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Seeding a new lawn

by The Dream Lawn (Mantis)

A new lawn is a long-term proposition. With the right start and proper maintenance, it will give you many years of service and beauty. The care you take in creating a new lawn will determine just how successful your lawn will be in the years ahead.

Mid-August to mid-September is the prime time to seed cool-season lawns. (A new lawn should have at least four to six weeks of growing time before frost.) In late summer, temperatures are warm enough for fast germination and there is usually ample rainfall. The cooler weather that follows allows development of strong root systems. Bluegrass, fescues, and perennial rye make their most active growth in cool weather, yet most weeds do not grow in fall.

New warm-season lawns need warm weather to make active growth; plant them in late spring or early summer. Most of these grasses are started with sprigs or plugs rather than seed.

Because grass roots will be using the same soil year after year, much of your success in planting a lawn will depend on good soil preparation. You can correct a nutrient deficiency later but altering soil texture under an established lawn is not an easy task.

Take a soil sample to your local County Extension Agent for analysis. The results will tell you what amendments must be added to the soil to make it ideal for growing grass. Your County Agent can also recommend the best types of lawn grass for your area.

If necessary, alter the grade of the site so the lawn slopes gently away from the house. Smooth out any abrupt changes in level.

Remove all debris from the soil. Large stones left under the soil surface will prevent grass roots from reaching moisture and nutrients. If there are perennial weeds present, you may want to treat the area with a commercial herbicide at this time. If you do, wait the recommended number of weeks before you sow grass seed.

Till the soil to a depth of six to eight inches to break up compacted earth. Remove the smaller stones that tilling turns up.

After the initial tilling, spread lime over the surface to sweeten the soil if a soil test indicates the need. (If your soil pH is 5.0, it takes 70 to 150 lb. of limestone per 1,000 sq. ft. to raise the pH to a lawn-friendly 6.5.) Add elemental sulfur if the soil is too alkaline.

Next add two to three inches of compost, leaf mold (and extra lime if the leaf mold is primarily oak), peat moss or good topsoil. The goal is to have the top six to eight inches of soil (your seed bed) composed of about 30 percent organic matter. For cool-season grasses, add a dressing of high-phosphorus fertilizer or organic lawn food; warm-season grasses are fertilized after the second or third mowing rather than at planting time.

Work all these amendments into the topsoil. Rake the surface as smooth as possible and roll it with a heavy lawn roller. Finally, rake the entire surface again, lightly, to get a crumbly texture that will ensure uniform germination and even growth of grass.

Grass can be sown either by hand or with a rotary spreader. To achieve an even overall spread of seed, work back and forth across the bed in one direction, then work back and forth in a direction perpendicular to the first. Cover the seed by gently raking the surface, then roll lightly to press the seed into the soil for good contact. Apply a thin layer of peat moss or clean straw to keep the soil moist, prevent erosion, and protect seedlings.


Copyright © 2008 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission
from The Dream Lawn, © 1996 Mantis, 1028 Street Road, Southampton, PA 18966.



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