Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
September, 2001
Regional Report

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Fall is an excellent time for renewal and restoration of a drought-stressed lawn.

Rescuing a Drought-Stressed Lawn

We didn't water our lawn at all this summer because of an expected water shortage. The shortage wasn't as severe as anticipated, but we still refrained from watering the lawn, in the spirit of conservation. It is really in sad shape now. I hope most of it will green up on its own when the rains return, but there are some very thin patches in need of rescue. Early fall, with its reliably cooler air temperatures and abundant rainfall, is the perfect time to renovate a lawn.


Whether your lawn is drought-stressed and thin, or simply has a few weedy, dead, or damaged sections, you can renew and repair it any time between September and mid-November in our region and have a lush, healthy lawn by next spring. Begin by vigorously raking out dead or damaged sections of your lawn and digging out the weeds. Then use a heavy-duty rake to make grooves in the soil surface. Once that's done, sprinkle a handful of all-purpose, granular fertilizer such as 5-10-5 over the area and add a 1/2-inch layer of compost. Rake it in and smooth the area.

Seed Selection

When you've finished with all the preliminaries, you're ready to spread the seed. Purchase good quality fescue or perennial rye, or a custom blend for the amount of shade or sun your site receives. Local nurseries can offer advice if you need help selecting the right varieties for your growing conditions.


You can broadcast the seed by hand, or use a small, hand-held spreader set for grass seed. After the patch has been seeded, gently rake it in, and tamp the soil lightly with the back of the rake to ensure that the seed has come into contact with the soil. Keep the area moist (water daily) until the seedlings begin to germinate. Once the new grass has germinated, you can water less frequently, but be sure to water deeply to encourage a strong root system.


Your renewed turf will benefit from an early winter application of low-nitrogen fertilizer to help it maintain a healthy root system. I use 5-10-10, feeding the first or second week of December to encourage stem and root development.

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