September 5, 2019
It’s officially the month of September. As much as we dread to see the calendar roll around to September, there are things in the yard that need to be done. Let me give you another lawn chore to do earlier in the month of September.
In the spring, people tend to think about applying grass seed to their lawn. One of the problems with seeding in the spring is that the soil is cool and it takes a while for the soil to warm up enough for the grass seed to sprout. On the other hand, in September, the soil is nice and warm and grass seed will sprout more easily.
In the fall we also have a lot of days with heavy dew that can cut down on the watering you will need to do. Fall often has more rainy days. We also have less hot days that would mean that you would have to water more often. All in all, September is a great time to patch bare spots, overseed your entire lawn or start a new lawn from scratch. Let me tell you the best way to do this.
If you are going to patch some bare spots, try to figure out why those bare spots happened in the first place. You may find that there is a poor quality soil in those areas. You should loosen up those areas and work into the soil enough topsoil or compost to create 6 inches of good soil. I know this is a pain to do but once you do this, you aren’t going to be doing it again. Just putting a light coating of soil or compost on top of the bare spots isn’t going to be beneficial.
Once you have improved the soil, you should add what is called a seed starter fertilizer to the soil. This type of fertilizer will help the seed to put out a strong root system this fall. You could also add some lime to the soil unless you plan on applying lime to the entire lawn this fall. Next, you should press down the soil with your feet or with the back of a shovel. This will prevent the soil from settling over time, creating low spots in the grass.
You will need to loosen up the surface of the soil a bit to allow the grass seed to have an easier time getting a root system out into the soil. You will need to keep the soil moist if you want to get the seed to sprout. How often you will need to water will depend on temperature, sun exposure and the amount of wind. Initially you will need to water when you see the surface soil begin to dry out.
Most grass seed will need 10 to 21 days to sprout. If the day is sunny, windy and hot, you may need to water multiple times per day. Cloudy and cool weather with little wind may mean that you need to water once a day. Basically, it’s up to you to keep the soil moist until the seed sprouts. Once the seed sprouts, you can wean the new seed from daily watering.
If you are putting in a new lawn, make sure you have 6 inches of good loam. By having 6 inches of good loam, you will have an area where grass roots will go deep into the soil and will snap back after periods of dormancy caused by drought or winter conditions. Just as you would do in patching a lawn, you need to spread the loam, rake it level, add your seed starter fertilizer and lime but then flatten the soil with a lawn roller.
You can rent a lawn roller. The lawn roller is filled with water and then you pull or push it over the new loam. This will flatten out the soil. You will probably have to go back and rake some of the soil from the high spots into any low spots. This will give you a level lawn. This make the lawn easier to mow and easier to walk on.
Once you have done the final raking, you can apply the seed. Once the seed is down, you need to keep up with the watering. This can be difficult to do if it is a large area. If it is a large area, you can cover the soil with some type of mulch material. If you use straw, remember that you have to remove it once the seed sprouts.
If you are going to overseed the existing lawn, you should rake the lawn to loosen up and remove any thatch that would prevent the seed from making contact with the soil. Once this done, you can apply the seed starter fertilizer, lime and grass seed. The good news is that you will be doing less watering because the existing grass will slow down the evaporation of the water that you do apply.
The question I always get asked is what type of grass should you use. The answer to that question will be in next week’s column.
Well, that’s all for this week. I’ll talk to you next week.