Seeding a New Lawn
Grade your new lawn as level as possible avoiding any depressions where standing water might be a problem. Have the slopes incline gently to prevent washouts and to make later mowing easier. After the final raking, apply fertilizer. Use fertilizer high in the middle number (phosphorus). Phosphorus is necessary for strong root growth. Spread evenly at the rate specified on the label. Rake again before seeding. For home lawns use a quality grass seed mixture. The mix should contain Kentucky bluegrass, Fescue and 20‑30% turf type Perennial Ryegrass. Ryegrass will aid in resistance to certain fungus diseases. Apply your seed as evenly as possible. A spreader is almost essential for large areas. Take one‑half of the seed and spread it over the entire area. Now, spread the remaining seed again over the area in the opposite direction.
Grass seed germinates best at a depth of one‑eighth to on‑quarter of an inch. So, rake again lightly. Then roll the seeded area with an empty roller. The seed is now firmly pressed into the seed bed. Water now to a depth of about one inch, slowly so as not to form puddles or cause run off on any slopes. Keep the new seed bed wet until grass is growing over the entire area –about 2-3 weeks. After that, increase the amount of water applied, but decrease the frequency eventually to once or twice a week. Keep traffic off the tender seedlings. Mowing can begin when the grass is about 3 inches high.
Overseeding or patching a lawn. Lower your mower blade to its lowest cutting height and catch clippings or remove them after. Rake vigorously to loosen the soil. Now is the time to level your lawn if necessary. Fill any depressions with good topsoil and remove any high spots. A light layer of topsoil, spread over areas where there is some grass and well raked in is helpful. Grass seed will grow better if it has good contact with the soil. Apply fertilizer, seed and water as outlined above.
Another way to improve the mix of grasses in the lawn is to do a core aeration. Then sprinkle grass seed all over the lawn. The seed will grow in the holes left by the aerator.
Seed germinates best when temperatures are 15-25 degrees Celsius. If the weather is cooler than that, the seed may take longer to germinate. The best time to seed is mid August to late September. The next best is mid-April to late May. Summer seeding will give reasonable results if sufficient watering is applied.
For extensive lawn renovation ‑ aerate and dethatch the lawn prior to adding soil overseeding.
Approximately 85% of the weight of a grass plant is water. Furthermore your lawn loses about 95% of the daily water uptake through transpiration. This means that grass can remain green and vigorous only if there is sufficient soil moisture. Natural rainfall may provide adequate moisture in some areas and for certain times of the year. During other seasons, irrigation is needed.
A word about summer dormancy. Grasses in general are able to withstand drought conditions by resting. The blades turn brown to conserve moisture. When autumn brings rain and cooler temperatures, the plant revives and starts to grow again. A few of our customers tell us that they simply cannot, do not or will not water their lawns during the summer. In most situations, the lawn will go brown, but usually will not die. (Do apply enough water to keep the crowns of the plants alive.) It may not look acceptable, but in the fall it will revive. Our organic based fertilizers will help dormant lawns to retain more green than otherwise.
Drought stressed lawns are more prone to insect damage than well-watered lawns. Sometimes insect damage may be confused with drought damage. It’s easy to assume the lawn is brown because of drought. Avoid mowing a lawn under drought stress. Moisture is needed to protect the plant from collapse and damage. Diseases can also be spread in these conditions.
Before planning your watering program, determine your soil conditions. In sandy soil, more than 1/2 inch of water applied at one time will simply go down beyond the reach of the grass roots. Thus sandy soils have to be watered more often.
On clay soils, water does not penetrate easily and excess water is easily lost by rapid runoff. The clay holds water tightly and unavailable to the grass roots.
Lawns with excess thatch suffer from drought stress. Thatch is that layer of dead but undecomposed roots and stems above the soil. Thatch acts like a sponge. It can also act as a thatch roof and prevent water from penetrating the soil. Core aeration is recommended to reduce thatch and to also allow better water penetration.
In general your lawn needs about 1 to 1 1/2 inches of water per week. Often people say, “I watered for 2 hours.” Since water pressures and sprinklers vary this doesn’t tell the whole story. The best way to water is by inches (or centimeters) of water. To determine how much water you are applying, place several flat bottomed, straight-sided cans under your sprinkler for say 30 minutes. Measure the amount of water in the cans to determine how long you need to water your lawn.
When watering, do move the sprinkler if the water starts to run off the surface. If more watering is needed, move the sprinkler back when the water has had a chance to seep into the soil.
Here are some mowing tips on mowing your tips (of grass)
Though often a relaxing change, mowing cannot be rated a favourite pastime. Anything that reduces the time it takes to cut a lawn, or the energy needed is welcome news. Here are a few helpful suggestions to get “more” from your mower. If you are the mower, make your lawn care easier on your self.
A lawn mower cannot run indefinitely without attention to its working parts. Here are a few routine things to keep your mower doing its best for your lawn maintenance.
First, keep the blades sharp. A crisp, clean cut allows the grass blades to heal quickly. A lawn can end up looking botched simply because the mower has dull blades. Instead of slicing, blunt blades whack and bruise the turf leaves and the “mowed” lawn will, in a day or two, end up with an overcoat of brown, dried up leaf tips. The ragged ends are also more likely to allow disease to enter the plants.
A sharp blade also means the lawn mower engine doesn’t have to work as hard and will consequently require less maintenance.
The more often you mow, the easier it may be for you, the mower and the lawn. You don’t have to work as hard. The mower won’t stall as often. And the turf plants, mowed frequently, will not suffer the shock setbacks that come with infrequent mowings. Infrequent mowings allow the lawn to grow so high that each cutting exposes tender undergrowth to scorching sun and drying winds.
Generally mow the lawn at least weekly after spring growth starts. Fast growing lawns may need clipping more often. No more than 1/3 of the blades should be removed at one time.
If, because of wet weather or being away from home, your grass gets tall, it is better to raise the mowing height so as not to whack the grass too much at one time. Removing too much can shock the grass and cause browning. This is especially so in hot weather.
Avoid mowing when the grass is wet.
This results in a tidier mowing job. This also reduces the chance of spreading lawn disease. Also do not mow in extremely hot weather. The added stress can also increase the likelihood of disease. If you do get a turf disease, mow that area last to avoid spreading the disease to unaffected areas.
Follow the contours. Don’t push a mower up a hill, or let it pull you down a hill. Instead mow across the slope. The quality of the lawn’s appearance is improved if the mowing pattern is varied. This will reduce the compaction caused by mower wheels and prevent the grass from getting a slant. The grass will grow straight and look better.
Replace corners with curves. If your garden’s design gives you too many stop and start places – redesign and rebuild it to eliminate as many such corners as possible.
A word about mowing height.
Mow your lawn high– even as high as 3 inches. Grass roots grow proportionately to the leaf blades. A higher mowing height means a strong, deeper root system. The stronger the root system, the healthier the lawn will be. Shorter mowing heights require more fertilization and increased watering.
Longer leaf blades will shade the ground to keep grass roots cooler. Grass plants prefer the cooler moister environment. A cooler lawn is also less likely to have insects. The most common insects prefer warm dry areas. The longer blades also reduce sunlight to the soil surface. The extra shade will help to keep weeds and crabgrass out.
The last mowing in the fall (you may have 2 or 3 last mowings) should be short. This will reduce the chance of disease during the winter and also permit the lawn to green up quicker in the spring. If in the spring, you realize it’s too late to cut short in the fall, set the mower short for the first cutting. This will allow the soil to warm up quicker and to get the lawn growing.
Short grass clippings may be left on the lawn to decay. This provides organic matter to the soil and recycles plant nutrients. If the grass clippings are excessively long, they should be removed to prevent smothering the lawn and the possible spread of disease.
Winterizing Your Lawn
You wouldn’t think your lawn does much when it gets cold. Even though you have stopped mowing, however, the grass roots continue to be active. University of Guelph studies show that a late season application of fertilizer will enhance winter hardiness and survival and also increase the early green up of your lawn in the spring.
Here is a synopsis of an article by Pam Charbonneau (OMAF Turf Specialist adapted from Turf Notes).
Winterizing Turf Low temperature injury
Now is the time to think about putting your lawn to rest for the winter. In order to understand what needs to be done to avoid winter kill, one needs to have a good understanding of what winter kill is. Winter kill can be caused in three different ways: Direct low temperature stress, winter desiccation, and injury caused by low temperature fungi. What mechanisms do plants have for achieving winter hardiness? The turf grass plant becomes more winter hardy by storing sugar in its cells and hence lowering the amount of water in the plant. A cell with a high sugar content is more resistant to freezing than one with a low sugar content. A good analogy is a bottle of juice taking longer to freeze than a bottle of water. We need to help the grass store more sugar in its cells. Cultural Practices The key principle is maintaining a low level of water in the crown of the plant. Several cultural practices accomplish this:
1. The first step in the prevention of low temperature injury is to provide adequate surface drainage. Grass surrounded by water in winter will take up water. This extra water makes it prone to internal freezing.
2. Controlling thatch is also important. Thatch harbours disease-causing organisms such as snow molds. Also, with excessive thatch the crowns are elevated above the soil and are exposed to greater temperature extremes. (Aerate to reduce thatch -see Turf Facts on Aeration & Thatch)
3. Raising the mowing height makes the crown less exposed to extreme temperatures. Also additional plant material serves as insulation for the crowns. However, do not abandon mowing as excessively long grass is a perfect environment for low temperature fungi.
4. Adequate levels of potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen are important in ensuring winter hardiness. Late season fertilization 1. Nitrogen is taken up by the roots even though the lawn has stopped growing on top. Roots remain active at lower temperatures than shoots. 2. Nitrogen enhances fall colour and hence increases chlorophyll (the green part of plants). 3. Increased chlorophyll means increased photosynthesis. (the manufacturing of food i.e. sugars) 4. Increased photosynthesis means increased sugars. Since the grass is not growing at this time, the sugars are not used for growth but are stored to enhance winter survival and spring recovery.
5. Late season feeding promotes deep rooting in the fall. Plants go into the spring with deeper, healthier roots. 6. Spring green up is earlier because the nitrogen and nutrients are stored in the roots and are ready to be used when shoot growth resumes. Timing Winter fertilizer should be applied when the grass is green but no longer growing. Too early and it will produce lush succulent growth. Too late and it will be of no benefit. Generally late October through mid November is the best time. These studies have given these results using a high Nitrogen slow release fertilizer similar to Turf King’s fertilizer. Lawns receiving Turf King’s winter fertilizer will have increased winter hardiness and will green up very early in the spring.