Now that the snow has melted and the streets are full of salty grime, we are once again faced with the harsh reality of the damage left from a hot, dry summer.
If your lawn is anything like mine, there is more dead grass than there is healthy turf. Although now is not the time to be thinking about watering, fertilizing, and mowing, it is a good time to be thinking about overseeding. If you have a less than perfect lawn and would like to do something about it, here are some tips to help get you started in the right direction.
Dormant seeding is best completed sometime between November and February. Grass seeds are not active and will remain that way until the ground thaws later this spring. However, recent research has shown that grass seeds sown in February germinate faster than seeds planted in the other dormant months. One study found that seeds sown in February grew to cover 73 percent of the bare soil by mid-April . December sown seeds covered just 47 percent of the soil, January 53 percent, and March only 50 percent. However, a month later, both the February and March seeding had 80 percent coverage. Likewise, in all cases the dormant seeded grasses had stored energy, established root systems and were better able to handle the tough dry growing conditions of summer.
Dormant seeding is a simple process. To ensure success, there has to be good seed to soil contact. Simply rake small bare areas or work the ground with a verticutter, core aerator or rototiller. Next, spread the correct amount of seed. As a general rule of thumb, fescue and bluegrass should be planted no more than 6 to 8 pounds per thousand square feet and slightly less if there is already some healthy existing grass. Once planted, rake or pack the area lightly to encourage good seed to soil contact. Finally, be patient and let Mother Nature do the rest.
Keep in mind, that the use of pre-emergent herbicide is not recommended for areas where seed has been sown. Although crabgrass is a rather invasive weed when allowed to grow, having healthy grass can choke it out. If you do find crabgrass beginning to grow in the seeded areas, apply post-emergent herbicides after you have mowed the seedlings at least three times.
Although the grass may always seem greener on the other side of the fence, it does not have to stay that way. A full lush green lawn begins with good seed establishment. If you have areas in the lawn that look less than full, now is a great time to dormant seed. Remember to prepare the seed bed well and use the correct seeding rate then let nature finish the job.
-- Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.