One of the main casualties of a harsh winter is your lawn. Because winter extended well past its usual end date, lawns that would have already been cleaned up and prepped were still covered by snow. Grass near streets, driveways, and sidewalks have been inundated with salt, sand, and other road treatments left behind by melted snow piles. Now that winter has mercifully ended and spring has arrived, it is an excellent time to plant grass seed, (although fall is still the best time to plant grass seed.) Spring’s combination of warming-but-still-moderate temperatures and frequent rainfall provide terrific conditions for new grass to establish itself before the stress of summer heat arrives.
We will discuss how to:
- Prepare Bare Soil
- Plant Grass Seed
- Care For Newly Seeded Grass
Prepare Bare Soil
Getting your soil properly prepared is the vital first step in healthy lawn’s life. Start by cleaning up the twigs and branches that winter’s blustery storms deposited, as well as any stones or rocks. Nurturing healthy soil over a long period of time is your best long-term strategy for a consistently healthy lawn.
Heavy winter snows often compact soil. Like you and I, grass roots need to be able to take in oxygen, nutrients, and water. Compacted soil deprives the roots of the air and water circulation that they need. In their place, weeds will thrive. Compacted soil can benefit from a treatment of gypsum and aeration. Koopman rents lawn aerators that poke a hole in the soil and pull the plug to the surface where it spreads on the top of the lawn. Since grass seed needs seed to soil contact to germinate, this is a good way to get some soil to the surface. We highly recommend using a crabgrass control along with aeration since along with the plug of soil you pull up to the surface, you also pull up dormant crabgrass seed. If you are seeding after aeration, be sure to use crabgrass control specific for seeding.(see below)
If the area to be seeded is in REALLY bad condition, you may have to till the top 1 to 3 inches of soil or add new soil to the surface. This will allow it to provide adequate growing area for the deep roots that new grass seeds need to establish. For small, intermittent sections you can use a garden rake, or for larger sections use a rototiller, like the ones that Koopman rents at it’s Uxbridge, Grafton, and Sharon locations.
While tilling the top 1 to 3 inches, it’s pretty much guaranteed that you will unearth more rocks, stones, and other debris. Make sure to remove these. Next, rake the soil areas to level out low and high spots. Also break up any clumps of dirt that are larger than 1″ in diameter.
Now your soil is ready for fertilizer. Here is where you run into the most important part of the grass seeding process. Typical spring-time, “Step One” fertilizers contain crabgrass killer. The same herbicides that kill off crabgrass seeds will also kill off any grass seed that you put down. NEVER put down seed and traditional “Step one” fertilizer together!
You will need to use either a traditional new seeding lawn fertilizer or new seeding lawn fertilizer with crabgrass preventer, which allows you to apply grass seed on the same day. It is a selective herbicide meaning it will only kill the crabgrass, not the good grass. Two of Koopman’s favorites for this task are made by Jonathan Green.
We recommend a broadcast spreader for most situations. Make sure that you carefully follow the instructions on your fertilizer’s packaging. Once finished, make sure to sweep any fertilizer that landed on any hard surfaces back into the lawn.
Your final step of soil preparation is applying lime to the seed areas. Lime helps to counteract acidic soil and balance its pH level. A terrific option that Koopman offers is Jonathan Green’s MAG-I-CAL™, which is a soluble form of calcium in easy to spread pellets. Just one bag of MAG-I-CAL™ treats 10,000 SQ FT, which would require ten bags of typical lime. Because one bag of MAG-I-CAL™ equals 10 bags of lime, and it works faster, most people have switched to MAG-I-CAL™.
Plant Grass Seed
Choosing grass seed can seem like a daunting task. There are a wide variety of options available. An important factor to keep in mind is that if you plant inferior seed, it won’t matter how many fertilizer and soil treatments you apply. Your lawn will never be any better than the seed it starts from. You can’t get a high quality lawn from low quality seed. This is why selecting a premium grass seed, like the Jonathan Green’s Black Beauty® and Black Beauty Ultra® that Koopman carries, is extremely important.
Premium seed is bred for its deep color, drought tolerance and disease resistance. Inferior seed result in shallower roots and a less vibrant, lighter green color. If you need to economize, buy the best seed and save some money on fertilizer by feeding it fewer times. You’ll be glad that you did!
The next logical question is, “When is the right time to put down grass seed?” New seed will grow best when the soil temperatures are between 50 and 65° F. These temperatures usually occur when the daytime air temperatures are between 60 and 75°. The Fall is actually the best time to seed because temperatures moderate and there are fewer weeds for the grass to fight off.
Put half the grass seed in your spreader. Sow the seeds onto the prepared ground, walking back and forth creating parallel rows. Add the remaining seeds to the spreader and sow these seeds in the opposite direction. For example, if you sow the first half of the seeds walking north and south, walk east and west as you sow the second half. Another great way to seed is using a “slicer seeder” that Koopman rents that drops the seed in front of motorized tines that sinks the seed into the soil enhancing the critical seed to soil contact. This method is especially helpful if you are just “overseeding” or spreading seed that still has some covering of grass.
New grass seeds require an adequate amount of soil to cover them so that they will germinate. To do this, turn a rake upside down so that the tines are facing up and drag the across the seeding spots to cover them. If your yard isn’t level and flat, cover the seeds with a thin layer of seed starter mulch to prevent erosion. Remove it once your grass begins germinating. Refer to your grass seed’s product packaging for information on how long it will take for your new grass to begin growing.
Water the lawn lightly each day to ensure the top 1 inch of soil stays moist. Water for 10-15 minutes with an oscillating sprinkler, but not to the point where there are puddles. It is imperative to not saturate the soil. Continue watering daily until you have mowed the new grass 1-2 times. Once established, water for longer periods less often to encourage roots to reach down for the water they need. Frequent watering does not promote strong roots.
For some more great tips check out our Tips-in-Two video from our very own Darrell Baker!
The best strategy to a great looking lawn is a long term strategy of nurturing healthy soil, and using good seed. The New American Lawn from Jonathan Green articulates how to effectively blend synthetic and organic treatments to achieve this goal. In the long run, you’ll spend less on your lawn and enjoy it more.
By following these time-tested steps for seeding in the spring, you can begin reviving your lawn and strengthening it for the hot the summer months and weed problems that can accompany it. From start to finish, Koopman Lumber has the supplies; tools and expert advice that you need to grow a healthy, durable lawn that will last for years to come. Visit us online at www.koopmanlumber.com or stop in and see us at any one of our conveniently located stores. We’ll be glad to help!