After a hot, dry summer, or long cold winter, most of us have areas in our lawn that did not survive. Dead patches may be present throughout the lawn. If you want to have the greenest lawn on the block Re-seeding may be necessary to bring your lawn back to top-notch standards. One of the most important parts of repairing your lawn, is ensuring that the soil is prepared for new seed. The best way to prepare your lawn for seed is using a verticutter or vertislicer.
Verticutting or vertical mowing, is the process of mechanically removing thatch build up in your yard. Thatch is the layer of dead biomass (roots and stems) between the soil and green grass. It is important to know how thatch develops, in order to help maintain a healthy lawn. Grass with vigorous growth habits and lawns on a high fertility program build up thatch more frequently. This is why verti-cutting is considered the best method for preparing the soil for overseeding.
A verticut machine, slices grooves in the soil creating an area for the small grass seed to fall and wash when seeding. It is this contact with the soil that is so important. Simply spreading the seed on the crusted soil will result in poor germination and an uneven stand. The picture on the right shows a good example of the rows that have been cut by the verticut machine.
After verticutting, you are ready to seed. Then comes the hard part of making sure the seedbed is moist at all times. Grass seeding requires dedication to watering as it takes even moisture to get a good stand of grass. Most grass seed will germinate within one to two weeks of seeding, and then the amount of water can be reduced. The ideal time to seed bluegrass and tall fescue lawns is early to mid September. At this time of the year, soil temperatures are still high, nighttime temperatures start to fall and more rainfall is usually received… depending on the area you live. This combination makes almost perfect conditions for quick germination and establishment of turf from seed.
In order to grow any crop successfully, it is necessary to plant good seed, and this is especially true of grasses. Grass seed mixes often combine the state´s two top turfs — tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass. But, the good ones often contain three or more fescue varieties and two or more bluegrass cultivars – which, in turn, provide a high-quality, uniform lawn with greater strengths in drought, disease, and insect resistance.Seeding is also more successful with an application of a starter type fertilizer. Instead of the high nitrogen application recommended, use a more balanced fertilizer or one with more phosphorus such s 10-20-10.
Research has shown that phosphorus placed at the point of germination speeds up establishment. But remember for most lawns the phosphorus is only needed when seeding. Be careful not to starve your lawn with too little nitrogen. A month after the new grass has germinated apply a high nitrogen fertilizer to push the grass for quicker establishment before the arrival of cooler fall and winter temperatures.
“Clean seed that has zero percent `other crop´ and zero percent weed seeds will always cost more. Highly recommended varieties with a good germination rate will cost more, too but, they´re worth it. You might have trouble believing, for example, how just a tiny percentage of some weed seeds can ruin a yard,” said St. John, who´s a turfgrass specialist with K-State Research and Extension.He strongly suggests homeowners buy lawn seed from a reputable garden center or landscape supply provider, not a big-box store. In his experience, retailers whose year-round business is horticulture are much more likely to know the latest research results on varieties that do well locally. They also tend to be more personally involved in supplying lawn products and advice that help ensure customers´ success.
Timely irrigation is also very important. Once the seed is sown the upper surface of the soil should remain damp at all times. This may require daily, light applications. It all depends on the amount of sun and wind. Be prepared to water when needed as lack of water will slow establishment. An application of fertilizer at the time of seeding is also a good idea. This will help nourish not only the new seedlings, but will give the existing turf a much needed boost.
Mow the lawn at the normal height, which is between 2 and 3 inches. Avoid the mistake of letting it grow too long as this reduces the seedling’s ability to develop a nice crown. Clippings do not need to be caught as long as they do not shade out the new seed. Fallen leaves should be picked up to prevent suffocation.Do not worry about weeds at this time. No chemical applications can be applied during this process. As a general rule of thumb, no herbicides should be applied until the new grass has been mowed at least twice. Check the product label for specific information.