The Q&A Archives: grass

Question: What is the best way to start a new lawn?

Answer: You can seed a lawn in Illinois in late April and May but seeding in mid-August to mid-September (around Labor Day) is better. Annual weeds do not have time to produce a crop of seed, and the grass has the entire fall and the early spring to become established before the heat and stress of summer. Rototill the area to bright the soil to a very fine granular condition and remove all clods, sod, rocks and trash during final surface preparation. Settle loose soil with a light rolling. Adjust the weight of the roller so that only your sole prints appear on the soil surface. If soil is not firm or is not fine-textured, seed will migrate deeply into it and the seedlings won?t emerge. For even coverage and seeding, sow half the seed in one direction and the other half at right angles to the first. Do this by hand or with a mechanical seeder. Lightly rake and roll to incorporate the seed into the soil, but don?t bury them more than 1/4 inch. Use organic mulch, including hydro-mulch, (wood fiber sprayed with water onto the new lawn surface) to hold moisture, reduce erosion and hasten germination. Be sure to apply it evenly and no thicker than 3/8 inch. For general lawn use under moderate irrigation and fertility levels, use a blend of Kentucky bluegrass or one of its improved cultivars, creeping red fescue or its chewings variety, and perennial ryegrass. A typical blend consists of about 60 percent Kentucky bluegrass, 30 percent red or chewings fescue, and 10 percent perennial ryegrass. The perennial ryegrass is not permanent and serves as a nurse grass, making its presence in the blend optional. Seed Kentucky bluegrass/fescue/perennial ryegrass blends at the rate of 2 to 3 pounds per 1000 square feet. For a healthy lawn, mow twice a week and don?t catch the clippings. Mowing frequently enough to remove only 1/3 of the grass blade eliminates the need to catch clippings. Instead, allow them to decompose on the lawn to return nitrogen to the soil. Clippings don't cause thatch! Keep mower blades sharp to avoid tearing the blade and the whitish cast to the lawn that results from it. Mow Kentucky bluegrass/fescue/ryegrass blends no lower than 1-1/2 inches. The Kentucky bluegrass will tolerate lower clipping, but the fescues and ryegrasses will thin when mowed short. Hope this information helps you plant a healthy lawn!

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