The making of a city lawn is indeed a problem to gardeners, home owners and park superintendents. With dogs prowling around and other undesirable company, it is something of a stunt to make a good lawn, And, yet, a satisfactory lawn is the starting point for any successful garden.
New lawns can be made in the Spring or Fall, although Fall is considered the best season of the year in the Eastern section of this country. However, no matter when you make a new lawn there are certain steps that must be followed if you want a deep root system and a thick, healthy top growth of sod. The success or failure of any lawn is dictated by the care and intelligence used in preparing the ground in which it is to grow. Either a clay or sandy loam containing an abundance of humus is the preferred soil. It. should have a granular texture and be friable enough to retain moisture without. remaining sticky. hut not becoming powdery when it dries. Such a soil, six to eight inches deep, will provide a most favorable home for grass roots. If the sub-soil needs correcting, it should he done at the time of setting the grade.
Soil Testing Is Worthwhile
How much loam and native peat to add to a heavy or thin sub-soil is an individual problem. I advise having samples of soil taken from different parts of the lawn and having the soil tested to see what is lacking. For feeding lawns, a complete fertilizer, such as 8-0-2, is usually best for established grass. We apply fertilizer at the rate of 20 pounds per 1000) square feet in the Spring, 10 to 15 pounds in June and 10 to 15 pounds in the Fall. A soil which has a pit of 7.0 is neutral; most grasses like a pH of 0.5 to 5.5. Kentucky Blue Grass is usually a neutral grass, but bent grasses are happy on the acid side.
A good mixture of grasses which stand well under city conditions is composed of Chewings Fescue, Domestic Rye Grass, Kentucky Blue Grass, Red Top and Colonial Bent. Sow the seed at four to five pounds per 1000 square feet.
If sowing by hand, sow half lengthwise and half crosswise. Your local seedsman can provide you with the best seed. It is wise to grub-proof your lawn before sowing. Roll to imbed the seed, and do this before and after sowing the seed to assure perfect contact between seed and soil. This step is essential, and should not be omitted. Then water thoroughly, using a very fine spray. Continue to water daily until seed germination is complete; then water as needed, but always thoroughly; light sprinkling encourages shallow roots.
Established lawns need regular care if they are to remain beautiful. This care includes such things as plant feeding, reseeding and proper mowing and watering. In the Eastern sections, the Fall offers an ideal season for renovating established lawns, since it enables gardeners to combine an effective weed control program with lawn care. I give three feedings to our lawn. I have used such fertilizers as 9-0-0, 8-0-2, 5-10-5 and cotton seed meat in the early Spring, the last of March or first of April. I always test the soil. Then in June, I apply a 4-12-4 formula at the rate of 10 pounds to every 1000 square feet. Do not stimulate your lawn during July and August unless you are forced to do so. In September, I give it either 4-12-4 or bone meal. This seems to take care of the rout system and keeps the turf flourishing.
When feeding a lawn in the Spring or at any time, be sure your grass is dry; then spread the fool and soak it in. I have never burned a lawn with fertilizer, because I have always looked out for that possibility. In mowing, do not cut your grass shorter than l i z inches. Your last. cutting of the season is usually rather short. so that leaves will not lie and smother the grass during the Winter; this practice prevents snow mold from developing.
Weed Insurance – Dense Growth
A dense, vigorous turf is the best insurance against weed infestation. A few years ago weeds were a major lawn problem. To- day, however, it is no longer necessary to spend hours of back-breaking labor pulling and digging troublesome weeds. With the use of various chemicals, dandelions, common plaintain, wild carrot and chickweed are easily eliminated; but be sure to “stick” to the instructions on the container. Crab grass control, in many instances, is a little more difficult.
Chinch bugs on established lawns should be looked for in June and early July and again in August and September. The use of a stomach poison is ineffective as the chinch bug is a true sucking insect and so does not chew the vegetation. The method of directly checking the invasion is by contact poisons that suffocate the chinch bug. The lawn should be cut closely before treatment, so the dust will settle close to the grass crowns; brush the dust in briskly with a corn broom. Damaged areas should be raked out and reseeded with a good lawn seed in the usual manner.
During the past several years the Japanese beetles have done considerable damage to turf. The grass turns brown and dies. It is severed at the roots so that it can be literally rolled up like a carpet. If the sod is removed at the right time, a colony of the feeding grubs will be found. The presence of grubs is often disclosed by flocks of birds such as grackles and starlings. In the country, skunks are fond of the grubs; so where there are damaged lawns, the way to get rid of them is to destroy the grubs.
It’s lawn-cutting time as if anybody has to be told. At this time, though, the home gardener realizes more than ever how important it is to have his mower in good working condition: In my travels I’ve been asked a number of times about the care of mowers, how to keep them in good condition, so I decided to ask a man who should really know at my local lawn mower shop.
When I dropped in on Al Huttar he was literally up to his neck in mowers that were waiting for repairs. But he graciously gave his time for what he termed as “the good of the cause.” Here’s what he had to say:
“Most troubles can be avoided if the people take their machines to a competent service man once a year. Like most service men, we prefer to have them in the winter when we have the time to work on them. In addition to sharpening, we fix a lot of minor things which often saves a lot of trouble when the spring comes.
“A good many ills could also be avoided if the mower owner would leave well enough alone and let a competent man make the major adjustments. You know, it’s very easy to ruin a good mower if for example – the reel blades don’t meet the cutting blade exactly right. This is nothing for the gardener to fool with. One adjustment the gardener can, and should, make is the height of cut. On reel mowers this is done by raising or lowering the roller – raise the roller to lower the cut. On rotaries, this adjustment is made by changing the position of the wheels.
“The commonest cause of engine failure is definitely ‘tinkering.’ When a mower leaves the store it’s in good working condition; nine times out of ten it will stay that way if you don’t fool with it. I think more people would be happier with their power mower if they’d leave their screw driver and pliers inside when cutting the lawn.
“However, there are a lot of things you can do to keep the mower in good condition, although they may be a lot less glamorous than taking the carburetor apart.
Keep Mower Clean
“0ne thing you can do, even if you don’t know the first thing about machines, is to keep the mower clean. By this I mean that after you use it, remove any matted grass on the blade and also remove any grass that may have wound around the reel, wheels, etc.
“Also, I’ve yet to hear of any machine that was harmed by too much oil and grease in the right places. The instruction manual you get with the machine will tell you where you can oil and how often. If the manual is lost you can usually find it in PDF form at the manufacturers website.
“On gasoline engines you should frequently check to see that there is a little oil in the air filter. This is extremely important.
“It’s also important to check the oil in the crankcase, just as you do in your automobile. You may have to add some from time to time, but I don’t think you will have to change it but once a year.
2 Cycle Engines
“On two cycle engines, be sure there is the correct mixture of oil and gasoline. The best way to do this is to mix about 5 gallons at a time; this should be enough for the whole season. Be sure to use a clean can when filling your machine. We had one machine that came in so gummed up that the pistons wouldn’t move. We found out that the lady had used an old can for filling the gas tank. I don’t know what chemical reactions were involved, but boy what a mess that engine was in!
“It would be a good idea if you kept a spare spark plug around. Make sure, though, that it is the correct one for the engine. If the engine fails, try the new plug. If this doesn’t help, take it to a mechanic.
“Very briefly, that’s about it. By the way, how’s your mower working?”
Question: Our Kentucky bluegrass really takes beating during the summer. How much should we water and fertilize? Do you have any lawn care maintenance tips you can offer? Marc, Franklin, Tennessee
Answer: Marc, summer is the real test for any Kentucky bluegrass-fescue lawn. No matter how well it thrives during cool weather, through the hot months protecting the turf from serious damage is about all that can be expected. Once warm weather arrives, opportunities for improving the lawn are limited, and treatments should be carefully chosen and administered, since carelessness may destroy the turf area already established.
Good Lawns Made in Spring and Fall
The most productive efforts toward maintaining a good lawn can be made in the spring and fall. Resolutions to fertilize and lime properly during those seasons are the best approach to summer enjoyment.
It is natural for Kentucky bluegrass and other cool-season grasses to turn rather yellow or brown when temperatures are high. Attempting to avoid this natural loss of color by fertilizing and watering throughout the summer may defeat the purpose by keeping the grass soft and more subject to disease and heat injury. It also encourages summer weeds such as crabgrass. The healthy lawn will not be injured permanently by typical summer weather, and the average lawn maker should relax rather than try such practices as regular watering throughout the season.
While most lawns will revive after prolonged hot, dry periods, those in very sandy soils or warm exposures and ones closely clipped may be ruined unless judiciously watered. Water should be applied slowly and uniformly until it moistens the soil as deep as it is dried out. This amount should enable the grass to survive 7 to 10 days of additional hot, dry weather. Apply the water only as fast as it will enter the soil. For areas that absorb slowly, a soaker hose or some other irrigation device to control the flow may be necessary. The sod on compacted spots can be opened by cultivation with lawn aeration.
Fertilizing The Summer Lawn – Wait
For best results, fertilize the lawn in September and early spring. Fertilization during the warm weather of late spring and summer may help keep the grass green, but it encourages weeds and sometimes leads to serious turf damage. The experienced turf grower may recognize occasional need for summer fertilizing, but he too must exercise great care in fertilizing at this time.
Shaded lawn areas or other problem spots may benefit from light applications of fertilizer during summer. However, beware of scorching the grass. For 1.000 square feet, 4 to 8 pounds of an 8-6-4, 5-10-5 or similar fertilizer might be spread and watered in without delay. Organic nitrogen fertilizers may be applied at slightly higher rates without watering. Or small amounts of soluble liquid fertilizer are sometimes applied as the lawn is watered.
Mowing The Lawn
High mowing is beneficial to shaded lawns since it permits more grass leaf area to remain for food production. Mowing closer than 1-1/2 inches may tax the grass plants so severely that they cannot survive the summer.
When grass nears the wilting stage it is particularly susceptible to injury from heavy traffic. Spreading the wear over the lawn helps avoid loss of grass and increases the service life of the turf.
With the best of care summer is likely to leave its disease, drought or crabgrass scars on the lawn, where even greater future troubles may start. Most lawns should be fertilized in late summer or early fall to encourage vigorous growth during the cool moist weather that follows. The amount of recovery a properly fertilized Kentucky bluegrass lawn can make in autumn is amazing.
In late summer also, reseed all bare areas or they are likely to revert to weeds next year. The right seed and correct fertilization are important. For the cool moist areas of the country. Kentucky bluegrass. Chewing’s or other red fescue and colonial bcntgrass are the main kinds of grass seed. Be sure the seed comes in contact with the soil even if this necessitates scarifying the bare spots and breaking through weeds and trashy litter at the surface. Turf cultivating tools, purchased or rented, may be useful for this purpose. The cool fall months give new seedlings plenty of time to prepare for the rigors of next year’s hot weather.
If your lawn is ragged, weedy, or has bare spots, now is the best time to renovate it.
Often the poor condition of a lawn is due to improper maintenance practices, such as mowing too short, irregular watering and inadequate fertilization. If a correction of these practices isn’t enough, you can improve your lawn by following a good renovation program.
Before attempting to prepare the bare spots and eradicate the weeds, mow your old lawn closely and remove all the clippings. If your soil is extremely low in nutrients, it would be a good idea to have the soil tested. Otherwise, an application of 5-10-5 at the rate of 40 pounds per 1000 square feet would be adequate. If your soil tends to be acid, add lime, also. Rake in the fertilizer and lime on the bare spots.
The simplest and most efficient way to get rid of the crabgrass that may have taken over your lawn is to kill it with a weed killer or pull it all out. Since this material will kill desirable grass as well as weeds and weed seed, it should be applied only where you plan to reseed.
Three weeks after treating the soil the area is ready to be seeded. Rake off the dead grass and weeds, and break any crust that may have formed. You should be careful not to stir the soil deeper than 1/2 inch, because the soil below this depth is not weed-free. Now the bare spots can be reseeded. Your particular conditions determine the best grass to use, but, in general, a grass mixture gives the best results. Scatter the seed, rake it in very lightly and roll the seeded area. If the bed is on a slope, apply a hay mulch.
Keep the soil moist until the seedlings are well established. As soon as the new lawn is high enough you can mow it. but remember that a bluegrass or fescue lawn should never be cut any shorter than 1-1/2 inches.
If this renovation procedure has been followed, you will have a good stand of strong healthy grass. However, all your effort will have been wasted if you give your lawn improper care. Mowing, fertilization and watering are most important. Mow your lawn to the proper height. Apply an adequate amount of fertilizer each spring and fall. Give your lawn a good soaking regularly so it never is allowed to dry out and wilt.
Summary: Dry weather can affect lawns and is not only a summer condition but also a winter one when freezes happen without snow protection.
If your grass has gone off-color and suffered more damage than usual this winter. Maybe the drought of last fall, has continued through the winter in your area, plus the effect of frequent freezes without snow protection, has been responsible for the ugly grayish-brown color.
One feature of a winter drought is its deceptiveness. Few are conscious of it except professional observers or farmers who are constantly alert to the effect of the elements on their crops. The homeowner often thinks only of drought as a summer or fall condition and not expected in winter. The reason is that they see the soft, wet surface whenever it thaws but what they does not see is the lack of reserve moisture that should be present in the subsoil.
The possibly the drought happens in many small sections throughout the country each year. Lawns may be damaged and the it is important for the spring lawn program to be planned accordingly. Here are some suggestions that may help alleviate the harmful effects of a winter drought:
- Apply a turf building lawn fertilizer as early as possible, preferably while the grass is still dormant. If it has greened up, then be sure the grass is dry. This will avoid burning and will prevent overly quick stimulation. A good supply of food in the soil strengthens grass roots and helps offset a moisture shortage.
- Make an early seeding to replace those plants that succumbed over the winter. Seed the whole lawn lightly, then give the bare spots an extra amount. Remember, freezing does not harm good seed and it’s better to have it in the ground early if possible.
- If available, topdress with a quarter inch of compost or organic material such as rotted manure or peat moss, or good loam. This will help conserve moisture.
- When it’s time to mow, follow a plan of relatively high cutting (except for Bent grass lawns) particularly as the weather gets warmer. The longer grass acts as a buffer and reduces the loss of moisture by evaporation.
- Now that there is not so much time or help available for lawn cutting, the usual lawn care suggestion for disposing of clippings may be due for a modification. To catch the clippings and carry them to the compost pile does require extra effort. If these clippings are allowed to fall to the ground, the lawn won’t look as neat for a day or two but there will be some benefit, especially in a dry season. The clippings will form a mulch which reduces evaporation and thus conserves soil moisture. If the clippings make ugly streaks the appearance can be improved by raking or brushing up the heavy mat and carrying it off. If allowed to dry for a day or so there will be less bulk to handle. During a wet season it is better to remove the clippings or they mat down and smother some grass plants and harbor disease fungi and spores. Those who have bent lawns should always catch the clippings.
One of the results of nature is the resurgent growth of grass in late summer and autumn when nights become cool and the soil gathers more moisture. This is the most opportune time for making or renovating the lawn. Weeds are less active, too.
Perhaps two of the greatest obstacles to a successful lawn are weeds and compaction of the soil. Walked upon continually, often rolled when wet and subjected to the packing effect of heavy mowers, the lawn surface tends to consolidate; air is shut off and the roots starve “in the midst of plenty.” For no matter what lawn fertilizer is applied, if air is lacking at the roots the food cannot be used. In this sense, a compact soil is a poor soil. That grass grows abundantly in a well aerated soil is good proof that it needs air. And, ironically, the very conditions that are unfavorable to grass seem to stimulate weeds.
Grass Roots Are Annual
There’s a reason for this. Grass roots are annual – that is, each year grass makes a new set of roots near the surface. Lawn weeds have perennial roots. But more than this, they have a faculty grass does not possess: they can extract the very nutrients they need from even a poor lawn soil and from the decaying roots of the grass itself. No wonder they are so hard to eradicate! A piece of root left in the soil when the weed is pulled out starts a new crop.
The present condition of your lawn will determine the program to follow. An old thin sod, especially if it is weedy, is better dug up and a new lawn started. In many cases, however, a top-dressing of some sort will suffice. This would suit a lawn made last spring which has not become well established before summer. The lawn with 60 per cent good grass can be renovated by top renewal.
Step #1 – Weed Elimination
The first step in any lawn program must be elimination of weeds. Chemicals are often the best means here. The weed leaves absorb the applied chemical (like roundup), which upon entering the sap stream is carried to all parts of the plant. If a strong application is made, only the weed tops may be killed since the chemical may destroy the vessels that could carry it to the roots. However, it is best to study, read and follow the manufacturer’s directions. Best results are obtained during active growth. When weeds reach the seed-forming stage the results are less certain.
Crabgrass will start forming seeds towards late August. One of the chemicals used to control this weed should be applied now.
Patching Bare Spots In The Lawn
If the lawn is in pretty good shape, a little patching of weed spots with seed and topsoil, plus an application of a fertilizer like 10-8-6 (20 pounds per 1.000 square feet) will suffice. Often times a more extended operation is needed. Top-dressing is not made on the average lawn as a general practice, but many a good lawn has thus been built.
If weeds have been removed there will be many holes and a much-pitted surface. Grade these spots as evenly as possible with a rake. Then apply a top-dressing. An ideal top-dressing is made by mixing together two parts of loam topsoil, one part coarse (not fine) sand, one part peatmoss and humus, half and half. To get a weed-free mixture.
Lawn Aeration Before Top-Dressing
Before the top-dressing is applied, the area should be perforated with a digging fork or with a tool devised for aerating , the soil. The top-dressing is then worked in with the back of a rake.
When at complete lawn must be made, dig the area up to a 12-inch depth, if possible and worked with a rotary tiller. If the soil is heavy, work in a 4-inch covering of coarse sand to improve the porosity. For organic matter, use decomposed compost or a mixture of peatmoss and commercial humus. A 1-inch depth of either conditioner will improve the poorest of soils.
Lawn Seed Mixtures
Use a seed mixture which is suited to your soil and your region. The better lawn seed companies have mixtures for all kinds of soil and sites – sand, clay and loams, and for sunny sites and terraces. Be specific about your conditions when ordering the seed. Four pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet of lawn (two pounds for renovation) will be ample. Split the quantity in half and sow one half at right angles to the other for even distribution, Choose a still day to sow the seed and cover it by raking. Then roll the area to get the seed in close contact with the soil.
Soil should be moist as well as properly prepared if the conditions for seed germination are to he ideal. If the soil is very dry, defer seeding until after a rain, unless it is possible to water the area heavily and wait a day or two before sowing the seed.
How you gotten a bid on having a lawn professional service “make your lawn” recently?
If you have, you know that seed, fertilizer, soil conditioners (lime, peat, peatmoss) are not that expensive but that labor charges are high. You can beat them, however, by planting your own lawn, a much less arduous task than you think, thanks to modern gardening equipment available today.
The equipment you use in lawn making will be needed for lawn and garden maintenance over the years. So rather than pay labor charges, why not put that money into equipment? It can mean a big saving for you in the years to come.
The major job in making a lawn is to prepare the soil for planting, and for all but the smallest patch of lawn a power tiller of some kind is essential. If your house is on a half acre or more of ground, a riding tractor with a tiller attachment is not a luxury.
The labor charge for putting in a lawn of such size will defray a big part of the tractor’s cost. In the future, the tractor may be used with various attachments: lawn mower, cart, sweeper, snow remover, to name a few. Riding tractors – real beauties – start at approximately $1,000 and move up from there, with optional attachments at additional cost.
Walking tractors or tillers, good for small and large properties, start at about $150 and go to $1500 for heavy duty ones with features such as wheel drive and several forward speeds. Optional equipment for some models includes edging attachments to help you keep paths and borders neat and trim.
In deciding which type tractor will best meet your requirements, pay careful attention to the kind and construction of attachments.
Lots of information is available from manufacturers websites, garden centers or lawn mower shops. An online search should give you the name of the dealer nearest to you who handles their products. The dealer should be able to demonstrate and let you try out equipment without any obligation to buy.
The first step is to rough grade, contouring the ground so it slopes from the house for good drainage. This is usually done by the builder, but if not, or if the contour is not esthetically pleasing, a tiller or plow attachment will loosen the ground, facilitating the bulldozing of soil to correct the existing grade.
The entire area is then tilled or plowed to a depth of 6 inches – deeper if subsoil is not brought to the surface. Tilling breaks the soil into small particles. Don’t till when soil is wet, however, for clods of earth may form, defeating your purpose. It is wise to go over the area several times in different directions, taking out stones and debris.
Stones and debris having been hauled away in hand carts, wheelbarrows, or tractor-drawn carts, piles of peatmoss or peat are placed at intervals over the rough, unraked soil. It is then distributed so the soil is covered with a 2- to 3-inch layer.
Moist peatmoss is easier to work with than dry. The application of peat-moss is a time-honored practice and helps produce lush green lawns in summer, especially if the basic soil is not first rate – either too sandy or a heavy clay. The peatmoss improves the soil structure, increasing its moisture and nutrient-holding capacity. It is almost impossible to apply too much, even if soil is good.
After the peatmoss is tilled into the soil, lime and fertilizer are applied with a spreader similar to the one above or with one drawn by a tractor. Spreaders give an even distribution, the exact quantity of lime and fertilizer needed having been determined by a soil test.
The general recommendation is 10 to 15 pounds of a complete lawn fertilizer, and if the soil is very acid, 75 pounds of limestone to 1000 square feet. These are then raked or tilled into the soil, and the surface is smoothed for seeding. After the soil has settled the seed is sown with the spreader, then raked, lightly rolled, watered.
There are many types from which to choose. Power ranges from 10 to 15 hp, some have shiftless and clutchless transmissions, three to five forward speeds. Attachments are optional and include all essential lawn equipment mentioned below.
Moisture is essential for seed germination and the growth of grass. Fall rains are generally adequate in supplying it, but sprinklers, as noted on the next page, may be needed.
When the grass reaches a height of about 3 inches, cut it back to 2 inches. Either a sharp reel, power rotary, or hand mower may be used.
A tractor-drawn mower is not recommended for the first few cuttings. The tractor’s wheels may damage the tender seedlings and make ruts in the soft earth. If you plan on a riding tractor with a mower attachment for lawn cutting in the future, borrow or rent a light walking mower for the first few cuttings, until grass is strong.
Clippings and leaves, particularly the latter, will smother a young lawn if not collected soon after they fall. Grass catchers are a feature of some lawn mowers, but if the model you select does not have one, remember clippings, as well as leaves, may be cleaned off the grass with a sweeper or blower.
You may use a hand sweeper, a powered one, or those that come as attachments for tractors. All are timesavers. Leaf mulchers, optional equipment for some tractors, may also be used.
It would probably be best to wait until the lawn is well established before using them, because even light mulch of pulverized leaves may damage new grass.
After preparing the soil for planting as outlined, settle the soil by either watering it well or by rolling.
If you water, wait a day or two before sowing. After sowing, rake seed into the soil, barely covering it, and sprinkle or roll lightly and sprinkle. Then water daily to provide the moisture essential to seed germination.
When the grass shows green, water deeply once a week, as you would for an established lawn. Circular or square-pattern sprinklers are available.
Walk gently over the seeded lawn to place or change the location of sprinklers. The best time, incidentally, to install an underground sprinkler system is when you are in the process of preparing the soil for sowing.
Hand or tractor-attachment rollers are used to firm the seed bed prior to sowing and again after sowing to press the seed in place.
Heavy rolling should be avoided, however, and it is not a good idea to roll heavy clay-type soils. Sprinkling will also settle the soil and firm the seed in place, as noted above.
In sections where freezing and thawing over winter expose grass roots, they may be pressed back in place by a light rolling in spring. Get local advice on rolling.
The risk of seed washing off slopes and steep banks is minimized by laying erosion nets or burlap over the soil after seeding. As soon as the seed germinates (shows a fuzz of green) remove the burlap.
Erosion netting may be left in place. A product designed to provide a protective blanket for freshly seeded lawns. It is a spray applied with a sprayer or sprinkling can and forms a weblike, non-water soluble coating.
When grass begins to grow, it decomposes and washes into the ground. Especially useful on steep embankments.
Summary: How to make a lawn look great is not complicated, but doing some soil prep work will help get the lawn off to a better start. Just like remodeling indoors, work needs to be done to give the lawn a solid foundation.
Question: We need some help on “How to make a lawn”, we recently bought a foreclosed home and have remodeled the inside. The lawn looks terrible, and now want to turn our attention to the yard outside.
We thought if the lawn looked better (have some green grass maybe) it would make us feel better when pulling into the driveway. There is landscaping to do but want to get started making the lawn our first priority. Mason, Trenton Ohio
Answer: Mason, making a lawn is not complicated. Outside of the matter of good drainage, there is no need for being too fussy about the quality of the lawns soil. You can build your soil over time organically.
While individual grass varieties do have some soil preferences, all of the good grasses have a wide range of adaptability. What is a good job of preparation for one will serve the others equally well.
A minimum layer of 4 to 6 inches of good topsoil is desirable. If topsoil has been stockpiled when the foundation was dug, or if a good quality can be obtained at a reasonable price, certainly it should be used.
On the other hand, it is often possible to modify either a heavy clay or light sandy type of subsoil to make it satisfactory for growing grass. Working three or four cubic yards of organic material per 1.000 square feet of area into the soil to a 4 or 5-inch depth will put it into good physical condition.
Raw peat is a good material for this purpose. Baled pulverized peatmoss also is good but usually too expensive to use. The cost of these materials must be compared with the cost of time and quantity of topsoil required to cover 1,000 square feet to a 4 to 6-inch depth (12 to 18 cubic yards).
After the soil has been thoroughly loosened to a 5 or 6-inch depth, apply 50 to 60 pounds of 20 per cent superphosphate per 1,000 square feet and work it down into the soil as thoroughly as possible. A rotary tiller or garden tractor will do a good job.
Where soils are acid, 100 pounds of dolomite lime per 1,000 square feet can be worked in at the same time. Next, 20 to 40 pounds per 1,000 square feet of a good quality complete fertilizer should be spread on the surface and raked in lightly.
Sowing Grass Seed
Sow seed evenly on the worked surface and rake very lightly to cover. Many grass seeds are small and difficult to distribute uniformly. If such seeds are mixed with about twice their volume of finely screened sand (sandbox sand) they can be handled much more easily, even when a mechanical seeder is used.
The quantity of seed used is an important item. Since seeds of different grasses vary greatly in size and weight, the seeding rates necessarily must be different. Good quality bentgrass seed should be used at a rate of not more than 1 to 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet.
Rates for bluegrasses and fescues should not exceed 2 to 3 pounds and 4 to 5 pounds, respectively. Where mixtures are a safe rule is to apply 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet. It is seldom necessary to exceed these quantities. To do so not only wastes expensive seed but may actually weaken the grass by causing competition for food and moisture.
Rolling The Lawn after Seeding
Rolling is done for just one purpose – to firm the soil around the seed. A light empty water roller should be used. Soil should be rolled only when reasonably dry. Rolling cannot be substituted for a good job of preliminary grading. Any attempt to roll out high spots will only result in such severe soil compaction that the grass may not come up.
Mulching is added insurance of a good stand of grass. Many kinds of materials can be used. A mulch does two things: It prevents rapid drying out of the soil and reduces the danger of washing out the seed during heavy rains or when it is necessary to water the lawn artificially. Where hay or straw are used they can be spread at the rate of one light bale (75 to 100 pounds) per 1,000 square feet. Mulches should be removed as soon as the grass comes up and turns green. A good time to do this is during a cool cloudy period.
Summary: Making a lawn and making it great looking lawn always follows with questions. Here are 10 of the most popular ones we get asked in “lawn making.”
Question: When should I start my lawn?
Answer: Late summer or fall is the best time for cool-climate type lawns, the kind most commonly found across the northern parts of the country.
The combination of rain, warm days, and cool nights between August 15 and October 1 speeds germination, and there is little competition then from weeds.
In the South, April or May is a preferred time for sowing or starting Bermuda and other warm climate grasses from sprigs. If you are planting a zoysia lawn, plugs or sprigs may be set out from early spring to late September. Read – How To Make A Lawn
Question: What kind of seed should I use?
Answer: There are many good seed mixtures available, and a mixture of several grasses is better than one kind. Common Kentucky bluegrass is the most widely used lawn grass in the United States and is usually combined with hardy, drought-tolerant fescues, bent grasses, and sometimes the so-called nurse grasses which help the permanent grasses get started.
A permanent lawn mixture may contain, for example, at least 50 to 75 percent bluegrass of at least 80 to 85 percent germination. The remainder might include a little highland bent, and some form of red fescue. Read the label on the package before you buy.
Special mixtures for poor soils and shady places are available. If you are in doubt about what to use in your locality, check with your agricultural experiment station.
Question: Can I depend on rain to water my new lawn?
Answer: Yes and no. It is wise to wait before sowing until after a good rain. Prepare the soil as outlined previously and then after a long rain has settled the sail and penetrated deep into the ground, loosen the soil surface and sow your seed. Then sprinkle or roll and sprinkle as outlined, left. As the moisture in the soil returns to the surface, it will give the seed the moisture it needs for germination, reducing the need for sprinkling yet keeping the soil moist enough for good germination. Once the grass is established, water deeply once a week. Fall rains may do the trick. More on Lawn watering…
Question: What should I do about weeds before I prepare the soil for my lawn?
Answer: It is a good idea to apply a weedkiller several weeks or more before lawn making gets underway to kill existing broadleaved weeds, whose roots may remain in the soil even after it has been properly prepared, and to kill or retard crabgrass whose heavy growth may make tilling difficult. Living or dead, crabgrass plants may be tilled into the soil. It is not necessary to remove them. When the lawn is thick and strong next spring, crabgrass seedlings will not have a chance to get started. You can apply pre-emergence crabgrass killers as a precautionary measure in spring without harming your new grass. Broadleaved weeds may also be wiped out with selective weedkillers sold at all garden stores. In applying them be sure to follow package directions. More on improving the health of Lawn soil.
Question: Is there anything I can do at lawn making time to prevent insect and disease damage in the future?
Answer: A liberal application of one of the lawn insect killers put out by various manufacturers may be applied during the tilling of the soil prior to seeding. Some will control many underground insects, including grubs which attract moles to the lawn, for many years. Healthy lawns – the result of careful soil preparation, proper feeding, and care – are less subject to fungus diseases than unhealthy ones. Several formulations, some for specific diseases, others for the control of several, can be applied when diseases first appear. The best control, however, is to prepare the soil well before planting, so the grass has a chance to grow strong.
Question: Is it true that topsoil is not needed to produce a good lawn?
Answer: Fine lawns have been built on poor soil that is deeply tilled, limed if needed, and well fertilized. However, their life depends on following a carefully timed fertilizing and watering program, not always practical in times of drought. You can improve the texture and moisture- and nutrient-holding capacity of poor soil by tilling in quantities of peat or peatmoss before sowing your seed. They are not too expensive and well worth the effort to apply. Build your own topsoil.
Question: Should I buy topsoil? I’ve been told not to because it contains weed seeds.
Answer: If you can afford to put a 3- to 4-inch layer of good topsoil over your existing poor soil, by all means do so. Till it in. You must also fertilize and bine it if necessary before sowing. A strong stand of grass will not allow weeds to get started next spring. Less expensive peatmoss and peat, as noted previously, will improve poor soils and are weedfree. Remember, weed seeds are present in all soils, even the poor soil that you improve with peatmoss, etc. However, weeds will not get a foothold in a strong, healthy lawn.
Question: What should I do about the places where seed washes away?
Answer: You can help prevent erosion with the materials noted at left. Heavy rains, however, may puddle seed, leaving some areas bare. As soon as you discover them, reseed. Don’t wait until spring. To do this you can walk on a seedling lawn without doing the young grass much harm. Be careful, though. It’s wise to save an extra pound or two of seed for this purpose. Look at Lawn Grass Foundation Starts With Soil
Question: My neighbor’s lawn is pure crabgrass. Isn’t it senseless for me even to attempt to have a good lawn?
Answer: A good stand of grass started this fall will not allow crabgrass to germinate in your lawn next spring. If you don’t want to take a chance, however, a pre-emergence crabgrass killer may be applied in spring without harming your new grass. Follow with a post-emergence type later to get any crabgrass you might have missed. Be sure to follow package directions to the letter in applying them. Learn more about “How To Solve 10 Spring Lawn Problems”
Question: When should I start to fertilize and lime my lawn?
Answer: If you fertilize when you prepare the soil for seeding, your lawn should not need additional fertilizer until next spring when a light application of a slow-acting organic-base organic lawn fertilizer is in order. From then on, spring and fall applications are generally enough to maintain a healthy, weedfree lawn. If your lawn is in poor soil, growing without benefit of peat-moss or other soil builders, a special fertilizing and watering program must be maintained.
If you limed prior to seeding, it is not necessary to lime again for many years. Lime does not move readily through the soil, and repeated applications on established lawns crust near the soil surface, in many cases doing more harm than good. Get expert advice on future liming. Disregard your neighbor who may like to use lime with a lavish hand.
Can you put down sod in the winter? That was the question recently by email. Here’s some thoughts…
The best time to lay sod is from April to October. Depending on the area you live sometimes you have to take risk, for example, when a golf course which needs to be ready for spring. Or maybe a contract states grass must be installed so many days after the project is finished.
Cold Weather Brings Turf Grasses To Dormancy
Lawns where warm-season grasses (St. Augustine, centipede, Bermuda, zoysia) are used experience little growth when
soil temperature – not air temperatures – go below the 70 degree mark. When the soil temps hit 60 degrees, all growing pretty much stops. This includes the roots.
Without growth, newly laid out sod will not take hold to produce a new root system, and does not become established. Freeze damage is also greater.
When laying sod follow these quick tips:
- Area should be lightly tilled and properly graded
- No trash, rocks or weeds in the sod bed.
- Don’t fertilize dormant sod
- Test of your soil’s pH
- Lay sod pieces tightly together
- Stagger rows creating a brick wall pattern
- Use a lawn roller to press out air pockets under sod
Care of New Sod
- Water well and repeat as needed to avoid desiccation.
- Water whenever you seven to 10 days without rain.
- Keep children and heavy traffic off lawn established.
- No application of herbicides (weed killers) to interfere with rooting