Seeding can be fun or a massive waste of time and money!
While you may be satisfied with the overall appearance of your lawn perhaps something nags at you….. those few thin areas…. those awful bare patches! It is though you have washed your entire car and it is shining like new, but there is one patch of dirt you missed – it just plain sticks out and must be addressed. If you are considering seeding, that is a great idea, but there are a few pit falls to this practice especially in the spring. What might they be you ask?
Spring is normally a time to prevent crabgrass (see an earlier post) and unfortunately, seeding and crabgrass or broadleaf weed control do not mix. Unless you avoid your bare patches or thin areas completely with a spring fertilizer and pre-emergent, your best option is not to avoid sections here and there but not to apply those materials: it is just not practical. Seeding can be done around a lime treatment, and if you use a high calcium lime coated with an organic acid, you get a boost in germination – very nice. In fact, seeding with a natural or regular fertilizer with a high calcium lime is even better. Let’s explore seeding more since the stuff is anything but cheap.
Grass seed comes in many blends, mixtures, hybrid types, general use, conservation mix, shade . . . I could go on and on folks! Have you checked out the price at your local store for a mere 5lbs? Not cheap! If you are looking at annual grasses (they die at the end of the year), now those blends will be affordable because they die in the fall. Although they have uses for quick germination and holding a new lawn from erosion, you will need a more long lasting grass to establish a lawn or fill in bare patches long term. Most folks will opt for a ”shade” blend, or a “play” blend… perhaps “full sun” or a pre-mixed patch type mixed full of fertilizer and a paper emulsion for easy application. My first point is all grass seeds are different and have specific rolls for specific lawn areas, be it poor soil, kids that play, full sun, shade etc. The key to setting yourself up for success instead of failure is to determine what goes where and when in the spring.
You cannot just throw seed on the ground and expect it to grow – that would be like putting your teenager in a car for the first time and saying “well let’s go.. drive”! Not going to happen. Let’s break seeding down into its raw components: timing, location, grass type, watering, and germination enhancing aides (fertilizer, lime, kelp etc).
First, don’t get too anxious. Avoid seeding in April as soil temperatures are too cold for the seed to germinate and things will dry out and die or at best, you have partial germination. Waiting until May is normally your best bet. Don’t jump the gun. Next, what part of the lawn are you addressing? A shaded front, a sandy back lawn that turns into a Kansas dust bowl come July, or a nice front lawn with adequate sunshine? Each grass cultivar (variety) requires special attention and a specific grass type depending upon your need and ability to water or fertilize to the ability of the grass to do well in certain site conditions.
Tall fescue is my absolute favorite grass because new strains make it a thinner bladed grass plus it is adapted to dry sunny conditions all the way to shade! What a great grass! Did I mention I love tall fescue? I use a triple blend of tall fescue as my primary seed grass in my ETC program. Tall fescue is great for dry sections of lawn, sunny areas, shade, and where the kids play. The down side: it does not hold the dark green color of bluegrass and is susceptible to some diseases. Oh well, no one is perfect right?
If you have an irrigated lawn, or a show-case front lawn with decent loam, then I recommend my friend bluegrass with some associates – fine fescue and or some perennial rye. There are many blends for this scenario. Look for blends with 3-4 types for best insect and disease resistance… usually a blend that adds up to 100% … read the label! You get what you pay for here and this stuff is pricey but is the Lexus of lawn grass.
Shade is best adapted to some annual grasses, bluegrass, tall fescue and his cousin fine fescue. There are all kinds of grasses that are tolerant to shade, I emphasis tolerant because one main recurring theme is grass not growing well in shade. Planting turf does not always solve the problem. There may be factors affecting the area like compaction, poor air circulation, or bad pH among other things. This is where a professional like comes into play: you may need some advice first.
You can seed into new topsoil or compost all the way to overseeding after aeration. Generally speaking, overseeding adds turf into an existing lawn, thin areas, or small patches but it does not address bare areas. Bare patches or sections of lawn are best left to renovations small to large where additional loam or compost is added to create a seed bed. Yes, grass likes a nice bed in which to grow, versus sitting on bare soil where it will likely dry out and die. Seeding like that would be a waste of time and money.
So there is my little plug on seeding your lawn this spring. Good luck and maybe you learned a little more today about grass than you knew before?