Murdoch's Guide to Grass Seeding
Consider the aesthetic possibilities of a gently sloping lawn compared to completely flat. Avoid tall or rapidly growing shrubs under the windows. Grade the lawn downward, away from the house to avoid continual wetness around the foundation. Support and balance tall, slim evergreens with low-growing shrubs.
Planting a Lawn
Mid-August through early October is the best time to seed a lawn. Annual weeds are much less aggressive then, and small grass seedlings get a better start. Spring seeding should be done as early as possible to give the grass a head start on annual weeds, and to allow the grass to grow before hot weather arrives. To successfully start a lawn during the summer, water carefully. The intense summer heat dries soil rapidly, so keep the seedbed moist.
Tips for a Beautiful Lawn
Create a large, open feel to your lawn. Avoid cluttering the middle of the lawn with ornamentals. Instead, lay out graceful, curving lines for flower beds, drives, or walks. Make these lines with a hose or a rope. Create a secluded outdoor living room with lawn furniture and a barbecue pit to make your space more livable. A lawn designed with gentle slopes is much prettier and easier to maintain than one with steep terraces.
Lawns grow best in sandy loam soils. A loam soil is 40-65% sand, 10-15% organic matter, and not more than 20% clay. Loams are usually fertile, hold moisture well, drain well, and are easily pulverized.
Clay loam or silt loam soils are less desirable for lawns. They drain very slowly, stay wet and soft for long periods, and soon become rough and uneven. If your soil is like this, add 2" to 3" of organic matter, then mix thoroughly with the underlying soil to a depth of 6" to 8". Peat, muck, commercial peat moss, well-rotted manure, and compost are all satisfactory for this purpose.
When a new house is built, people often use the soil from the foundations or basement as grade material around the yard. This soil is usually low in organic material and requires the same treatment as above.
Soils that are too sandy let water through and are low in organic matter. Spread about 3" of clay and an inch or more of humus; and mix in the soil about 6" deep.
Note: Be sure you pick up all pieces of wood, as they could stimulate the growth of fairy rings and toadstools.
What to Expect
Expect little at first. It takes a couple of weeks for seedlings to take hold and grow. Over that time, a few weeds will probably appear! Don’t worry about them. Remember, weed seed builds up in soil over many years, and some will stay viable for up to 50 years! When brought to the surface, they will germinate. By the end of the second week, you will see fine grasses starting to grow. By the third week, it may be ready to cut. Keep in mind that if you have a high percentage of bluegrass there will be a lot of seed that has yet to germinate. Keep watering and give the seeds a chance to sprout. From the fourth or fifth week, your lawn will gradually fill in and develop into a solid turf.
- Rough grade. Remove rocks and debris.
- Spade or rototill. Go down at least 6". For best results, mix in the first application of fertilizer. Use garden-type fertilizer such as 16-16-16 for a new lawn. New lawns use little nitrogen, and the excess will leach from the soil before the plant can utilize it. Phosphate and potash will stay in the soil until the plant uses them. Once established, use a 20-10-10 type of fertilizer with iron.
- Rake up clods on the surface with a stout rake. Break up or remove all clods of golf ball size or larger.
- Grade carefully. A large plank will do. Drag it over the surface in several directions until smooth.
- Water heavily for at least a week. The heavy soaking will expose more low spots to fill in. It will also sprout weed seeds, always present in the soil.
- Rake lightly to kill the weeds that have sprouted. Ensure the seed bed is level, with all depressions filled in, and the soil pulverized to a depth of ¼".
- Spread your seed and fertilizer using a mechanical spreader. You can spread your seed and then return to spread your fertilizer, or vice versa. Again, use a garden-type fertilizer such as a 16-16-16. Use at the manufacturer's recommended rate.
- Rake lightly to cover the seed, but not more than ¼". If the soil is light and sandy, follow the light raking by rolling, or cover the seed with peat moss and roll. This will prevent the ground from drying out too fast.
- Water with a fine spray, keeping the seed bed wet or moist with several light sprinklings daily! Don’t plant a lawn so big that you can’t keep it wet the first few weeks. If you plan on a sprinkler system, install the system before you seed your lawn. The main failure of planting a lawn is letting it dry out!
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