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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

Take Time for the Lawn

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Our typical window in Northern Illinois to repair or replace damaged lawns is from August 15 to September 15th. This timeframe is not as critical if sod is going to be used; much more so if grass seed will be used to create a new lawn or repair damaged areas. Our main grasses remain hybrid Kentucky bluegrass for nearly all our lawns. Kentucky bluegrass is a cool season grass and prefers the cooler temperatures to really establish that are around in September. We are already seeing cooler night time temperatures and more moderate day time highs.

The main reasons we do not want to see a lawn prepared with seed after the 15th of September is that the young tender grass plants could be killed by the first hard freeze or not survive the winter because of temperature and or drying winds. Any time after the 15th, you are gambling that the weather will allow the new lawn to continue to grow until it is more mature and can survive the winter.

Repairing damaged areas should include removal of the dead grass and thatch, topdressing to bring the grade back up so those spots do not hold water after a rain using a good black dirt or dirt/compost mix. If you are replacing the lawn, this is also an opportunity to correct any grade irregularities that might be there. An example is where the water or sewer line have settled or to make a better transition to the edge of the driveway or sidewalk. There a couple ways to redo an entire yard. Kill the remaining lawn grasses along with the weeds chemically and then slit seed into that using a seeding machine specifically designed to place the seed into the soil for best germination or to remove the dead lawn and work the bare soil to prepare your seed bed.

The grass seed you chose is very important. Select a blend of hybrid Kentucky bluegrasses whenever possible. This will give you a lawn that looks the most like the sod you would buy. Seeding does allow you to create a blend or mix of grass seed that will perform well in your yard. All bluegrasses for full sun, a mixture of blues and fine fescues for a shadier environment. A caution here is that there are "repair" mixes that contain other grass types that will not match your existing lawn that can leave your lawn with a less desirable look. Be sure to read the label before you buy.

Whether you sod or seed, getting the seed germinated and growing or the sod roots into your soil is critical. Seed will need to be kept moist, but overly wet. The sod will need to be watered so the soil below the sod remains moist to encourage roots to grow and establish. As the new sod or lawn begins to grow, mow as soon as the new seed or sod needs it. Waiting too long is a common mistake and the first mowing shocks the seed and sod and delays continued establishment. If all goes as planned you should have mowed your repaired or new lawn several times before you put your mower away for the winter.



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