Posts Tagged ‘tall fescue’

Your lawn, the importance of soil and grass seed

Grass seed and Soil

Your lawn is too sandy, it’s full of clay, it’s compacted, or perhaps the topsoil is thinner than the crust of your favorite pizza?  I’ve heard it all before.  I have good news friend!  You can grow a lawn in just about anything, the problem becomes when the weather gets real dry or real wet, then you have an issue.  Furthermore, the types of grass you have present is of equal or perhaps more value than the medium it is rooted in today.  Sure there are ideal scenarios, but who gets a generous contractor that dumps loads of loam, rich in color and organic matter at your new house?  I won’t even answer that one.  Lawns fall into an assortment of sorrow from the new house with its fresh driveway and stony, gravel like appearance to the old meadow now turned into a housing development where you might actually retain some loam!

How can we improve that sandy beach of a lawn and get some organic matter where it counts?  There are many ways.  First, recycle your clippings whenever possible back onto the lawn.  Topdressing in the fall or spring can add a nice layer of organic matter, plus you can seed over it later.  Topdressing is a great way to speed up the organic matter content in your soil.  Soil amendments like sea kelp and compost tea also help promote beneficial bacteria and other microbes, enhancing the material surrounding the grass roots.  Core aeration reduces compaction and helps with those soils high in clay among having many other benefits.

Your existing lawn does not mean you cannot add more or better suited grasses by overseeding and aerating.  Adding superior grasses can improve your existing lawn each season, changing the composition over time to better tolerate drought, shade, or improve color.  The right grass in the right location can mean a world of difference when high heat arrives or your soil is below average.  Turf grasses vary in where they prefer to grow or tolerate.  I often see shaded turf in full sun only to brown out early in the season due to excessive heat, never mind the water holding capacity of the soil underneath.  Blends of grass seed are numerous, and the right combination for the site is of utmost importance.  Some turf grasses have a great color but may be susceptible to disease, while others tolerate shade or heat.  Having the right blend of grass seed present in your home lawn would be akin to the right oil viscosity in your engine.

Before you throw up your hands and get a quote from a paving company to destroy your lawn, pause on the options and see what can be done this year.  I have found most lawns can be salvaged and improved upon without starting from fresh, bare loam.  Grass may seem simple enough, but having the right harmony with the soil to grass varieties is another story altogether.

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Fall Seeding replaces crabgrass

A very common question I hear is, “When is the best time to seed your lawn?”.  My answer is usually the same due to a few basic factors.  Fall wins over spring for a few key reasons.  The first being the soil is already nice and warm- ideal for faster seed germination with sufficient moisture.  Spring soil is usually cold and even after weeks of warm weather- soil temperatures do not reach into the low 50′s until mid to late May.  Any colder and the seed tends to stay dormant and dry out.  Therefore, fall is perfect for seeding since the soil temperature is already much higher than this- allowing for faster germination periods which means a better lawn for you.

The second reason is the competition- crabgrass and annual weeds like spurge and oxalis are just germinating in the spring- growing and fighting for space, light, water, and nutrients.  Spring seeding and especially summer seeding can often spell disaster because crabgrass will grow so much faster than the seed you planted.  This is an unfair competition because soil laden with crabgrass seed will win every time- even more so in hot, dry weather.  In the fall, these plants are all dying!  Hurray!  Yes, the bad guys are dying and cannot harass your new grass.  Therefore, you have two very big reasons to seed in the fall over the spring because its your time and money.  Why not take advantage of the next 6 to 8 weeks and do a little lawn fixing?  It will be an entire year before you see can seize this opportunity again.

If you seed now, you can apply a crabgrass barrier next spring and help suppress all the bad guys I mentioned above.  If you wait to seed until spring, you will have to forego crabgrass control- unless you pay for a unique product that is VERY expensive which allows seeding and a crabgrass barrier to be applied at the same time.  For most folks, seeding in the fall and applying a solid barrier in the spring makes the most sense- don’t make the fight uphill, go with the flow and take advantage of each season according to the life cycles and maximum benefit you can derive!  Get seeding today!

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A Short Word On Spring Seeding

Published by JKeefe on April 25th, 2010 - in Seeding & Overseeding

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?

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