For Release August 28, 2001

Time to Prepare for Lawn Seeding

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

Now that weíve had some good August rains and the weather looks like it will be starting to cool off and be a little more seasonal, itís time to get ready for lawn seeding or overseeding. September, especially early September is usually the best time for getting a new stand of grass started. Unfortunately, the past several autumnal seasons have not been kind to new stands of grass. This year, at least for now, is shaping up better.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that simply spreading grass seed across the soil surface is not an effective way to establish a good stand of grass. Less than one percent of that seed will become well enough established to survive. You need to get that seed at least a little bit into the soil. If you are starting with a new lawn at a new home, or you are tired of the mess that you have and want to just start over, you need to start with a few preparations before you actually plant your seed.

Itís probably best to spray the entire area, except landscape plants, trees, shrubs, etc., with a Roundup type of herbicide. This will kill all existing vegetation and will help you get off to a better start. While you are waiting for the plants to die, you need to take a soil sample and bring it in to my office. We can have a soil test run on your sample and determine if lime, sulfur or starter fertilizer is needed. If so, these need to be applied and worked into the soil prior to seeding.

Seven to ten days after spraying with the herbicide, mow the vegetation short and till the soil. A good seed bed is clean, fine grained and free of clumps and clods. You want to make sure that you are going to have good seed to soil contact. By the time you have the soil ready to plant, you should already have your grass seed purchased. There are only two types of grass that you should be planting. Improved tall fescue would be my first choice, bluegrass my second. I do not feel that we should be planting any rye grass or fescue species other than tall.

If you are planting a prepared grass seed blend, make sure that it is 100% bluegrass or tall fescue. My current favorite blend is the GardenWise Kansas Premium Fescue blend. This is a blend of several improved tall fescue varieties that have performed well in trials at K-State in Manhattan. Bluegrass varieties to look for include: Apollo, American, Unique, Showcase, Brilliant and Jefferson. Avoid Park and Kenblue bluegrass varieties.

If you are seeding into a tilled soil, you can often spread the seed, rake it in and then water it down. If you are overseeding into thin spots in an existing stand then you can either try to rake it into the soil, or use on of the power seeders that can be rented from hardware stores. In either case, it is important to get the seed into the ground and then keep it moist while it is sprouting and germinating. Once the seed starts to swell and sprout it must stay damp or it will die. It is not necessary to mulch the new seeding down with straw. If you have good seed to soil contact and you keep the surface inch of soil moist, it is doubtful that the straw mulch will help much. Mulch will help if there is hot windy weather as the seed is sprouting. But if the weather is hot and windy, itís hard to keep the mulch in place anyway.

Once the grass has reached a little over three inches in height you need to start mowing it at 2.75 to 3 inches. It is important to start mowing it regularly as this will help it tiller out and thicken up. If you need more information on starting a new lawn or general lawn care, stop by the Extension Office at 119 East 9th Street in Junction City or call us at 238-4161.


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