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Chicago Urban Gardening

The day to day experiences of a University of Illinois Extension Urban Horticulture Educator in Chicago, Illinois

Lawn Repair Time

Posted by Ron Wolford -

Following a few tips can make repairing a damaged lawn more successful, said a University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.

"Late August to mid-September is a good time to repair a damaged lawn," said James Schuster. "Grasses for northern climates like cool air temperatures for best growth. However, after a long, hot summer, soil temperatures tend to be high.

"The cool air and warm soil temperatures tend to encourage the growing roots of sod out into the soil and quick seed germination. Seed germination at this time sometimes occurs in half the time that spring germination requires."

Schuster recommended a few guidelines to follow when starting to repair the lawn.

Before laying sod or seeding, remove the dead grass to expose bare soil, he said. Loosen the exposed soil by rototilling large areas or using a hand cultivator on small areas.

"If laying sod, remove enough soil to match the depth of the existing sod," he said. "Make sure the edges of the lawn area that the replacement sod will butt up to are straight up and down."

About two pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer should be applied per 1000 square feet. Pro-rate the amount of fertilizer needed to fit the area to be repaired. The fertilizer should be worked into the soil at the same time the rototilling or hand cultivation is done.

"If sod is to be laid, moisten the soil before laying the sod," Schuster said. "Make sure the sod edges fit tightly to each other as well as the existing lawn. Eliminating large cracks between the sod rolls reduces drying out and weed problems.

"Water thoroughly and firm the sod lightly after laying. How often the sod will need to be watered will depend on air temperatures, the sun, how cloudy or shady it is, and the amount of rain and so on. Keep the sod moist but not wet. It takes about three weeks for sod to root in well."

For grass seed minimize the amount of perennial rye grass to be sown. Do not exceed 25 percent by volume.

"Rye grass is a more fibrous grass so it tends to shred more when mowed," he explained. "This causes a brownish appearance to the lawn several hours after mowing."

A blend of three or more bluegrass varieties is the current recommendation. Keep the soil moist but not wet. It takes almost six weeks of growing after the grass emerges before it can survive a winter.

"Never use a herbicide on a newly sodded or seeded lawn," Schuster said. "If sod or seed is put in during the fall, wait until spring before using a herbicide, as well as most insecticides, fungicides, or other pesticides on the lawn. If sod or seed is put down in the spring, wait until fall to use a pesticide."

Source: James Schuster, Extension Educator, Horticulture,

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