The Q&A Archives: Seeding a New lawn

Question: I am no gardener, but trying. I am really liking this gardening thing. However, my problem is in the backyard. My lawn died in one section of the yard. I removed all of the grass except for one area that I can not remove. Thick hard grass. I have no idea what to do. I tried planting grass seeds in the entire area and they didn't grow. I watered twice a day and now I have a great L-shaped area of dirt. What can I do I am so lost! Please don't tell me to get a REAL gardener. I want to do this myself.

Answer: Don't give up yet! I think you tried to establish a new lawn at the wrong time of the year. The best time to seed lawns is late spring or early fall (Mid-April or Mid-September) while the soil is warm and rainfall abundant. Early fall lawn seeding is best because the soil is still warm (faster germination), watering will not be as much of a problem, there are fewer weed problems, and the cool season grasses in the mix will have a better chance of getting established.

The best and most even results are usually achieved using a hand crank operated seed spreader. Sow 1/4 of the seed (at the recommended seeding rate) to the entire lawn area. Repeat three more applications, each in a different direction. Rake the seed into the surface of the soil lightly, using a bamboo or fan rake, barely brush the seed under the soil. Roll the entire lawn surface with an empty lawn roller to set the seed in contact with the soil, then cover the seeds with a fine layer of peat moss to help hold in moisture. Water seeds in thoroughly with a fine mist. Once the seed is planted, make sure that the soil is kept evenly moist until germination. This may mean watering 3-4 times a day.

After the seeds germinate, you can water more heavily but less frequently. DO NOT OVER WATER, and do not use a strong spray. You don't want to drown the seeds, nor do you want to wash them away.

Water will continue to be a prime concern for your new lawn for the next 6-8 weeks. About one inch of water per week (rainfall plus irrigation) will be required until your lawn is well established. You may mow a newly seeded turf when the grass is 2 1/2-3 inches tall. Use a SHARP mower so the grass is cut cleanly, and the plants are not pulled out of the ground. Do not cut the grass too short, about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 inches is a good height. After the first mowing you may apply a high nitrogen, turf fertilizer (23-4-6) at one-half the application rate recommended on the bag. Water immediately to prevent possible foliar burn.

Hope this information helps you establish a healthy new lawn!

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