The rain! The rain! It’s on its way! I’m not sure whether to jump up and down in glee because the parched garden will finally get a drink or be down in the mouth because I don’t want summer to end and I know that once the rains start they just don’t let up. Ah well, either way it’s inevitable.
September is typically a good time to do projects around the yard because it’s not too hot and if you’re doing any planting then you have a helping hand in the watering. The damp weather and cooler temperatures also make it an excellent time to plant a lawn or over seed an existing lawn.
If you’re planning a new lawn then you probably have already prepped the site, removing any stones, made it nice and level with a slight slope away from areas such as patios, buildings, pathways, etc. Your soil base can be what is called ‘lawn sand’, usually a mix of sand for drainage and top soil and/or compost, about 4 inches deep or more. Try to use something more substantial than straight sand.
To get root growth off to a good start use a turf starter fertilizer that is higher in phosphorous than nitrogen. Spread this lightly before you spread the seed.
It pays to use a good quality seed that is formulated for our climate, not back east and not in California. It should also be ideally suited to your site, whether it will be your pristine front lawn, a hard wearing back lawn or a shady area.
Different grass mixes require different spread rates so check the package and don’t skimp, thinking you can stretch it out further. In fact, buy a little extra than what you think you’ll need (and this isn’t just a sales pitch) because there are always patches that don’t germinate or the birds pilfer some so you may have to over seed some areas later. You can use a spreader or if it’s a small patch I usually do it by hand. Make sure it’s not a windy day otherwise you’ll be doing a lot of weeding in your garden beds!
Once spread I use an empty lawn roller (we have them at Cultivate for members to borrow and if you’re not a member you can certainly be one!) over the area to press the seed down. This brings it in firm contact with the soil so that it is less apt to dry out. I also use a light top dress of soil for added protection against bird buffets and to help keep the seed damp.
Grass seed needs to stay moist once spread. If it dries out then it won’t germinate. Whether it’s an in ground sprinkler system on timer or the old fashioned sprinkler on the end of the hose, you must keep the seed moist. Even with an automatic system you need to have it come on probably a few times during a sunny day. Once in the morning isn’t enough.
Now comes the hard part. The waiting. And keeping people and animal traffic off it. After a week to ten days you should see some green fuzz although some mixes such as fescues are slower growing and may take a bit longer. Watch for bare patches and throw down some extra seed to fill in.
Once the grass is about 3 inches long you can venture out with your mower but make sure the blades are sharp so you don’t pull the seedlings out of the ground and until it becomes firmly rooted don’t cut too close to the ground.
There, now you will have a nice lush lawn come next spring. And with that comes endless mowing. Hmmm…maybe a rock garden would’ve been a better plan.