Plant grass seed now for a lush lawn next spring

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By Dennis Morgeson

Many of you have been asking and now it is finally time to start renovating or reseeding your lawns. September is the best month to sow grass seed in Kentucky, however the last few years we have been so hot and dry that there was relatively no way to keep  enough water on it to get it to germinate and survive. This year is different. It’s cool and there is ample moisture in the soil to make it relatively easy to get a lawn established.

Now is the best time to start a new lawn because weed competition is less than in the spring. Also, temperature and moisture conditions are right (this year anyway) and it is actually the natural time grass establishes itself.

Many people in Kentucky want a bluegrass lawn, however the best turf grass for us is actually fescue. You can plant the turf type fescues if you want a small bladed grass or if you are like me and want the toughest lawn possible, the straight Kentucky 31 fescue is just fine. I am weird I guess but I like the wide blades. Some of the turf type fescues include varieties such as Rembrandt, Masterpiece 2nd, Millenium , Plantation, Jaguar 3, Coyote, Watchdog, Shenandoah II, Rebel Sentry, Kickoff, Tracer, Dominon, Falcon IV and Rebel Exeda. These all have the narrow turf type leaf blade which is about half as wide as Kentucky 31. If you have a shady spot, there are creeping fescues that are best for that area as well.

Fescue has a very high traffic tolerance, establishes easily, withstands a wide fertility range, tolerates hot, cold, dry, and wet as well as sunny and shady. Fescue also has less disease and insect problems than Kentucky bluegrass.

When sowing fescue the seeding rate is very important. Fescue is a clumping grass and can’t spread into an area like bluegrass. The recommended seeding rate for a good thick turf of fescue is six pounds per 1000 square feet. Under optimum conditions it should germinate in seven to 10 days. This can be slowed by very old seed or very new seed.  Ideally you want to sow grass seed that is a year old. New grass seed, especially this year’s seed, has a built in dormancy that will keep it from germinating right now.

If you are going to totally kill and redo your yard, you had better spray it now with roundup to kill the weeds, etc. before planting time passes you by. Ideally you want to till, rake, and level the area before sowing. However, many people will drill the seed into the soil with a planter, kind of like no till corn. If you are drilling the seed, make sure to cross the area in a couple of directions to get a thick turf. If you are drilling, you won’t need straw. For those that are going to do the till method, be sure to broadcast the seed in one direction and again at a 90 degree angle. You should row the area to press the seed firmly into the soil and cover it lightly with straw to keep the area moist and from washing.

Before planting, it would be ideal to get a soil test done as well. It usually takes two weeks for the results. A soil test will save you time and money in the long run as it will keep you from applying fertilizers you don’t need. It will also let you know exactly what needs to be applied and nothing more. A soil test will also tell you what your pH is and whether you need lime or not. If you aren’t going to test the soil and it has been a while since the last one, apply 80 pounds of ground limestone per 1000 square feet and 25 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 1000 square feet before sowing. You should keep the area well watered for at least three weeks if we don’t receive adequate rains. When the fescue is about four inches tall you should mow it to two and one half to three inches. Mowing will not hurt it even at a young age. It will actually thicken and toughen the plants. If you have any lawn questions give me a call at 859-336-7741. 

Happy gardening!