Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Coastal and Tropical South
September, 2007
Regional Report

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Compaction has ruined this lawn but it can be repaired.

Lawn Redo

October will be here in no time, so if you're planning to overseed the lawn with ryegrass or renovate or patch the lawn, make plans now. Weather conditions are more favorable for both gardeners and transplants, with cooling temperatures and plenty of time to get the lawn established.

There's a huge difference between the perennial ryegrass blanket many gardeners grow from fall to spring, and planting St. Augustine, centipede, zoysia, or Bermuda permanent lawns. Seeding ryegrass in fall provides a green winter lawn in areas where turf goes dormant. It also provides protection from heavy winter rains at new home sites or other easily eroded places.

But the best time to start or renovate a permanent lawn depends on where you live and the method you use. Those of you in tropical areas of our region can start our beloved warm-season grasses from seed anytime that sufficient rain can be counted on, or water provided. However, the best time for gardeners on the southern coasts to plant permanent turfgrasses from seed is in the spring, to avoid the possibility of winter damage to tender seedlings.

In fall, gardeners throughout our region will have the most success using the lawn's vegetative parts -- sprigs, plugs, and sod -- to start, repair, or renovate southern turfgrasses.

Begin the Repair Process
If spotty mowing habits, drought, deluge, or traffic patterns have rendered your sunny lawn patchy or even gone in places, act now. Use a stiff-tined garden rake to loosen the damaged areas and remove any dead grass, then top with half an inch or so of compost and work it in. If you don't make your own compost, perhaps you have a leaf pile. Dig around in the bottom of it to find dark brown, crumbly leaf mold. Crush any remaining recognizable leaf parts and use that, or buy a bag of compost or composted manure to improve the soil. Water the areas, then let them rest until time to plant next month.

Not sure what kind of turf you have, or what to buy? Take a chunk of the established lawn to the garden center's horticulturist for identification, and ask when that type of grass will be available. If yours isn't among the choices, go to the healthiest part of the lawn and dig up a few plugs, or gather those trimmings the edger cuts off along the driveway. Line flats of potting soil with these plant parts, keep them a bit moist and in the shade to root. In the next column, I'll give you tips on what to do with them.

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