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Restoring lawns and gardens back to their pre-winter glory is high on many a homeowner's landscaping to-do list. In much of the country, the best times to tackle lawn projects are when temperatures are moderate, like in spring and fall. These seasons also mark the best time to seed and fertilize.
Planting and fertilizing new grass seed should be done when frost is no longer a concern and before frost arrives if you are planting in autumn. According to Roger Cook, a landscape contractor and contributor to This Old House magazine, sowing lawn seed should be done when the soil is warm, the daytime temperatures are moderate and you can keep the new seeds quite moist at all times.
While grass seed can be applied in the summer, it is more challenging to get the seeds to take root and thrive at this time, as water is more likely to evaporate under the hot sun. Also, many weeds germinate in the heat of summer. As a result, the weeds can infiltrate areas of the lawn where you planted, compromising the look of your lawn.
The process of reseeding and fertilizing your lawn is relatively similar if you decide to do so in late spring or early fall.
• Rake the parts of the lawn you plan to seed and remove any debris or rocks.
• Apply fertilizer to the cleared planting area. Use a rake or tiller to break up the soil and distribute the fertilizer to a depth of roughly two to four inches. Speak with a landscaper about which type of fertilizer you will need depending on where you live. Many fertilizers contain extra phosphorous to stimulate root growth in the lawn.
• Moisten the prepared area and let the soil settle. You want the soil damp but not so wet that it causes the newly applied fertilizer to run off.
• Begin to sow the grass seed according to the rate indicated on the seed bag for the type of grass you will be growing. Choose a grass seed that will thrive in your climate. Certain seeds are more tolerant of drought and sunlight, while other species are better for shady areas or damper climates. Again, if you have any questions, consult with a lawn and garden center.
• Spread the seed with a broadcast spreader. Some lawn experts recommend spreading the seed in parallel rows and then repeating the process again in rows set at a right angle to the first series of rows for the best chances of seed coverage. The seeds then can be raked into the soil, covered with a little more soil and patted down.
• Water to keep the seeds damp. This may require watering twice or more per day until the seeds begin to germinate. Covering the seeds with about 1⁄4 inch of straw also can help keep the seeds moist, deter seed scavengers and prevent soil erosion. Remove the straw once the grass begins to grow.
• Roughly four weeks after the seeds have started to grow, apply another round of fertilizer to replenish the top layer of soil with nutrients that may have washed away from the constant watering.
Homeowners can employ a similar process to overseed a lawn in the hopes of producing a thicker, more attractive landscape. Any thatch and debris should be raked away, and the top layer of the lawn surface can be gently aerated. Top dress the lawn with a very thin layer of new soil and compost.
Broadcast the seed over the prepared lawn and lightly rake the new seeds to help them settle into the soil. Apply fertilizer and water the lawn frequently to keep the new seeds moist.
Once the seed has established itself, you can water the lawn for longer periods and less frequently to help develop strong roots. Wait for the lawn to reach a height of three to four inches before the first cut of the season.
Many homeowners like to take on the challenge of seeding and preparing their lawns. But some may find the task is best left to the professionals. GT154061