By Paul Schnare
Monday, August 4, 2003
The best time to seed your lawn in the Heartland with a cool season grass (bluegrass, fescue, and rye) is between August 15 and October 15. I have found that over the years the closer you seed to August 15, the more successful you will be. First, by seeding sooner rather than later, new grass plants have more time to get their roots established before the onset of cold temperatures. Secondly many landscapes contain a lot of trees. It is important to get new grass established before leaves fall.
I would suggest you seed with a combination of turf type fescues and bluegrass. Fescues are clump grasses. If for some reason part of the lawn is damaged, it is slow to spread out and revegetate the damaged area. Bluegrass spreads out by underground roots. Therefore damaged areas are revegetated rapidly.
If you are seeding a new lawn, use about 9 pounds of fescue per thousand square feet and 1 pound of bluegrass. If you are overseeding an existing lawn, use 5 pounds of fescue per thousand square feet and 1 pound of bluegrass.
You should also use a starter fertilizer as you seed, ever if you are overseeding an existing lawn. The middle number phosphorous should be higher than the first number nitrogen in the fertilizer combination.
Most lawns in the Heartland are acidic, so an application of agricultural lime at the rate of 40 to 50 pounds per thousand square feet is also suggested. This will help raise the pH, which in turn makes nutrients more available to new grass seedlings as they mature.
The easiest way to seed your lawn is apply the seed, fertilizer, and lime to your lawn area. Then go over the lawn twice, in two different directions with a verticutter. Most rental stores have these machines available. This machine cuts grooves in the soil and places the seed in these grooves. In essence it puts the grass seed into the soil, instead of leaving it on the soil surface. You will get much better germination with the procedure.
Next if your lawn area is bare, cover it with two bales of straw per thousand square feet. If you have seeded over an existing lawn the use of straw may not be needed.
Finally, start watering your seeded areas on a daily basis until the new grass has emerged and has been mowed once or twice. Be sure to mow the new grass when it is tall enough to need mowing. Mowing will encourage maturation of new grass plants, and make them hardier for the onset of cold weather.
A month after seeding, fertilize your new lawn with a high nitrogen fertilizer such as a 28-4-4. Then a month later, apply a typical winterizer fertilizer. This should get your lawn off to a great start for next spring.