Lawn Care Tips
Lawn care tips from main page September 19 2016.
September 19, 2016 Monday
Looks like lawn care season is upon us and it has really been dry. I have some tips about how to get a decent lawn in the Charlotte area, and I will share some of them with you. I always try to re-seed my yard in very early September because we have lots of Willow Oak trees and I want the grass up before the leaves fall. We used to have to rake the leaves, and using a blower does not do the damage to new seedlings that raking over the new young grass seed would.
1. The soil should be in good working condition which to me means that it should be moist but not wet. We have not seen rain here now for many weeks so the soil is hard as a brick. I happen to have a sprinkler system so I started watering about a week before I wanted to plant. I tested the soil with my hand an a hand trowel. What this means is that if I can dig it with a hand trowel it is probably pretty soft. What does a ball of dirt feel like after digging. It should be dry but cool and certainly not form a solid ball when you squeeze it. If you can squeeze drops of water out, it is too wet.
2. If you do not have lots of trees or neighbors whose trees will blow leaves onto you lawn, then you might want to wait until later in October for reseeding. In general you can plant as late as October 15th. This is an old rule, and it could change because we are seeing more droughts and torrential rains than we used to. This phenomenon is a direct result of climate change.
When I have planted late, the grass will come up during a warm spurt but will often turn yellowish.
Whenever you can, incorporating organic matter into the soil is a good idea. Planting in the fall is the best time of year because you won’t see much upper growth, but the roots will go way deep into the ground. When the soil starts to dry out in the spring, these deep roots that have been growing since early fall will be critical to having a good lawn.
3. Core aerating is a good idea but not totally necessary. Grass seed has to be in contact with the soil or it will not take root. When the machine pulls plugs of soil out of the ground, the plugs will breakdown and sometimes provide a place for grass seed to germinate. Also seed will fall into the core holes and often come up in clumps. To do the job right, one must make multiple passes over the yard so that cores are everywhere. A single pass or do just doesn’t do the job.
4. Once you have planted seed, you need to keep it moist. Here on September 19th it is 86 degrees F. in the afternoon. I have cut back the time on my sprinkler, but have it come on twice a day to keep the soil moist. Back when it was in the 90’s I actually had the sprinklers come on mid day to keep the soil moist.
5. Peat Moss is a great help to keeping the seed moist. This year I have done a lot of hand work on bare spots. When I put down the seed after scarify the soil, I broadcast a thin layer of Sphagnum Peat Moss over the seed. Once wet this helps hold in the moisture.
More later Sept. 19 2016
October 20, 2016
Things don’t always work out as planned. I seeded as above but then had 6 inches of rain a day or two after seeding. I had lots of bare spots where the seed washed up to the low edge of the bare area and that is where all the seed decided to germinate.
I reseeded again and a day or two later we had 5 1/2 inches of rain. The seed washed again and the overall yard was and still is pretty spotty. I had neighbors who core aerated about September first in three weeks they had grass about 4 plus inches high. As happens some of that grass seed fell into the holes that the core aerated made and that did exceptionally well. I believe those holes create a very good environment for the seed. It is cooler in the hole and moisture being an inch or more is better. We have had exceptionally hot and warm fall up to this point.
I also should have mentioned that the area I first concentrated on was next to the sidewalk and came up strong. Many of these days were in the 90’s and all of a sudden a good amount of this new grass wilted over like it was hit by a disease.
Bottom line, I think I will wait until it is a little cooler next year and not try to seed until the first week of September.
Maybe more later.