Spruce Up Your Yard this Fall

reseeding lawn fall best time

 If you were wandering around my yard, you would find an abundance of mint and coneflowers. You also would find patches of browning grass and exposed dirt.

The hot and dry weather has only made it worse. Linn County Master Gardener Judy Stevens provides some guidance on how to take care of your lawn.

Q :My lawn needs some help. When is the best time to refurbish a lawn?
A : With the recent drought following a wet spring your lawn may not look as attractive as you would like.

You are in luck since fall is the best time to seed your lawn. Mid-August to mid-September is the best time to establish a new lawn from seed. The typical warm days and cool nights of fall plus the fall rain, hopefully, will promote rapid turf grass growth.

Q :How do I prepare the planting site?
A : A soil test is always a good start to see if your soil needs any particular amendments. If no soil test is done, apply a starter lawn fertilizer, level the planting area, sloping the soil away from buildings and sidewalks with a rake.

Q : How do I apply the seed?
A :The seed can be applied by hand or a drop-type seeder. If using a seeder, apply one half of the seed in one direction and the other at a right angle to the first application. Lightly rake the area to cover the seed 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Rolling or tamping the area will ensure good contact between the seed and soil.

Q :What type of grass seed should I use?
A : The type of grass seed selected should match the area to be seeded. Determine if your site is sunny, shady or partially shady. For sunny areas, the best choice is Kentucky bluegrass. Shady areas will need to be seeded with fescue seed. Ten-percent perennial rye grass should be added to your selected seed to help establish the lawn since bluegrass and fescue are slow to germinate.

Q :What is overseeding and how is it done?
A : Overseeding is applying seed to an existing lawn to increase the actual number of plants and make the lawn more lush, but just throwing grass seed onto your existing lawn doesn't work because there is no soil and seed contact. One method of obtaining better soil to seed contact is to aerate the lawn using a core aerator, which will remove plugs of soil from the yard. Go over the lawn several times so there are 20 to 40 holes per square foot, apply the seed and drag the area with a piece of chain link fence to break up the soil cores and mix the seed into the soil.

Q :How often should I water?
A : For new seed, the upper 1 inch of soil should be kept moist, which means watering one to two times per day. When the grass is 1 to 2 inches tall, reduce watering frequency, but water more deeply.

Q :What do I do about weeds in the newly seeded area?
A : You may apply a broadleaf weed killer six weeks after the grass seed sprouts.

Q :What can I do if I have seeded and overseeded and still cannot establish a lawn in the shade?
A : Some areas of your yard may simply be too shady to establish a lawn. As your trees grow, the shade becomes more intense and tree roots compete for the moisture. The only solution for these areas will be ground cover or organic mulch. 

This article was compiled from material from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Richard Jauron with horticulture, Laura Sternevers with Reiman Gardens Pamphlet: Choosing a Grass Species for Iowa Lawns, and Grass Selection for Iowa Lawns

Questions on gardening? Contact Elizabeth Ward, eward@iastate.edu.

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