The Q&A Archives: Replanting and Caring for Lawn

Question: Bought a townhouse in 1994. Lawn (rear yard) is brown and now turned to hay. Have a Dog. The yard is mainly sunny. I would like to re-seed with a good quality quick start seed that will be used in the sunny area (high traffic). I would like a seed that is LOW maintenance and very hardy. What type of seed should I purchase, when do I re-seed, and do I place hay over the re-seeded areas? What does one need to do to get a nice thick green lawn?

Answer: I wonder why the turf is dead? Is it due to heavy traffic and dog "activity?" If so, you need to correct the soil situation if new grass is to thrive there. Dog urine is high in salts, and you can flush them out by watering the soil deeply several times over the course of a couple of weeks. Allow the soil to drain well between waterings. The soil is probably also compacted due to the traffic there. Use a lawn areator to break up the soil and introduce pore space. Add a top dressing of compost, too.

The time to seed is sometime in April, when the soil is workable, and not too wet. First, have a soil test done to see if nutrients and soil pH need adjustment, and correct levels accordingly. If the grass is at least 50% dead, you'll need to till and rake the lawn area to remove the spent sod and smooth the soil. Tall fescues are great, hardy grasses that withstand wear, high salt content, are less likely to produce thatch, have low disease potential and need less nitrogen than many turf types. To stay healthy, they should be mowed no lower than 2", so if you like a short lawn, you'll need to go with something else. Check with a local lawn care company or Master Gardeners (ph# 908/526-6293) for their advice in choosing a species/variety, since you're in a "transition zone" for many grass types. Master gardeners can also help you with your soil test.

New lawns need regular watering in order for the seed to sprout evenly. I do recommend some kind of mulch over the seed to prevent erosion to discourage birds from eating it.

To keep your lawn looking good, remember: it's really a garden of grass, and even though it's tough, it needs regular care to stay that way. Feed, water and mow your turf as specified -- once you have one picked out, we can give you instructions on it's care. Best of luck!

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