To download a copy of the “Fixing the Sward – THE Turf Plan Reseeding Bible” simply click here;
If you don’t have Adobe Reader on your computer you can download a copy for free here;
Because we live in the transition zone of the United States, our weather is not perfect for growing any single species of grass. Something always “goes wrong” during our growing season, and it’s usually the extreme heat and humidity during the summer months that cause destruction of cool season species (perennial ryegrass, Kentucky blue grass, tall fescue and their improved cousins, turf-type fescues). The resultant stresses allow for the development of damaging diseases. On average, we get lucky one summer out of four, where the temperatures are cool enough, and the rainfall sufficient enough, to keep our sward in good shape. But, for those other three years, we’ve got to “repair” our lawns in late summer/early fall. You can “renovate” (“repair”) or you can completely reestablish the lawn (start over). When you “start over” it requires that you kill the lawn off first, with Roundup® herbicide.
Basically, you overseed slightly damaged turf—anything less than 60% desirable turf is a candidate for repair of some sort. But if your lawn is severely damaged, or severely infested with weeds, you should reestablish it. If you’re going to REESTABLISH the sward, which is killing the lawn off with Roundup, and starting from scratch, mid-August is the time to start that process. Killing the weeds and unwanted turf is required so that you get a really great stand of turf. It’s best if you can make two applications of Roundup if you have tough weeds, like black medic (Figure 1) or bermudagrass. Most weeds in the lawn are killed with only 1 shot of Roundup, but spacing two applications 3 to 4 weeks apart will give you better weed control. If you’re going to renovate, which is generally just aerating and overseeding, you should plan for a busy September.
Figure 1: Black medic (top of photo) and white clover (bottom of photo)
Generally speaking, the EARLIER YOU START, THE BETTER YOUR RESULTS, AS LONG AS THE TEMPS ARE NOT SCORCHING (BELOW 90oF IS IDEAL) AND YOU CAN ENSURE THAT THE NEW TURF CAN BE WATERED PROPERLY FOR THE FIRST FOUR TO FIVE WEEKS, THE MOST CRITICAL STAGE FOR BABY TURF. Many of our customers have renovated in September, and gone on vacation in early October, only to come home to a dead lawn! Don’t do this.
You can start this process as early as mid- to late August, if the weather is cooperative (90oF day / <60oF night), with some rainfall. Remember, you can’t aerate bone-dry soil! You’ll have to plan ahead by irrigating so that you can pull up at least a 2 inch core. You want to be sure to be completed in St. Louis by October 7th, for best results. Certainly, have it done by October 15th. It is important for the new turf to develop a decent root system, that will keep it anchored in the soil through the winter. While a frost won’t hurt new turf, a hard freeze can kill your turf seedlings if they’re not established. Additionally, if the turf doesn’t have enough time to root substantially, the seedlings can be “heaved” out of the soil by numerous freeze/thaw cycles in December. We urge you to reseed in that six-week period starting in September, ending in mid-October. The warm temperatures get the grass seed up and growing–rapid germination and emergence! Cool nights help keep the soil uniformly moist. That’s why starting after Labor Day is generally a better bet for the average turf-tender.
If it gets hot and humid again in September and October, plan on protecting the new turf with a fungicide. A new fungicide, a combination of two active ingredients, called Headway® G, has proven itself to be a marvelous product for controlling turf diseases in St. Louis. Prior to the 2012 growing season, THE Turf Guys were ambivalent about recommending fungicides throughout the summer, but we are now strong advocates of using this product, ESPECIALLY on baby turf. More about this on the last page of this tome (CLICK HERE TO BUY HEADWAY G).
If your lawn “sucks”, then it’s better to kill it off and start over. If you can see the soil on over 40% of the surface, your lawn sucks. Below are two photos of sucky lawns. In essence, these can hardly even qualify as being “goat pastures.”
Figure 2: This shows a very thin lawn, with a few surviving clumps of tall fescue
Figure 3: This lawn is on the edge…heavy aeration and overseeding will work, but it may be easier to reestablish
If your yard looks like either of the two pictures above, it’s time to do something drastic. If your yard is mostly weeds…your lawn sucks. Kill it and start over. Or, at least spray Roundup® on the weedy patches. Solid patches of turf, if thicker than the photo in Figure 3, that have survived this tough summer and really need not be destroyed! That’s tough turf!
Adding new and improved varieties into an existing turf sward will allow you to improve your turf, without having your lawn look like a nuclear war zone. It is far less destructive and generally far less work. But, the real key to a successful renovation is to make as many passes with the aerator as you can stand, certainly no less than two passes. Those of you that can make more than two passes with a core aerator have much better results. But we need to help you put this in perspective–machines that are rented have far fewer tines or spoons on the rotating drum than the newer machines used by professionals. Therefore, a double-pass with a brand new machine may equal four passes on an old rental unit.
For you rookies out there, “aerator” is pronounced with only three syllables, as either “air-ray-tor” or maybe even “air-a-ter.” Please, please don’t add a fourth syllable and say, “air-e-a-tor”. Say it right, Ginger! When Jeff used provide this professional service, he’d bid a higher rate for the homers that used the four-syllable pronunciation!
Renovation can enhance sward quality tremendously. Below is a typical “sick yard” that can be readily improved via aeration and overseeding. Before you freak out about our suggestion to make up to six passes, remember that making just two is better than nothing. But don’t expect miraculous results.
Figure 4: Aerating and overseeding with 4 to 5 lbs of turf-type fescue seed per 1,000 sq ft is required here; use 1.0 to 1.5 lbs of bluegrass seed per 1,000 sq ft.
Can You Use A Dethatching Machine Instead of an Aerator?
You can use a “dethatcher” to work your lawn over to help prepare the lawn for the fall reseeding campaign, instead of an aerator. Actually, using a dethatcher once every five years on a cool season sward is a great idea! Two turfgrass species should be dethatched every 3 to 5 years…bluegrass and zoysiagrass…and zoysiagrass develops bad thatch problems far more frequently than bluegrass. Because both species spread laterally by stolons and rhizomes, which are “woodier” than leaf tissue, they simply don’t decay fast enough, causing the “thatch” to develop. The thatch layer actually forms from the bottom up, not the top down, because the stolons and rhizomes grow right on top of the soil. The oldest rhizomes and stolons are on top of the thatch. When the thatch layer gets to be thicker than 1/2 inch, it creates various problems. First, it can become hydrophobic (repels water) and second it can create significant disease pressure.
LEAF CLIPPINGS ARE NOT THE CAUSE OF THATCH! Read that sentence again…LEAF CLIPPINGS ARE NOT THE CAUSE FOR THATCH! Again! Again! That scene from Miracle on Ice is fantastic–ever had a hard-ass coach?
Bluegrass lawns should be dethatched every 3 to 5 years, anyway, from mid-August through late September. Don’t dethatch bluegrass within two weeks of the first frost because you might cause some winter damage if we have an early freeze. For zoysiagrass, dethatch every third year, but do it in June! Do not do ANYTHING to zoysiagrass, except mow, after September 1st! No fertilizer after August 15th on zoysia! See the page for warm season turf management for more information (CLICK HERE).
The dethatcher is an old-fashioned machine that basically just beats the hell out of the turf. Dethatching units have dozens of spinning metal tines that literally scrape the thatch off the top of the soil surface. You need to set the metal tines so that they only cut 1/8 inch deep groves in the soil. If you set the tines too deep the unit will “choke out.” You’re not trying to rototill with a dethatcher. It works best if you “scalp” the grass first with the lawn mower. If you can set your mower at 1.5 inches in the summer, that’s scalping, especially if you’ve been cutting at 3.0 to 3.5 inches all summer. You MUST clean up the hay and the dead thatch before you start spreading grass seed. The soil should be slightly moist, not wet. You may even opt to let the thatch dry out for a day before raking it up. Be sure that you don’t have ANY clumps of debris on the lawn before spreading your seed.
WARNING: this method is very labor intensive, but usually always worth it. Turf-type fescues rarely have a thatch problem. Finally, turf-type fescues, perennial ryegrass and true shade-tolerant ryegrasses are all “bunch-type” grasses. This also means “clumpy.” Thus, they don’t create thatch.
If I Dethatch, Do I Still Need to Core Aerate?
In that season that you dethatch the additional use of an aerator is completely optional–because it’s EVEN MORE work. The purpose of the dethatcher is to clean up all the old debris, and by doing so, you create nice groves (1/8th inch deep!) for the new seed. The purpose of the core aerator is to increase water and oxygen penetration into the soil, by literally poking hundreds of thousands of holes. Our heavy clay soils are considered “tight” (“tight” ain’t always a good thing). Clay soils are not very permeable–thus more water runs off of it, than penetrates it. The holes increase water penetration and oxygen exchange, increasing the health of the root system, and in turn, the health of the sward.
In addition to poking holes, the cores that are left on the soil surface are beneficial because they will break down on top of your “thatch.” Our soils are loaded with zillions of hungry microbes, which will help degrade the thatch layer. And even more important, the soil cores will actually crumble/smash down atop the new seed that you’re spreading, if you alternate aerator passes with light seeding passes. Anything you do that increases the “seed-to-soil-contact” will greatly improve the quality of your new lawn. Never just spread seed atop the soil surface–HUGE waste of time and money! Covered seed comes up quick!
Here’s where we confuse a lot of people, so we want to digress (yet again!) and repeat ourselves (yet again). You should know that a quality double-pass aeration, followed by broadcasting the proper amount of seed, will be successful! But, that level of “success” is minimal, compared to your expending a little bit more of your time and energy (keep reading!).
What is a Vertical Seeder and is it Better than a Core Aerator?
The vertical seeder is also known as a “slicer-seeder” or “slit-seeder”, and the professional lawn care industry has fantastic machines. This machine has dethatching tines in the front of the unit. The tines cut a groove into the soil, and seed is dropped directly into those grooves. This provides a dramatic improvement in the seed-to-soil contact.
The units that you can rent, however, aren’t nearly as good. They are generally much lighter and less effective, but they are OK if you’re up for the work. These machines are very heavy, and they can’t be lifted into your trunk or back of your SUV–you’ll need a pick-up and ramps, or a good trailer. Remember, you want your seed on soil, not on top of thatch or dead grass. There is no need to set the blades any deeper than 1/8th deep. A warning, though, if you’re using a slicer-seeder…the dethatching tines on the front end of the machine will create quite a few piles of dead grass and/or thatch. These piles must be cleaned up when you’re done, because they are too thick to allow new grass to emerge from underneath them.
How to Reestablish (Start-over) Your Turf
Call the underground utility marking service on the same day you spray with Roundup®. Call 1-800-DIG-RITE in St. Louis. It’s free and they want 10 days advance notice. Remember that the Charter Cable lines are ridiculously shallow! Those no-good louts! It’s really easy to cut those in half, or knick ‘em. If by chance your machinery cuts a cable line, don’t let them bully you into paying for repairs. Cable companies are supposed to bury their cables about 6 inches deep. Seriously, folks, if the cable company tries to bully you into paying for a cable repair, tell them to go suck eggs. Call the Attorney General and write the BBB, if they try to screw you out of your money.
Kill the lawn portions that you want to renovate with Roundup®, from mid-August to mid-September. Don’t mow just before spraying because Roundup® will work better when it’s sprayed onto fresh, succulent tissues. That extra leaf material will absorb and translocate more herbicide, providing a better kill. Don’t be a tight wad with the Roundup®! Buy the concentrated version and double the recommended dose on the label. Be sure you buy “plain” Roundup and DO NOT use the “extended” control or the “fast-acting” formulations! Use a hose-end sprayer to apply the Roundup to the crappy lawn and weeds. Be careful that you don’t create a lot of mist, and spray on calm days, not really windy ones. If you’re not sure about how to do this, just come see us for a better explanation.
Get a soil test if you haven’t had one, or if it has been 5 to 6 years since your last test. The proper pH (soil acidity), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) levels will improve your ability to grow great grass. To learn how to take a soil test, visit our page on our website (CLICK HERE to read Soil Science Basics). It’ll take at least 2 weeks to get your soil test results, after you send it off to your testing service. [NOTE: We no longer offer this service–we have the forms you need, but you’ll have to process it and mail it on your own]. This is important to do because you want to take advantage of all them holes in the soil that you’ve created by using the core aerator. Limestone, phosphorous and potassium are not sufficiently mobile in the soil to be effective when you just apply it to the soil surface. Those nutrients won’t make it 2 to 3 inches deep, where they need to be to help the grass. By taking a soil test early, you’ll get results back in time to fix the nutrient levels at the same time you aerate.
Scalp your turf five to seven days after you spray Roundup. Then, use flags or stakes to mark your own hazards, like irrigation heads and underground doggie-shock lines. Dog lines are usually deep enough to avoid damage, but tree roots will actually bring them to the soil surface.
After you scalp the lawn, it’s more than likely you’re going to see how inept you were on your first pass at nuking the lawn – so retreat with Roundup. If you see tiny weeds sprouting and green tissue all around, retreat the entire area. Trust us! It’s worth the extra time, energy and money spent to start with a weed free area.
Now you’ve got to decide WHAT TYPE OF GRASS SEED TO USE. Purchase it early so that we don’t run out of seed, so you’re ready to go.
For non-irrigated, sunny swards, turf-type fescue is certainly the best species to establish for St. Louis. Turf-type fescue also is great on irrigated sunny swards, too. Our Winning Colors seed blend has three of the top varieties, as rated by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP), based upon test sites in Missouri. This means our seed mix has varieties that have been rated for having good summer quality, good color and hardiness, and better-than-average resistance to brown patch. No variety of turf-type fescue is resistant, or immune, to brown patch…so don’t let anyone tell you differently. Brown patch is the number one disease in turf-type fescue, so using good varieties is one way to minimize the damage. About 35% of the lawns in the transition zone will do best with this type of seed, particularly for new subdivisions, lacking shade trees. It is by far the best of the cool season species for lawns in full sun without irrigation. Overseed this blend at a rate of 4 to 5 lbs/1,000 sq ft. For reestablished turf, use 8 to 10 lbs/1,000 sq ft. Don’t skimp on the seed, lest you have a clumpy yard! Remember our discussion earlier, that fescue doesn’t spread laterally, so you MUST seed it sufficiently thick.
For yards that have the benefit of some shade, and irrigation, we sell Winning Colors Plus, a blend of the same three top performing turf-type fescues along with a vigorous, medium-green bluegrass. Don’t try to grow bluegrass without irrigation! This is an essential requirement for this species. The bluegrass will fill the divots and holes caused by diseases and moles. The picture below shows some damaged bluegrass. The dead spots will fill in quite nicely after some cooler weather. Bluegrass will spread laterally in the spring and late summer. This bluegrass was damaged by hot sun, being on a southern exposure. But because it’s an irrigated lawn, it’ll grow fill in very nicely.
Figure 5: Kentucky bluegrass will spread laterally because it has rhizomes and stolons. Holes less than six inches wide will fill in naturally when cooler temperatures return, as long as moisture is provided.
If you want the added benefit of a sward that can “mend itself” (to a reasonable extent) then go with our Winning Colors Plus seed mix. The bluegrass will grow where it’s happy, and the turf-type fescue varieties will grow where they’re adapted best. Talk about a win-win! This exact mix is a favorite for local golf courses, for their roughs. Overseed this blend at a rate of 4 to 5 lbs/1,000 sq ft. For reestablished areas, use 8 to 10 lbs/1,000 sq ft.
A pure bluegrass sward is a thing of beauty…but bluegrass is very particular and unforgiving in St. Louis. Just a few hours north of here, where they have better soil, bluegrass is very easy to grow. If you don’t have an irrigation system, forget it, don’t even try. Bluegrass doesn’t particularly like FULL sun, but even THE Turf Guys are surprised sometimes. If you’ve got a yard that has 20- to 40-year-old shade trees, limbed up high so that you have “bright shade”, you can grow great bluegrass. But this doesn’t mean that bluegrass is a good shade species! It’s not…it needs at least 8 hours of sun each day. The newer varieties of Kentucky bluegrass are a helluva lot tougher than they used to be. Our bluegrass blend is comprised of top performing varieties, each with deep blue-green coloration and a short stature (low growing). Overseed bluegrass at a rate of 1.0 to 1.5 lbs of seed/1,000 sq ft. For reestablished areas, seed at a rate of 3 lbs/1,000 sq ft.
If you have deep shade, and you haven’t had any luck with the retail shade mixes, don’t give up, just yet. Most of those so-called “commercial” blends are just a bunch of turf-type fescues or perennial ryegrass, bluegrass, and a small amount of creeping red fescue. THE Turf Plan® sells the absolute best seed mix for heavy shade…a blend of three fine-bladed fescues…meadow fescue, sheep’s fescue and creeping red fescue. These are the real shade tolerant grass species. Also in the mix is a shade tolerant bluegrass, turf-type fescue and perennial ryegrass…and each of the six species will grow where it is best adapted. This blend is seeded at a rate of 8 to 10 lbs per 1,000 sq ft for reestablished turf. Overseed at 5 lbs/1,000 sq ft.
Five days after the second application of Roundup, rent either your core aeration or a vertical slicer. Be sure to get proper operating instructions from the rental company. For optimum results, you want your soil to be moist – not too wet – not too dry. Pre-irrigate, if we don’t get the required rainfall. Plan on making at least two passes with the slicer-seeder. The second pass should be made diagonally or perpendicular to the first pass. It’s hard to get the machine close to the edge of sidewalks, streets and driveways. Set the “seeding rate” or “drop rate” on half of the recommended rate, so that you don’t run out. Reserve some extra seed to spread with your rotary spreader so that you get seed everywhere. Rough up those areas along the concrete using a sturdy rake ahead of time.
Cover those bad spots along the driveways, sidewalks and paved surfaces with our product called PennMulch®, designed to help “glue” your seed to the soil surface, and create moisture-retaining mulch. (CLICK HERE).
If you want to go through the trouble of topdressing your yard with compost, when you’re all done, that really works wonders. Spreading a layer of compost ¼ inch deep will cover the seed and help keep the soil uniformly moist. This is a lot of extra work but the compost in the holes VASTLY improves the soil properties. You can hire companies to do this for you, or you can do it yourself with a wheel barrow and a shovel. Be sure you get the compost spread on the same day or day after you spread your seed, because the worse thing you can do is to apply a half-inch of compost on top of a germinating seed because that will smother that seedling.
If you can tend to all these tasks, and have the seed in the ground by mid-September, you will be rewarded with a fabulous lawn. It will be a lighter shade of green, with “thread-like” seedlings, but rest assured, it’ll be thick and luxurious by the next May –- a real “award winning” situation. We want you DONE by October 7th! You’ve get a 98% chance of success if you’re complete by this date. After October 15th, THE Turf Plan® doesn’t accept any overseeding or reestablishment requests. The picture below shows what you’re striving for.
Figure 6: A thick and lush sward. While nearly perfect, a sward like this should still be aerated at least every other year
Renovation/Overseeding Tips (What Most Of You Need To Do)
Weak turf or turf damaged from disease makes for an unattractive sward. You need to repair it, because it won’t get better on its own. Even if your yard is in better shape than Figures 2 to 4, your lawn will benefit from the introduction of new germplasm (new varieties). Newer turf varieties are more disease and heat tolerant than older varieties. That’s why you should overseed every couple of years.
Read about taking a soil sample in the section above. Do this ASAP.
Mow your lawn successively lower from 3.5 inches down to 2 inches, starting about 3 weeks prior to your intended aerator rental. Don’t do it all it once folks, because the resultant hay that you create will interfere with your seeding, not to mention that you’ll harm your existing turf by scalping it too severely. If you can bag the clippings, it’ll help make reseeding a bit more efficient.
Call the underground utility marking service about 2 weeks prior to your intended work day. Call 1-800-DIG-RITE in St. Louis. Reserve your core aerator while you’re at it. You want a core aerator capable of pulling plugs at least 2 inches deep.
Read the section above on selecting the proper seed. Buy your seed early and don’t be a tight wad. You’re better to buy too much seed than too little.
Now, you’re ready to get to work! All the materials are in the garage. You’ve got your aerator, a full can of gas, you’ve pre-irrigated and you’ve been mowing lower.
Get your BROADCAST SPREADER out of the garage. If you’re still using that rusted-out, nasty-ass old drop spreader, get rid of it…treat yourself to a nice Earthway® spreader with big ass pneumatic tires! (CLICK HERE). Set the opening around 3/8th inch wide for turf type fescue and shade fescue seeds. Set the opening much finer for bluegrass, about 1/8th to 3/16th inch. You’ve got to be careful not to use too much seed in the first few passes, so use some common sense when you spread seed. Before you even make your first aerator pass, spread 20% of your total seed on the worst spots in your lawn. Concentrate on the really barren areas with the first pass of seed. It helps to have an assistant, such as your love wife, or possibly even a teenager.
After “pre-seeding” the really bad and barren spots, fire up the aerator and make 2 passes.
Shut the aerator down, and spread another 20 to 25% of your seed, using the broadcast spreader. Spread over the ENTIRE yard at this time.
If you’ve got the time and energy, make another one or two passes with the aerator, being sure to go in a different direction than the first passes. All the plugs that you pull out of the ground are valuable! As you walk over them and ride over them, they’re smashing down and covering up the seed that you’ve already spread. Plus, you’re creating holes that provide better aeration and water penetration.
By this time, you’re dog-assed tired. But, those extra passes with the aerator will really enhance the speed at which your new turf emerges. Now, spread the last of your seed. If you followed directions, you made at least two passes in good turf, and as many as 4 passes in your problem areas. All the seed that falls into the bored holes, and all the seed that ends up under a “smashed” core, will germinate rapidly.
Next, spread your fertilizer! You can spread lime, nitrogen (N), phosphorous (P) and potassium (K) all on the same day that you do this work. Apply each of them individually. The extra traffic will smash even more cores, covering up even more seed. Note that you can only apply a maximum of 50 lbs of agricultural limestone per 1,000 sq ft! Some soil tests require twice that…and you’ll have to spread that over two fall seasons. Avoid “powdered limestone” and be sure to purchase “pelleted limestone,” lest you burn your turf!
This method is the ABSOLUTE BEST, but if you’re short on time and labor, just aerate the crap out of the yard (as many times as you can stand to), and then spread your seed. This method is OK, but it’s not going to result in the impressive new lawn as the method we espouse herein.
Follow Up Care For New Turf
FERTILIZE YOUR LAWN THE SAME DAY AS YOU RESEED: If you don’t know your ACTUAL SWARD SIZE, then don’t bother with any of this. You’ve read nine pages of horticultural minutia, and you don’t even know your sward size? Well, we’ve seen your type. You’re sure to screw up, and you’ll probably blame us. Think about it…everything we’ve droned on and on about requires “so and so lbs per 1,000 sq ft”. Don’t you think it’s important to know how many thousand sq ft of turf that you have? If you don’t know, you’re not going to seed at the right rate. You’re not going to fertilize properly, either. See the page on our website that deals with this particular issue, called, “Know Your Sward Size” at www.theturfplan.com. Get with the program, Jethro!
You DO NOT NEED TO USE “STARTER” FERTILIZER! Most folks think that regular fertilizer will “burn” new turf, and thus, you need a “starter” formulation. This is completely bogus! Yes, you can burn new turf if you over-apply the nitrogen component. But that’s only true if you spread too much fertilizer (re-read the prior paragraph!). If you properly apply our fall fertilizer you’ll be in great shape. Remember, we NEVER apply more than 1.0 lb of actual nitrogen per 1,000 sq ft of turf. Our fall fertilizer contains 19% nitrogen and it covers 10,000 sq ft for each 50 lb bag. It is up to you to use the proper amount of nitrogen fertilizer. (CLICK HERE)
A “starter” formulation has a lot of phosphorous in it, and less nitrogen. Phosphorous, or “P”, is the macro-nutrient that is required for good root growth. Only about 20% of our soil tests indicate a need for additional P, but about 30% of soil tests show too much P! So don’t just assume you need more P! We sell elemental P (CLICK HERE), if required, or you can use Milorganite®. Milorganite, has a 6-2-0 formula, and it’s a fine starter product (CLICK HERE). It has organic nitrogen with low burn potential, and enough P to help your new turf roots. A 50 lb bag of Milorganite covers 3,000 sq ft.
BAD SPOTS ALONG PAVED SURFACES: Seed won’t grow well if it’s just scattered atop the soil. For the really bad spots, we suggest you cover the seed with either PennMulch® or bagged topsoil. Don’t use straw because it’ll bring a shit load of tough weeds along with it!!! A 50 lb bag of PennMulch will cover 700 sq ft of soil. You’ll have better luck if you rake and scratch up the soil surface, before spreading the seed.
WATERING: Use frequent, LIGHT irrigation to get the seed up and out of the ground. The first couple of days after seeding you can water with your normal irrigation cycles. Be sure that you don’t have running water or channels from your normal irrigation cycle, though, because it will wash seed downslope. From about day 5 to 14 you’ve got to sprinkle the turf babies with frequent, shallow irrigations. It’s critical that the top ½ inch of soil be kept moist, but not wet. If you own an irrigation system, just run it 2X day with about 4 to 5 minutes per station. Don’t water after 4 PM! We can’t tell you exactly what to do for your own yard, so you’ll need to be observant.
If you’re watering with hoses, it’s tougher to do, but you’ll simply have to figure out a way to keep the sprinklers moving. Water each spot about 10 minutes and keep moving the sprinkler’s position.
As the new grass gets taller, you should start watering more deeply and less frequently. Within three weeks after the turf is up, you should be able to water every other day. Be sure to work with Mother Nature. If we get natural rainfalls, then don’t overwater with your irrigation system. Your new turf needs at least 1 inch per week!
MOWING: Stay off the new grass as much as possible while it’s short and fuzzy (less than 1 inch tall). But when it gets to be about 2.5 inches tall, run the mower over it, cutting it around 2.0 inches. The turf can handle the foot traffic, but don’t haul ass with your mower, because the seedlings are really easy to uproot. Make your turns slowly!
FALLING LEAVES: Another reason to start in late August to mid-September is that it is a lot easier to get the new turf up and growing well before turf thickened up before the leaves start to fall. A thick pile of leaves, left for more than 7 to 10 days, can smother your new turf, especially when they get wet. We’ve seen people do a lot of work to renew their lawn, only to get lazy in October and November…and they lose big patches of new turf. We prefer to mow our lawns frequently, using a mulching blade. Grinding those leaves up into tiny pieces is really good for the sward. Obviously, mowing dry leaves is far preferable to mowing wet leaves. Using a blower is convenient, too. If you’re raking the leaves be careful not to be too vigorous because you might actually pull new seedlings out by their roots (kinda like a wax job!).
USING FUNGICIDES TO BOOST EARLY TURF VIGOR: Seedling turf if extremely susceptible to diseases, as because of this, it’s important to “protect” them with a fungicide treatment. This is particularly important with brown patch and turf-type fescue varieties. One particular class of fungicides, called “triazoles” has the added benefit of boosting “plant health.” These fungicides have a remarkable effect upon plant health and vigor, thus you’ll get disease control, along with an added benefit of growth stimulation. The exact mechanism for this is not well understood, but who cares? If it helps the new turf, it’s worth it! We sell two products with the triazole ingredient propiconazole, a hose-end quart (treats 3,200 sq ft) and a 30 lb bag of granules (treats 10,000 sq ft). Either product should be applied when the baby turf is 1 inch tall.
(Note: This blog was originally published on May 11, 2012)