32 September 1, 2010
It was a rough summer for our lawns. The lack of rain had caused many of the lawns to turn brown. The rain we got last week should have helped your lawn to turn green again. If the lawn hasn’t turned green, you may need to re-seed your lawn.
September is an ideal time to seed a lawn. You may need to patch up a few spots or you may need to install a new lawn. Either way, what you need to do to prepare the area is the same. One of the first things you need to do is to know what the ph level is in your soil. To find this out, you can buy a simple ph test kit. The kit will give you directions on how to test the soil. Once you know the test results, you will find out if you need to add lime to the soil. Soil in New England tends to be acidic. The more acidity in the soil, the harder it is to get grass to grow properly.
If you are putting in new loam for your lawn, you probably won’t need to do the next step. The next step is loosening up the soil. If you have dead grass, you need to remove the dead grass to expose the soil. The grass seed needs to be in contact with the soil if the seed is going to sprout. You can use a shovel or a spading fork to loosen up small areas. If you have large areas to do, it will be easier if you use a rototiller to loosen up the soil. You need to loosen the soil to a depth of 6 inches. Loosening the soil to a depth of 6 inches is critical for the successful growth of your lawn. The majority of our lawn grasses will put down their roots to a depth of 6 inches or more. If you do not prepare the soil to at least this depth, you run the risk of the roots dying the next time we have an extended period of no rain.
Once you have the soil loosened up, you will have a good idea what you have for soil. If the soil contains a lot of sand, you should mix in some organic matter into the top 6 inches of soil. This will allow the soil to hold water and nutrients that are vital for the success of your new seed putting out an adequate root system. If you have clay soil, you will need to add some gypsum and maybe some sand or organic matter to the soil. Soil that has a lot of clay tends to pack down during periods of dry weather. This makes it hard for the roots of your lawn to grow and survive.
Once you have the soil prepared, you will want to add some seed starter fertilizer to the soil. This fertilizer helps to stimulate the growth of the roots. Using seed starter fertilizer will help the roots to grow into that all-important top 6 inches of soil.
Once you have the area prepared, it is time to seed the lawn. If you go into a garden center, you will see that there are many different types of grass seed mixtures. The reason for using a mix as opposed to using say just Kentucky bluegrass has to do with disease prevention and proper growing conditions. If you use just one variety of grass seed, you run the risk of a fungus disease killing off your lawn. A mixture of seed varieties makes it harder for a disease to get established. The other benefit to using a mixture is that you will find that you have various growing conditions in your lawn. Some areas will be exposed to lots of sun and some areas will have some or a lot of shade. Some lawn areas may be half and half. By using a mixture of seeds, the particular variety of seed that is suited to a specific growing condition in your lawn will become the dominant variety of seed in that part of the lawn. The amount of seed you will need to use varies based on the type of seed in the mixture. If you look on the bag of seed, it will tell you how many pounds you need to cover, say 1,000 square feet. This will allow you to buy the right amount of seed to adequately cover the lawn area you are trying to seed.
Once you have the seed down, it is critical to keep the soil moist at all times. The grass seed needs moisture to sprout and the roots that grow from the seed need moisture to grow down into the soil. This can be difficult if having to go to work gets in the way! There are several types of mulch material that you can apply over the grass seed to help to hold moisture around the seed. We have sold a product called Mainely Mulch for the past few years. It works well at holding in the moisture and does not have to be removed from the soil once the seed begins to grow.
If you have done everything correctly, you should see the grass sprouting in 10 to 21 days. Keep in mind that the new lawn needs a month or so after the seed sprouts to grow an adequate root system. Having an established root system will allow your lawn to survive through the winter. As a rough time line, you have until the end of September to get your lawn seeded in order for it to have time to get established before the ground freezes for the winter.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.