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John Fulton

John Fulton
Former County Extension Director

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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Spring Lawn Seedings

Posted by John Fulton -

St. Patrick's Day has come and gone, but there is more green yet to come. Lawns will be greening up very soon, and areas protected under leaves or other types of loose mulch are already there. Spring seeding lawns is usually our second best choice, because of the warm weather soon to follow. Fall has been the preferred time for many years, but the weather the past few falls might encourage a shot at the spring time.

There has been a repeat of extremely dry weather the past several falls. This has led to grass seed laying there until moisture became available. The end result was grass germinating about Thanksgiving. Then the weather didn't cooperate as well, and the new seeding was lost to a freeze before it was actually established. Hence, the renewed interest in spring seeding.

Spring seeding should be done between March 15 and April 1 for the best chance of success. The reasons for the early date are the heat and the long germination time for Kentucky bluegrass. It can take up to a month for bluegrass seed to germinate. This means an April 1 seeding might germinate May 1. Then add six to eight weeks for it to become established. This could then be close to July 1. Usually we tend to get hot weather about then. Waiting a few years for those fall seedings to take root will probably increase the those trying again this spring.

Let's start with the basics. The normal seedings are a blend of Kentucky bluegrass and fine fescue. Some blends also include a perennial ryegrass with the other two species. The fine fescue is much better in shade, and the perennial ryegrass will provide quicker cover. The seeding rate is generally four pounds per 1000 square feet in bare dirt seedings. Use two pounds per 1000 square feet in overseeding thin lawns. Of course this can run into some real money when doing very large areas. Many rural seedings are done more on the basis of a pound per 1000 square feet. There are almost 44,000 square feet in an acre, so you can do the math on this one.

Fertilizer is always an area of many questions. The place to start is a soil test. This will tell you where you are starting from. Basic soil test levels for phosphorus, potassium, and soil pH should be in the neighborhood of 40, 350, and 6.1 respectfully. Phosphorus and potassium are on a pound per acre basis. This must be considered if you use labs that report in parts per million, which will give numbers half as large. These numbers will provide a great environment for grass. Grass will really grow in very poor conditions, but it certainly won't have that manicured lawn "look" many strive for. Lacking a soil test, or being at recommended fertility levels, general maintenance applications provide a pound each of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium per 1000 square feet of lawn area in May and again in September. Really lush lawns will usually have twice as much nitrogen applied in a season, but split among four applications. Hang on to your wallet this year, as fertilizer prices have increased dramatically.

If you decide to try seeding this spring, remember a couple of things related to weed killers. Number one, you can't use crabgrass preventer in the same season as you put down seed. The crabgrass preventer doesn't know the difference between grass seed and weed seeds. The second rule is to mow the new seeding at least three times before trying any broadleaf weed killer. Generally this means spring broadleaf control doesn't happen when you seed in the spring. The end result is if you seed in the spring, you control weeds in the fall. Seed in the fall, and you control weeds and crabgrass in the spring. If you do plan to use a crabgrass preventer, time it so it is on about the time the

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