fertilizer pack is screwed onto this custom nozzle and then hosed directly onto the lawn. Set it and forget it essentially. But does this method really work? Get Sunday is suppose to rebuild existing thinning lawns without having to overseed. In fact, no grass seeds are included with the kit. Just fertilizer packs.
Lawn specialists have devoted countless resource to develop time tested lawn care products and techniques that involves technology, fertilizer and manual labor over the course of a century. An all-in-one “chemical-free” solution that just sprang out of no where claiming to achieve the same time tested results with a simple hose and nutrient pack sounds quite ambitious.
Preparation and Soil Testing
To get the ball rolling, I purchased a HoldAll Soil Test meter to test the pH level of our backyard. Since the backyard has deteriorated quite drastically, there is no way Get Sunday will work efficiently without some proper prep work to jump start the process. Sadly, the pH level of our backyard is on the acidic side. The pH meter determined the pH level to be from 5.0 to 5.25 in various parts of the yard. While purists may argue that meter type soil testers aren’t 100% accurate, and I do agree, it is accurate enough for me. The proliferation of weed and lawn moss clearly backs up the metered test result. After reading up on liming lawns, I am not surprised.
Vs. Scotts Turf Builder Thick’R Lawn and Manual Labor
I prepared ⅔ of our backyard the traditional way. That is, I had to use an Ames adjustable thatch rake and manually aerate and dethatch the designated area and in the process, pulled out a carpet of lawn moss. It was everywhere. I literally filled three 13-gallon trash bags full of moss, and that’s just ⅔ of our backyard! The manual dethatching labor was intense and took place 4/21/19 and 4/22/19. After dethatching, I filled a Scotts Turf Builder 23-lb Broadcast Spreader with a 12 lb. bag of Scotts Builder Thick’R Lawn Tall Fescue Mix and went downtown at dial #9. I did not apply MOSS OUT! moss control as I did with the other ⅓ of the yard dedicated to the Get Sunday treatment.
This bag of Scotts lawn repair contains a mix of fescue varieties: Endeavor II, Duration and Dynamic II varieties of tall fescue seeds, fertilizer and soil improver and is suppose to cover 1,200 square feet. Somehow, it felt like it covered less. Either the lawn calculator tool is inaccurate or a 12 lb. bag was inadequate at 9 lb / 1,000 sq. ft. setting as suggested. Either way, the goal is to rejuvenate the backyard into a lusher and thicker growth by overseeding. So I emptied half of another 12 lb. bag of Thick’r Lawn onto the dethatched ⅔ partition of our backyard.
I did not dethatch the Get Sunday ⅓ partition of the backyard, but I did apply MOSS OUT! For Lawns Granules by Lilly Miller Brands using a Scotts Turf Builder Broadcaster spreader dialed in at #6. The numbers on the broadcast spreader dial represents pound per 1,000 sq ft. So I emptied the MOSS OUT! at a rate of 6 lbs. for every 1,000 sq ft.
I allowed the moss killer to set in for 7 days before applying the Get Sunday nutrient packs, however, the MOSS OUT! application wasted no time. In less than 24 hours, yes you read right, less than 24 hours, patches of lawn moss began to turn black. This turned the ⅓ left side of the lawn noticeably darker.
After waiting 7 days, I used a CRAFTSMAN 22″ lawn and leaf rake to rake up the dead moss from the ⅓ Get Sunday partition of the backyard.
Both the Get Sunday and Scotts solutions offer money-back guarantees. While I do not expect the Get Sunday control partition side of the yard to magically become toe-sandwiching thick and luxurious due to not dethatching, I however am expecting it to become fuller and greener with minimal effort as Get Sunday claims. Afterall, both sides of the yard were treated with lawn moss removal, limed, fertilized and watered daily.
Application of Fast Acting Lime
A week after removing the lawn moss from both sides of the backyard, manually dethatching and applying MOSS OUT!, I indiscriminately emptied approximately 15 lb. of Encap Fast Acting Lime to our entire backyard. I used Pennington’s chart to arrive at this number based on our backyard’s pH level of 5.0~5.25.
This was done to bump up the pH level to a desirable range (6-7) for lawn grass to grow. This pH range also help inhibit the growth of lawn moss, dandelions, crabgrass and clovers out as they are attracted to acidic soil.
Let the Game Begin!
Per Scotts Thick’R Lawn instructions, I programmed our sprinklers in our backyard to water twice a day, everyday for 2 weeks, ensuring the soil is kept moist until the grass seedlings grow to 2″. The sprinklers run daily for 4 minutes at 5:00 AM and at 5:00 PM. This means that the ⅓ of the yard treated solely with Get Sunday and no manual labor yard work is also getting the same amount of water treatment.
After two weeks, I re-programmed the sprinklers to deep water in the morning only, twice a week to encourage deep rooting. 15 minutes per water day.
Scotts Turf Builder Thick’R Lawn Day-by-Day Comparison
The Scotts Thick’R Lawn overseeding began to sprout in exactly six days. Ambient temperature was 58° lows at night and 73° high in the day with an average of 62°. After 10 days, the grass seedlings were emerging everywhere, growing at a height of ½” to 1″ with some patches forcing their way up and through clover fields, shooting through residual lawn moss patches and competing for space. I believe the Scotts Thick’r Lawn treatment would sprout sooner had the weather been slightly warmer. After the 4th week and allowing the new seedlings to firmly establish, I applied MOSS OUT! and got rid of any residual lawn moss, raked off the blackened moss and overseeded with the leftover Thick’r Lawn.
The quintessential trick to get the grass seeds to germinate is maintaining a moist soil. It is imperative that the soil remains moist, but not soggy, at all time. To achieve this, the sprinklers may need to be turned on at least twice a day for a minimum of two full weeks.
If you water your lawn twice or three times a week, it is not sufficient and your overseeded grass seeds will not germinate. They will probably be picked up by birds and other vermin. You need to water your lawn twice a day, everyday for two weeks.
Once I allowed the grass seeds to completely germinate, I applied Scotts Weed & Feed to kill off dandelions, clovers, shepherd’s purse, plantains and other annoying weeds while continuously feeding the lawn. I closed off the backyard to pets and children for the next 5 weeks to allow the affect of the Weed & Feed to wear off.
As you can see from the photos, Scotts’ claim that Thick’r Lawn is guaranteed to produce greener and thicker lawn is true. In just 11 days, the Scotts treated side of the yard is noticeably darker green and thicker.
Not even 2 weeks into the application, ⅔ of our backyard looks like it sprung back to life. As indicated, my Get Sunday starter kit arrived on May 2, 2019. I applied it to the ⅓ side of the backyard on Saturday May 4 and began documenting its progress.
Get Sunday, on the other hand, maintains that a healthy lawn is nature’s best weed killer and that their product do not and will not contain any ingredient considered to be mildly toxic. This is true as a healthy lawn will generally out-compete and drown out low growing pesky broad leafed weeds. A healthy and densely packed launch leaves no room for lawn moss to invade. If you go to any well maintained parks with lush grass, you’ll notice that weeds are nonexistent. When we started, we were not there yet.
For us, it is either getting down on our knees and manually pulling out the weeds or let Scotts Weed & Feed do the job.
And as you can see from the random sampling of dandelion growths, we chose the latter.
I accidentally dumped more Weed & Feed on various areas of the yard treated with Thick’r Lawn and burned off a few patches of grass, resulting in bare spots. Fortunately, these bare spots sprung back to life in just 2 weeks with the help of Scotts EZ Seed.
The Weed & Feed treatment was then followed by an application of 3 lb. out of a 15 lb. bag of Scotts Grub Ex in late May to eradicate grubs and other subterranean pests, season long.
Last summer, we’ve had a skunk sneak into our backyard nightly and dug random holes about 1″ deep around the lawn. These holes stopped appearing when I eliminated the skunk’s entryway through one of our side gates. Little did I know at that time, that he was in fact digging for those pesky little grub morsels. Hopefully the Grub Ex treatment will eradicate this problem this year.
Sure it sounds like I am depositing a lot of chemicals into our backyard, but this is only done initially to help kick start our backyard into life again.
Get Sunday Day-by-Day Comparison
The Get Sunday side of the backyard received the same amount of watering everyday for two full weeks. For moss control, approximately 12~15 lbs. of MOSS OUT! was distributed using a Scott mini broadcast spreader. It received the same Encap Fast Acting Lime treatment. This side of the yard was also overseeded with pure tall fescue mix (no additives or fertilizer) for a fair comparison. Finally, Get Sunday’s nutrient packs were hosed. The Iron Booster pack was applied on May 4th and the Green Machine was applied a week later, on May 11th. Here are the day-by-day results.
Sunday vs. Scotts 1-month Comparison
So Does Get Sunday Work?
Get Sunday does work and its efficient liquid delivery method results in greener and fuller grass quicker than the granule type slow release fertilizer that Scotts manufacture. Get Sunday’s mission is to provide easy lawn care products using alternative natural supplements, such as seaweed extract and molasses, devoid of toxic ingredients commonly found in off the shelf lawn care products at big home repair stores. This natural approach to lawn care will certainly attract a niche market of dedicated followers.
The drawback is that Get Sunday is still only a lawn fertilizer. It does not combat lawn moss (although their Iron Booster pack contains iron, the main ingredient that kills lawn moss), weeds nor prevent insect infestation, including grubs among other variables (i.e. soil pH level balancing). To alleviate the aforementioned lawn ailments, you will still need to purchase additional soil amendment to treat them. Get Sunday announced natural weed killer as an add-on product for $20, but as of this entry, the product is not ready for prime time.
The Sunday fertilizer bag has transparent side strip that allows you to easily see the volume of the bag.
However, the cheap plastic custom hose nozzle that is included with the starter kit does not shut off properly even in the “OFF” position. I temporarily placed our garden hose fitted with the Sunday nozzle on the “OFF” position on our lawn, ran inside to make coffee and returned to see a puddle of brown liquid about a foot and a half radius surrounding the Sunday bag. I estimated a loss of 1/2 cup of Sunday fertilizer.
The fertilizer leaked out of the bag and through the nozzle. I hosed off as much of the puddle as I could, and about an hour later, was left with a pretty nasty burn mark on the lawn where the puddle of pure Sunday fertilizer leaked:
If you need to pause while hosing your lawn with Sunday fertilizer packs, either remove the bag and screw the cap on or let it rest vertically with no chance of it spilling over. And don’t forget to turn off the water.
For natural grub killer, consider application of beneficial nematodes, a specie of roundworm that attacks the guts of grubs and kill them from the inside out. We will be switching to beneficial nematodes next year for grub control because we do have a sulcata tortoise and a red footed tortoise that love to graze on the lawn. They were kept in a holding area for two months while the backyard was treated, by the way.
Get Sunday is after all a subscription service and three lawn care packages are shipped to the subscriber each year. The type of fertilizer you’ll subsequently receive is based on the optional soil sample submitted, season and temperature.
At the cost of $169 per year, or $56 per shipment, for a lawn fertilizer subscription service that covers lawns up to 7,500 sq. ft, is it worth it? How does it compare to the time tested Scotts Lawn Care Program?
Get Sunday vs. Scotts Lawn Care Plan
Get Sunday costs $169 and treats yard up to 7,500 sq. ft. Scotts Lawn Care program costs $99 for a small yard (up to 5,000 sq. ft.) and $245 for a large yard (up to 15,000 sq. ft). Note that these prices are as of 2019 and are subjected to change. Scotts Lawn Care program cost varies by region and product availability (i.e. North, Northeast, South, South West, etc.)
Verdict and Thoughts
If you are already enjoying an established lawn that is experiencing minor bare or thinning spots and discoloration, then simple maintenance work is all that is needed to maintain the lawn. Such as applying seasonal fertilizer, dethatching when necessary and applying pest control. Get Sunday is perfect for these type of lawns. Think of Get Sunday as a lawn care maintenance product. I was definitely pleased with how fast the Get Sunday side of our backyard caught up to the time tested Scotts’ treated side that had a 2 week head start. What we ended up with at week 3 after initially applying Get Sunday is a seamless backyard.
However, achieving a thick and luxurious lawn isn’t as simple as overseeding and fertilizing as I naively thought; not if the yard needs some serious prep work like ours. Lawn moss, soil pH level imbalance and grub problems also often elude the eyes until damage is done. Had I simply used Scotts Thick’R Lawn Tall Fescue Mix and overseeded our lawns at its initial condition and continue with the flow, I would probably sound like the handful of negative Amazon reviewers feeling disappointed and complaining about low or zero seed germination. Most homeowners give up after failing to see germination after 2-3 weeks, while more serious soil conditions lie unbeknownst to them.
For Get Sunday and Scotts lawn care products to work as advertised, you’ll need to commit some time and resource in getting your yard ready for their application. Let’s be frank, Get Sunday isn’t a magical elixir and on its own will not revive a lawn in dilapidated condition. It can fill up existing uneven patches of grass and probably even green them up, but it will not revive dead patches without proper prep work. For us, it was the whole package: dethatching, soil test, applying lime to lower pH level, applying moss control, overseeding, applying grub control, fertilizing and applying weed control. After all the initial heavy lifting was done, we were then able to cruise control ourselves into enjoying a thick and luxurious backyard. That’s when Get Sunday simplify lawn care as they claim to.
Here’s an analogy worth considering: an overweight person is hitting the gym and trying to reach a target lower weight. That person need to put more initial work to get to that target weight. Once the target weight is reached, then all that person has to do is simple maintenance. Treat your yard with the same mindset.
Break Down of DIY Lawn Repair Cost
Here is a list the tools and lawn care products I used to revive our stagnant backyard into a lush green lawn we enjoy today:
- Ames adjustable dethatching rake – $35
- 22″ CRAFTSMAN lawn and leaf rake – $15
- HoldAll 3-in-1 Light, Moisture and pH meter – $10
- Lilly Miller MOSS OUT! Lawn Granules 20 lb. bag – $13
- Encap Fast Acting Lime 30 lb. bag – $28
- Scotts Turf Builder 23-lb. Mini Broadcast Spreader – $35
- Scotts Thick’R Lawn Tall Fescue Mix, 12 lb. bag x2 – $40 ($20 each)
- Scotts Turf Builder Weed & Feed 15 lb. bag – $15 (was on sale)
- Scotts Grub Ex 15 lb. bag – $26
- Get Sunday Starter Kit – $149
Total investment: $217
Total investment including Sunday subscription: $366
The entire process from dethatching to the final step of spreading Scotts Grub Ex took about 2 whole months. To give you an idea of how much I saved reviving our backyard myself with some elbow grease and patience, I was quoted $1,009.59 by a local professional landscaper. The quote included service to to dethatch, aerate, cultivate, reseed, topsoil, water and fertilize our 885 sq. ft. backyard lawn. While it’s an involved process, I saved almost $800, learned a great deal about lawn care and it’s also a great way to stay in shape!
Our Backyard As of June 3, 2019 – After a Nice Mow
Scotts GrubEx Performing As Advertised
Our Dilapidated Front Yard
So knowing what I know now about lawn care after spending the past two months researching and working on our backyard, I have a better understanding of the process involved. I learned what works, what doesn’t, what order to apply soil amendments and nutrients. I came to know more names of weeds that thrive in acidic soil than I had ever cared for.
The progress of the front yard revitalization process will be documented in a separate entry. Whereas our backyard was highly acidic with proliferation of lawn moss, our front yard is the complete opposite. It is highly alkaline with compacted soil that holds little moisture and nutrients.
The journey to restore the front yard and make it the lawn of envy on our street will be tough and involved. For now, let’s enjoy our backyard. Stay tuned for an article in approximately 2 months.