For Release August 27, 2006
New Lawn Planting Steps
AGRI-VIEWS by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent
September is generally considered to be THE month to plant lawn grass seed. In general, the earlier in the month you plant, the better off you are. While you may have to water a little bit more, weather depending, to get that grass germinated and growing, we know that the longer those new grass plants have to grow before cold weather, the better established the lawn will be going into winter and the better it will look next spring. I should point out that September is the month to plant IF you are planting tall fescue or bluegrass. Warm season grasses like buffalo or Bermuda grass need to be planted in late May or June.
There are several key factors in making sure that you have success in getting a new lawn established. The first is timing and we’ve already talked about that. Next is to make sure that you have a grass friendly soil. Then only way to be sure of this is to bring in a soil sample and get it analyzed. With all of the new home construction, we are finding a lot of new homes being built in what had previously been native prairie. These native prairie soils are often very low in phosphorus. So low that new grass plants will germinate and then just sit there with two or three leaves. Without the proper starter fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus, you won’t be successful. The native grasses that had been growing in those prairies got along very well with low phosphorus levels. Tall fescue and bluegrass will not thrive on those low phosphorus soils!
Next is the selection of your grass seed. My first choice is an improved tall fescue variety or blend of several varieties. K-31 is not an improved tall fescue and while it can certainly work in some locations, I prefer the improved varieties. My second choice is Kentucky bluegrass. I see a lot of grass seed for sale in many stores that you should NOT be planting. This includes creeping red fescue, hard fescue, chewings fescue, sheep fescue, annual rye or perennial ryegrass. These species are not well adapted to our Kansas weather extremes. I had some perennial ryegrass contamination in one corner of my yard for the past several years. It did not survive this summer’s heat and drought. For a listing of preferred tall fescue and bluegrass varieties and blends contact my office.
When you plant your grass seed, you need to make sure that it is worked in to the soil. Sample scattering grass seed across the yard will seldom work. It needs to be raked in or placed in good seed to soil contact with a power seeder, slit seeder, grass drill or some similar planting device. You don’t want the seed buried, but just lightly below the surface, no more than ½ inch deep. You don’t have to spread straw mulch when you plant a lawn. It can help maintain moisture for the seed, but it isn’t necessary to get a lawn established.
What is necessary to get the lawn established is water. Once that grass seed starts to germinate, it can not be allowed to dry out, or it will die. Planting into warm soils in early September allows the seed to germinate in seven to ten days. During this time you may have to water lightly once or twice a day to keep that seedbed moist. As it germinates and starts to grow, you can start reducing how often you irrigate. If you don’t want to water the new seeding, be aware that it may be weeks before the lawn starts to get going, depending on the weather. You will probably also get quite a few small weed seedlings growing with the new grass. That’s normal and don’t worry about it. Let’s get the grass plants well established and mowed about three times before we start trying to kill the weeds with herbicides in late October.
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