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Rhonda J. Ferree

Rhonda J. Ferree
Former Extension Educator, Horticulture

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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog

Spring Lawn Seeding Tips

Unfortunately, we will soon see how much last summer's drought impacted various plants in our landscapes. It may take 3 to 5 years to see the impact on trees, but other plants respond quicker. Although most lawns revived much better than expected last fall, I anticipate that many lawns will need some renovation this spring. Here are some spring seeding tips from University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist David Robson.

According to Robson, fall is a better time to seed. Spring results may be satisfactory, but summer's heat can create problems. Grass plants need sufficient time to establish before summer's heat and dry conditions set in. A strong root system and dense plant stand is the goal. Most grass types need 6 to 12 weeks of ideal growing weather once germinated to produce an adult stand.

Another problem with spring seeding is the competition with weed seeds germinating, especially crabgrass. Crabgrass pre-emergence weed controls are not specifically formulated to distinguish between weed and desirable grass seed. A homeowner may end up with excellent crabgrass control as well as control of grass seedlings. Siduron or Tupersan can be used at half the recommended rate to provide some crabgrass control and allow grass seeds to germinate and grow. Read and follow all label directions.

When sowing grass seed, make sure seed is covered lightly with soil. It is essential to have good soil-to-seed contact for germination.

Bare patches should be raked of debris, seed sown, covered, and kept moist until germinated. Daily watering to wet the ground an inch is sufficient. Avoid heavy irrigations.

Over seeding can be done to improve the turf's stand. Sow the seed and rake in. Use a leaf rake to push the seed down to the soil.

Fertilizing should be avoided until grass plants become established. The recommended time to fertilize in the spring, however, is May 15. Grass seeded in early April should be up and growing by that date.

Keep the soil moist until the seed germinates, but be patient because Kentucky bluegrass seed takes time to germinate (up to 2 to 5 weeks) compared to ryegrass that germinates in five to ten days. Once seedlings become establish, settle for an inch of water per week. Continue watering through June and early July. Deep and infrequent watering are the best. New plants should be mowed when needed.

For more information on lawncare go to the University of Illinois Extension LawnTalk website at

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