Seeding a Home Lawn
Cool-season grasses, bluegrass, fescue and ryegrass, are best seeded in early September. Seeds germinate and grow rapidly in the warm soil with time to become well established before winter. October 15, is generally considered the last day for planting a lawn in the fall. Spring seeding, while not as reliable, often can be successful during March and early April if the weather is favorable. The success lies in planting early. Seedlings need to become well established before hot weather and weed competition begin.
The first step in planting a lawn is to take a soil test. Testing helps determine if any of the essential nutrients are deficient. If soil amendments are needed, incorporate them before planting.
A properly prepared seedbed is essential for rapid, uniform lawn establishment. Compacted soil severely limits root growth causing thin, weak turf that declines and is invaded by weeds. At least 6 inches of nutrient rich and aerated soil is needed to grow a healthy lawn. Soils can be improved through the addition of weed-free organic material such as peat moss, compost, or well rotted manure. Avoid over-working the soil. A cloddy (1 inch diameter) soil is preferable to a powdery fine soil. Hand raking may be necessary to remove larger clods.
Sow the seeds evenly at the recommended rate. Kentucky Bluegrass should be sown at 3 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Tall fescue and perennial ryegrass should be sown at 8 pounds per 1,000 square feet. To ensure good coverage, spread half of the seed in one direction. The other half should be applied in a direction at a right angle to the first.
Mulching helps conserve soil moisture, prevent erosion, and keep the soil from crusting. Aged straw or hay makes a good mulch. One small square bale per 1,000 square feet is about right. It is not necessary to remove the mulch after the grass begins to grow.
Moisture is the most vital element for seed germination. After planting and mulching, thoroughly soak the seedbed. Keep it continually moist with frequent light waterings. As the roots develop and grow, water less frequently.
A common mistake is to wait too long before mowing new grass. As soon as cool-season grasses reach a height of 3 inches, mow with a mower set at 2 inches. Continue mowing at this height through the end of the season.
Weeds can easily invade the lawn while it is becoming established. Most chemical weed control products either keep the grass seed from germinating or kill the young grass seedlings. Do not use chemical weed control for one month before planting until the new grass has been mowed three times. The best way to prevent weeds during lawn establishment is to plant the grass at the recommended time.