The Bay Gardener
By Dr. Frank Gouin
Sow Seed Now for a Lush Lawn in ’07
Nobody ever said growing grass was easy
Warm days and cool nights, combined with shorter daylight hours, are what the doctor ordered for the favorite grasses of Chesapeake Country: bluegrass and fescues. They’re called cool-season grasses because they germinate, produce roots and lap up nutrients once summer’s heat shuts down. If you are considering renovating your lawn and can’t afford to buy turf, now is the time to sow grass seed.
For Southern Maryland, I strongly suggest using the improved fescue grasses that develop deep roots and become more drought tolerant than bluegrasses.
Before you sow, prepare the soil. Lawn grasses grow best when soil pH is between 6.3 and 6.8, with medium to high levels of nutrients. You’ll know where your soil stands if you send it to a reputable soil testing laboratory, such as A & L Eastern Agricultural Laboratory.
The best lawns also grow on soils with a minimum of three percent organic matter, which can be easily spaded or rototilled into a depth of six inches. When the grass roots penetrate deep into the soil, grasses become more drought tolerant and recover more quickly when stepped on.
If your soil meets minimum requirements for cool season grasses, spread a minimum of four cubic yards of compost per 1,000 square feet over the existing lawn before seeding.
If your soil test indicates low limestone, nutrients or organic matter, then incorporate the lime, fertilizers and compost into the soil by rototilling or spading. Do this a week or two before seeding, so that the land has time to level and settle smoothly.
If your current lawn is heavily infested with perennial weeds like Bermuda grass, also called wine grass, nutsedge, wild chrysanthemum, ground ivy or honeysuckle, you’ll have to work harder. You must kill the roots of these weeds before you disturb the soil. Kill them by making twice-weekly applications of glyphosate (Roundup) and not disturbing the existing lawn until it has turned brown. This assures that weed roots and rhizomes were completely killed and will not return to haunt you.
Then you’ll have to till and compost your lawn for reseeding.
Improve germination by keeping the soil surface moist with two to three light waterings each day for the first week. Also spread a thin layer of straw, sufficient to form a 20 percent shade cover over the soil, to retain moisture. As seeds germinate, reduce the number of daily waterings. Once space between the glass blades begins to fill in, limit watering to two- or three-day intervals with more water each time. Each week at this point, apply one inch of water per acre. That’s about the amount of water needed to fill a tuna can placed under a sprinkler.
Ask Dr. Gouin your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org. All questions will appear in Bay Weekly. Please include your name and address.