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It has finally arrived! Time to start preparing to sow grass seed again. Generally September is the best time, however, with the drought last fall, that was almost impossible, but that won’t be our limiting factor now!
When selecting a variety of grass seed, the University of Kentucky recommends any of the turf-type tall fescues, I however, have also gotten very good results with Kentucky 31, the pasture-type tall fescue but for die hard turf lovers the blades are a little too wide. In Kentucky fescue is going to give you the best results, even though we are known for our bluegrass.
Most or all lawns have problem areas where grass just doesn’t do well, and there are things that can be done to help out. There are generally going to be some thin spots where weeds or moss can take over. Around trees and shrubs limbing up bottom limbs can allow just enough light in to help the lawn recover. If the shade problems are occurring due to a building or structure, you may want to consider converting that area to a bed with a ground cover or shade-loving plants. Another area that many people have problems with grass establishment is around down spouts. This area gets flooded out frequently and the turf drowns out. Instead of fighting the inevitable plant, a rain garden, which will be aesthetically pleasing, will catch and hold the rain water until it can drain on its own.
When renovating or planting turf, don’t underestimate the importance of soil preparation. While soil moisture is very good in the spring the temperature is usually low. Conventional seeding on a prepared seedbed is often much more successful versus no-till or over seeding into undisturbed soil. This is because undisturbed soil is generally shaded by some grass or weed cover and doesn’t heat up as well as prepared soil with direct sun light.
If you are seeding a large area, prepare soil and rake it smooth and broadcast seed with a rotary or drop seeder. Be sure to broadcast half of the seed in one direction and broadcast the rest at a 90 degree angle across the first sowing. This will give you the best coverage and reduce bare spots.
Don’t work your soil wet. This can cause the soil to become hard and cloddy. Monitor your lawn for low areas, if you notice standing water, add some top soil to smooth the area. Your final seedbed should be smooth and firm without any large debris such as rocks and sticks.
Once your seed has been sown, protect it with a layer of straw or similar organic cover. Annual rye which germinates faster than fescue can also be sown with the fescue to help get a quick green ground cover.
Once your new lawn is up and growing don’t be afraid to mow it. When it gets to 2-2.5 inches tall, mow it. This will toughen the grass plants themselves, reduce weed growth, and help your turf become denser and force lateral spread.
One last thing of not, don’t used herbicides while you are trying to establish turf. Young grass plants can be killed by herbicide even if it is rated for use on turf.