September 16, 2009
In the fall of the year, the temperatures are cooling, yet the soil is warmer than the spring. The difference in nighttime and daytime temperature causes dew to settle over night. These conditions make fall an ideal time to apply grass seed to your lawn.
Summer can be tough on a lawn. Weeds and insects can kill off patches of grass. Even a little bit of neglect can cause grass to thin out. Whatever the reason, fall is an ideal time to seed your lawn. However, the clock is ticking if you want to repair your lawn with grass seed. A general rule of thumb is that you should have the grass seed sown by the end of September. This allows time for the grass seed to sprout and to get established before the soil freezes for the winter. Truthfully, there have been some years when you could sow seed later in the fall and have Mother Nature delay the freezing of the soil. If you have a crystal ball that can predict the weather, go by what it says. Otherwise, stick with the odds and get that grass seed planted by the end of the month.
If you are patching spots in your lawn, you will need to loosen up the soil to a depth of 2 inches. This allows the roots of the grass seed to easily penetrate the soil. If the soil is very hard packed, you should add topsoil or compost and work it into the soil. Again, this will make it easier for the roots to get established in the soil. In my opinion, just adding ¼ inch of soil on top of hard pack soil is a waste of time and money. If it isn’t mixed in with the soil, the soil will pack down again and you will be re-seeding those areas again next fall. After you have loosened up the soil, add some lime to the soil and some grass seed starter fertilizer. This type of fertilizer helps to promote strong root growth. When you think about it, what make for a good lawn? The answer is a massive root system that can put up new blades of grass year after year. Once all of the soil preparation is done you can put down your seed.
If you are going to seed a new section of lawn, you need to make sure that you have sufficient depth of soil to allow the roots to fully develop. For the best lawn, you need 6 inches of good loam. If you are willing to keep up with the watering, you might get by with 4 inches. Since installing a new lawn should be a one-time project, it is best to go for the 6 inches of soil. Once the soil is down, add lime and the seed starter fertilizer. Rake both of these items into the soil. Roll the soil to get it slightly compacted. Re- rake the soil to get it level and then apply the grass seed.
The choice the type of grass seed you use is an important decision. If you look at a display of grass seed in a store, there will be all types of seed mixtures. The best mix is, as silly as it sounds, is the mix that will grow the best in the conditions that exist in your lawn.
When choosing a grass seed mix, the factors that you need to consider are light conditions, soil quality and the amount of wear and tear from humans and pets that will occur on the lawn.
If the lawn area will be in the shade most of the day, then a dense shade mixture is the best type to use. If you have a mixture of sun and shade conditions, have 6 inches or more of good soil and there will be only random amounts of foot traffic, than a sun and shade mixture will be the best choice. If you have lesser amounts of topsoil, or have poorer quality soil and/or there will be a lot of foot traffic on the area, then a turf type tall fescue mixture is the correct mixture to use.
Once the seed is down, you need to keep the soil moist at all times. If you were patching small areas in an existing lawn, the dew that settles in the morning may be all water that you need. If the area is a large area that can be exposed to sun and wind that will dry the soil, you will have to water several times a day. The whole key to watering a seeded lawn is to keep that top layer of soil moist at all times. This evenly moist condition helps the grass seed to sprout in about 14 days. Once the seed has sprouted, you will, over a period of a few weeks, cut back on the frequency of the application of water.
Fall is the best time of the year to apply seed to your lawn. You get two growing seasons before the heat of the summer. This allows the roots more time to get established before the heat arrives next summer. However, the window of opportunity to seed a lawn is closing. It is time to get planting!
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.