It's that time of year....many can't wait for it, and dream of the smell of a fresh cut lawn. Your grass is greening up and it's almost time to get that lawnmower out of storage.
But if your lawn is looking less than stellar, it may be the year to plant new seed. We have many varieties of seed at Pioneer, and can help you determine how much you need, and what type to buy.
Here are some helpful hints to get you started.
Planting Grass Seed on Bare Soil
1. Loosen the soil to a depth of 2-3 inches. The ideal seedbed will have soil particles ranging from pea to walnut size. This will give the seeds a place to lodge. DO NOT make a powdery seedbed, which will be prone to becoming hard and caked after heavy rains.
2. Rake and level off the area with a heavy garden rake. Avoid low spots that collect water and high spots that would be scalped by mowing. Remove all sticks, stones, pebbles and debris.
3. Fertilize soil with a 10-10-10 or 9-17-9 fertilizer, or a seed starter food. Apply fertilizer with a spreader for even coverage, use a shaker can or carefully sprinkle by hand over smaller areas.
4. Plant seed using a spreader for larger areas. Scatter seed by hand over smaller spots. Try to achieve a distribution pattern where seeds are just beginning to touch each other.
5. Blend seed into the soil by dragging a flexible metal leaf rake across the seedbed.
6. Roll the area lightly to firm the seed into the soil. Drag a leaf rake lightly across the rolled area to prevent any crust from forming when the area is watered. Mulch the area (especially if it's in a sunny or windy spot) with straw or peat moss to shade seed and slow water evaporation. Apply straw until half the soil is still visible. Cover over seedbed lightly or completely if using peat moss.
7. Water once or twice a day to keep the top inch of soil damp. Water frequently and lightly for the first 2 to 3 weeks, just to keep the upper bit of soil moist. As the fine green blades begin to appear, water less often but more deeply to encourage roots to grow deep into the soil. Continue watering occasionally for 2 months to ensure grass plants get a good roothold.
Planting Grass Seed on a Thin Lawn
1. For best results rake lawn thoroughly so seeds get in good contact with the soil. (Seeds can not sprout if they're on top of leaves, dead grass, etc.). Use a dethatching rake or power rake on large areas. Use a spike or core aerator to promote better growth.
2. Follow steps 3 (fertilize), 4 (plant) and 7 (water) as discussed above. Use mulch on very thin areas.
Other Helpful Hints
1. Keep off newly-seeded areas until they are well established (about 2 months).
2. Weed killers should not be applied to newly seeded lawns for at least 6 weeks, or until the grass has grown enough to need mowing twice. Conversely, you must wait at least 4 weeks before you can plant grass seed on an area where weed killers have been applied.
3. Remember that crabgrass preventers applied in spring will prevent grass seed from germinating for 8-10 weeks. Check the product label for complete information. Products are available that prevent crabgrass germination without interfering with lawn grass seed germination.
4. Lawn spray services use chemicals that can kill or damage grass seed and young seedlings. Be sure to notify your service (before they spray) when you plant grass seed.
5. Weeds sometimes show up in newly-seeded areas. You can keep these under control by mowing the area occasionally; most weeds can not tolerate regular mowing. For those weeds that grow close to the ground, dig them out by hand or use a spot weed killer applied directly to each weed. NOTE: The grass seed we sell at Pioneer is as weed-free as is available. When weeds show up in your newly-seeded lawn, it is usually due to weed seeds blowing in or being transported in with the soil you may have used for filling in.
6. Germination times vary between different seeds. Most permanent grass seeds (Kentucky Bluegrass, Creeping Red Fescue, etc.) take 21-30 days to germinate, depending on the weather. Rye grasses germinate in 7-10 days. Ryes are best used as "nurse grasses", they will help hold the soil and protect the slower-starting permanent seeds. The new "permanent ryes" are long lived, but are still best used in a mix with bluegrasses or fescues.
7. Very shady areas will not usually support a thick lawn. About 3-4 hours of sunlight are necessary to grow grasses successfully. Try pruning trees and shrubs to let in more light and air circulation. And be sure to use a seed that is best suited for use in shady areas, like fescues. Or, consider a shady ground cover--you won't have to mow it!
8. Maple trees (especially soft maples, elms, magnolias, spruce and pine trees) have root systems which come up very close to the surface of the soil. These roots compete with the grass for water and nutrients. You will probably have to overseed these areas every year to keep them looking good. Providing water and extra fertilizer at regular intervals will help keep these stressed areas alive.
Visit us to learn more about keeping your lawn looking it's best.