Peter – I had some patches of lawn in my back yard in Glenville which has low spots which have been filled in. Some typical weeds are growing in – so its “green” for now but I’d rather have grass. What is the protocol for fall planting of new grass – i.e. when to seed, when to fertilize, use a rye for 1st year growth or go with regular seed r mix of both?. Areas are partly shady with sandy soil with one area under 60 foot pine trees.
The shorter, cooler days of late August and early September make it the ideal time to make permanent improvements to the condition of our lawn. Turf experts agree that this is the best time of year to start a lawn from seed. This is the best time to tackle this project but the window of opportunity is a small one so don’t put it off. The first step in starting a lawn from seed is to turn organic matter into the area to be seeded. The more organic matter that is turned in, the thicker and more drought resistant the lawn will be for years to come. Peat moss or peat humus are good choices. Peat moss is capable of holding 20 times it’s weight in water. In very sandy soil, the addition of one 4 cu. ft. bale of peat moss per every 100 sq. ft. turned in to a depth of 6” will be necessary. Peat moss must be turned into the soil so the soil will retain moisture where the roots are growing. This sounds like a lot of peat moss (and it is) but it is well worth the effort. For a large area, rent a rototiller to blend the peat moss into the soil to a depth of 6”. Once blended, the area should be raked smooth. This is easier to accomplish with one of those extra-wide aluminum landscape rakes. If you can’t borrow one, a metal bow rake will do but it will take longer to get the contour you’re looking for. Once the area is raked smooth, tamp the soil down with the back of your shovel. For a large area, you’ll need to roll the soil with a water-filled roller to compact the soil. If you can’t borrow one, you can rent one. Again, if you skip this step, the project won’t come out as you’d hoped. After you’ve tamped or rolled the soil, take another look at the area to see if it is nice and smooth and has the proper contour. If not, rake and roll until you’re satisfied. You’ll be looking at the results for many years so take the time now to get it right. Once you’re satisfied, lightly rough up the surface of the soil with your metal rake. Finally it’s time to broadcast the seed. Consult the folks at Hewitt’s to determine the best grass blend for your particular soil and light conditions. Broadcast the seed evenly over the area at the recommended rate. Most folks overdo it and put down way more grass seed than is necessary. Finally, tamp or roll the area to press the grass seed into good contact with the soil. If it is a large area, you’ll want to cover it with straw. A smaller area can be covered with burlap or horticultural fabric. The reason you cover the seed is to help keep the sun and wind from drying it out while it’s germinating. Now the tricky part After all this is done, you can start watering and watering and watering. This is the trickiest and most important part of the project….here’s why. No matter how high the quality of the seed used, it won’t germinate unless the area is kept moist CONSTANTLY.It can’t be allowed to dry out, even for an hour. If the area dries out completely, the seed dehydrates and dies and it won’t restart. If that happens you’ll have to buy more seed and start all over again. Premium blends of fescue and bluegrass will take 2 weeks just to sprout so be diligent about watering and be patient. If you use a blend that has perennial ryegrass in addition to bluegrass and fescue, be aware that the ryegrass will sprout a week or more earlier than the other two. Even after the ryegrass sprouts, continue watering as if nothing has happened to ensure the germination of the desirable fescue and bluegrass seeds. Finish up with a good meal After the young grass is up, apply a slow release starter lawn food to stimulate quick root growth. Starter foods should have a higher middle number (phosphorus). Phosphorus stimulates root growth, and that’s what’s needed for a new lawn. The stronger the root system, the quicker the grass gets established and the better it will come through winter. Avoid high nitrogen lawn foods on a newly sprouted lawn. It will stimulate excess blade growth that the young root system will have a hard time supporting. The roots are the foundation of your new lawn. Just like building a house, you need to start from the bottom up. Keep the young grass tall but mow frequently When the grass finally grows to 4”, mow off an inch (and no more) to promote even more root growth. In spring, apply another shot of the starter lawn food to insure that the young grass develops a mature root system before summer heats up. By midsummer your new lawn should be well established, and you can start feeding and mowing it in the same manner as the rest of your lawn.