Being successful at growing a new lawn takes planning, knowledge, and execution of best practices. It’s not just as easy as throwing a bunch of seed down and instantly seeing it grow into a thick, lush lawn. There are a bunch of obstacles that can thwart your efforts. Even when you properly prepare for a seeding project you can throw your money away if you don’t follow the best practices for establishing a lawn. Following these best practices can insure you get the most bang for your seeding bucks.
1. Pick the Right Method: The overall condition of your lawn will determine which method of seeding is right for you. If the lawn is predominantly in good shape and isn’t too thin, a simple aeration and over-seeding will suffice. If the lawn has thin areas and even has bare spots, slice-seeding along with aeration and over-seeding will be your best call. If the lawn is practically bare and there is nothing but weeds growing in it, you may want to consider a complete lawn renovation. This can be done by killing off all the vegetation and renovating with a Bobcat and its implements.
2. Loosen the Soil: It’s very difficult for a tiny, little seed to establish a root system in rock-hard soil. This is why aeration is included in most seeding projects. Core aeration will extract cores of soil which allows the soil remaining to loosen up, creating more pores and pockets between soil particles to hold moisture and oxygen. This allows newly sprouting grass roots as well as established lawn roots to plunge deep into the soil. When aerating, it is very important to use a core aerator, not just one with spikes. Spikes will only poke holes. It doesn’t remove cores, so the soil compaction isn’t even being addressed. When aerating, be sure the soil is soft, but not muddy. This will allow nice cores of 2″ or more to be pulled. Make sure there are cores being pulled approximately every 5″-6″. This requires core aerators to make 2 passes over the lawn. If possible, make the 2nd pass at a different angle. If you’re hiring a lawn care company to do aeration, be sure they do 2 passes, or you’re only getting half your money’s worth.
3. Use Good Seed: You get what you pay for. If you find a deal, be leery. All seed will have a label that indicates how good that seed really is. Learn how to read the label. This label will have valuable information about how you are spending your money. Try to find seed that is rated well for germination %. Make sure the type of grass you want to sow is on that label. Specific cultivars of grass varieties are preferred over their generic species. Be sure to evaluate what else is in that bag. Seed manufacturers will at times add other seeds to the mix. Try to stay away from weed seeds, inert ingredients (filler), noxious weeds, and specific grasses that you wouldn’t want in your lawn. Those types to avoid would be Annual Ryegrass, Annual Bluegrass, and K-31 Tall Fescue.
4. Incorporate the Seed Into the Soil: Core aeration with over-seeding works well as the seeds fall into the holes. This allows the seed to not be laying out on the dry ground. Slice-seeding works even better, because as the slices are being cut into the soil, seed actually falls into those grooves, allowing the future seedlings to begin rooting properly. When grading and seeding in a lawn renovation, after seed is spread onto the newly graded areas, it’s best to drag it with a light rake to cover some seeds.
5. Give the Seedlings a Nutritional Boost: When seeding in any method, it’s important that there is an adequate level of phosphorus in the seeding areas. This is best achieved by adding starter fertilizer rich in this element. Phosphorus is the middle number in the analysis, such as the “24” in 12-24-5. Depending where you purchase this material, this analysis will be slightly different, but be sure to apply 1 lb./1000 sq. ft. of phosphorus with this application. This will give the seedlings what they need to develop a proper root system.
6. Water Like Your Life Depends on It: Yours may not, but the lives of the grass seedlings does. If you don’t spend the time and money on your water bill, you’ll be throwing your money away even if you did the above practices correctly. Water is what makes it all work. There are two simple guidelines when watering new seed.
Before germination keep the seed wet. It doesn’t take a lot of water to make seed wet. It also doesn’t take long for the seed to dry out. This means you should water the seeded areas approximately 15-20 minutes. Depending on temperatures and wind, you’ll need to re-apply water 2-3 times per day to keep it moist. The more often seed dries out after that first time it gets soaked, the less likely it is to germinate.
After germination get the roots wet. Watering for a mere 15 minutes will only give you about 1/4″ of water. This means the roots aren’t even seeing moisture. When your new lawn starts sprouting, you want a moist, but well-drained soil for the roots to grow in. This means you won’t necessarily need to water every day. Try every-other day or 3 times per week. Give the areas a really good soaking. Leaving a sprinkler running for 45 minutes to 75 minutes will give about 1″-2″ of water to these areas. That will percolate into the soil deeply for those new roots.
7. Don’t Rely on Mother Nature: If you take your chances with nature making your lawn grow it’s a big gamble with your seeding bucks. Nature can be deceiving. People often think that natural rainfall is adequate. Just because it rains 2″ in 30 minutes, doesn’t mean it all goes in your lawn. A lot of it goes down the street into storm drains. A good soaking rain for a few hours is perfect though. Make sure you are paying attention to how much water is actually being added to your lawn. Use a soil probe and a rain gauge to determine the truth about rainfall.
8. Follow-up with a Lawn Care Program: After you spend all your time and money seeding, don’t let insects, poor fertility, and weeds ruin your best efforts. Make sure to administer a good lawn care program to keep things moving forward.
Following these good seeding bucks tips and you’re investment will be well spent and greatly rewarded. Here’s to growing a beautiful lawn! If you need help seeding your lawn areas or keeping them looking great, we’d love to talk.
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