34 September 17, 2008
The nice thing about September is that we have those cool nights and warm days. If you add in the tradition of some rainy days, you have the perfect weather for seeding your lawn. Grass seed needs warm soil temperatures and a fairly constant source of moisture to get the seed to sprout and to grow into a thick lawn. If you need to put in a new lawn or if you need to patch up a few bare spots, September is the ideal month for growing grass seed.
If you are starting a new lawn or if you need to patch up a few bare spots, you want to make sure that you have soil that will support all of the new root growth that comes out of the seed. Those roots need to get established and to remain healthy in the soil. If you have tried to grow a lawn before and you failed to get a good lawn, the chances are that the fault lies with poor quality soil.
In order to grow a good lawn, you need to have 6 inches of a good quality loam as a base for your lawn. If you have less loam or if you have a poor quality loam, make sure that your first step in planting the lawn is to improve the soil. If you are patching bare spots, the odds are that the soil has packed down over time. If you do not loosen up that soil and add some organic matter to the soil, the roots of your grass seed won’t penetrate down into the soil. If the roots don’t grow down into that 6 inches of soil, the roots are very likely to die in the future due to drying soil conditions or future compacted soil. If your putting in a new lawn, you need to check the soil to make sure it is a good quality loam. You can buy loam by the truckload and it may be screened loam, but that does not mean that it is good quality loam. If you pick up the soil and squeeze the soil into a ball, the ball should easily fall apart if you tap the ball with your fingers. If the soil stays clumpy, you have a soil that has too much clay in the soil. If you clump the soil together in your hand and the soil falls apart quickly, then the soil is probably too sandy. Once you have determined the type of soil you have, you can amend the soil with organic matter to improve the quality of the soil. You may have to add peat moss or compost to the soil to improve the soil. How much organic matter you will need will depend on how “bad” the soil is.
Let’s assume that you now have the soil ready for the seed. Not so fast! You still have a few things to do. If you live in New England, you had better learn about applying lime to your lawn. Acid rain and a host of other things make our soil acidic. Grass does not grow well in an acid soil. Weeds can easily grow in an acid soil. Enough said on that. You need to put down lime on the lawn at least every other year. If your soil is very acidic, you may have to lime every year. You can buy a Ph soil test kit, which will allow you to test for the amount of acidity in your soil. If you don’t want to take the time to test the soil, you can probably use the rule of thumb that you need 1 bag of lime for every 1,000 square feet of lawn. If you have a 10,000 square foot lawn, you will need to apply 10 bags. If you skimp on the lime, you will eventually pay for it by have a lawn that is growing poorly.
Once you have the lime on the soil, you want to rake the lime into the soil. If you are applying the lime to the established lawn, just let Mother Nature work the lime in by giving you a few rainy days. Once you have the lime in place, your grass seed will eventually need some food to get those new roots down into the soil. The fertilizer you want to use when you are seeding a lawn is called seed starter fertilizer. Clever idea! The seed starter fertilizer has lots of phosphorous to encourage those new roots to grow. The seed starter fertilizer should also be worked into the soil.
Once you have the soil prepared, you need to put down your grass seed. The question is, what is the best type of grass seed. The best grass seed is the seed that will grow in your yard. Picking the right seed isn’t as easy as picking up a bag and seeding your lawn. Next week, I’ll tell you how to pick the right grass seed for your lawn.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you again next week.