The Q&A Archives: Seeding lawns

Question: I had a patio done in May and the area around it needed to be re-seeded. My

Answer: Grass seeds germinate best in the spring or in the fall when temperatures are mild or cool. Once the grass seed has been planted, it is important to begin frequent, light irrigation with enough water to keep the soil surface constantly dark and moist. To do this, watering should be performed one to three times daily, depending on how quickly the soil dries. Germinating seed does not have roots yet; therefore, there is no need to water heavily. For smaller areas, it is usually easiest to water the lawn by hand with the hose nozzle set at a heavy mist. Simply sprits the soil in a uniform pattern to a point just before the ground puddles, moving backwards to avoid trampling in the wet seedbed. For larger areas, or for convenience, you may use an oscillating sprinkler (the kind that produces an overhead arch from right to left and back, but be sure to move it before any significant puddling occurs! Leaving a sprinkler in one spot too long may cause seed and soil to erode. We do not recommend the use of sprinklers that shoot water on a plane parallel to the ground because the horizontal force of the water often dislodges seed and soil upon impact with the ground. Make sure that the sprinkler hits all of the seedbed and watch for puddling or erosion in any overlapped areas. If you have an irrigation system, turn it on manually and monitor how long it takes to soak the surface without causing excessive puddling. Then, set the system to run for that amount of time or the next lower increment available.

As for mowing your lawn, most grasses have a range of recommended mowing heights. Stay at the upper end of that range when the lawn is under stressful conditions, such as hot weather or drought, or if you have a shady lawn. In cooler weather, you can cut the grass a little lower. I follow the one-third rule. For a thriving lawn, never cut away more than one-third of the grass blade in any one mowing. If the grass "gets ahead of you" because of wet weather or your busy schedule, move up the cutting height of your mower to the highest possible setting and mow. If clippings are too long and heavy, even at that cutting height, catch them with the bagging unit or clean up after mowing with a leaf rake. Then move the cutting height back to your normal range and cut the lawn again a few days after that first mowing. Since each grass type has a different optimal height, I can't say whether or not your lawn is being mowed at the right height. But most should be mowed 1 1/2 to 3" tall.

You can hire a professional to spray your lawn and outside areas for insects and spiders (ChemLawn, for instance). As for finding a good landscaper, I'm afraid you'll just have to go by recommendations you get in your area. Ask your neighbors, or contact your local Cooperative Extension office (Master Gardener Clinic). Often they will have lists of reputable lawn maintenance people.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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