MY YARDS SOIL CONDITION & GRASS PLANTING
How do I determine the soil condition in my yard?
What type of grass would be best for our yard at 7700 feet in elevation, high traffic/use area?
How do we best prepare the soil, i.e. kill off weeds, tilling, fertilizing, etc.
How do we go about planting the best type of grass for our yard?
Which is best, sowing grass or laying sod?
Right now our yard is mostly weeds and dirt due to lack of care and overuse (kids and dog). In part of our yard we have a sprinkler system that we plan to repair and have operational prior to this process.
Jefferson County Colorado
The best way to determine the condition of your soil is to have it tested. The CSU Soil Testing Lab test is $35 http://www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu/; with your results they include specific recommendations to improve your soil. We have the test kits here at Jefferson County CSU Extension, which you can pick up weekdays 8 - 5, then mail your sample to CSU. Alternatively, you can use your own container and print off directions & paperwork from their website: http://www.soiltestinglab.colostate.edu/documents/soilsample_horticulture.pdf.
There is an excellent CSU Fact Sheet on Renovating the Home Lawn:http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/07241.pdf that addresses many of your questions. At your elevation, you will want to select one of the cool-season grasses: bluegrass, ryegrass, fescues. At this time of year, you can either seed or sod; sod will give you the appearance of an 'instant' lawn, but is more expensive. In either case, follow the recommendations for soil preparation in the Fact Sheet.
Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis) is the classic, but look at Turf-Type Tall Fescue (Festuca arundinacea) and Perennial Ryegrass (Lolium perenne) for high-use areas. Tall Fescue would also be a good choice for shade. For additional information on choosing the most appropriate cool season grass for your site, refer to Turfgrass Species Selection Guidelines http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/561.pdf.
For seed sources: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/Gardennotes/566.pdf
For Lawn Care Recommendations:http://extension.colostate.edu/docs/pubs/garden/07202.pdf.