GREEN AND GROWING

Lawn Rejuvenation

by | Sep 30, 2017 | Green & Growing

As the temperatures start to cool in August, many homeowners think of renovating their lawns. Most of us know in our bones that lawns soak up more labor, money, water and chemicals than any other aspect of our landscaping or gardening and react by despairingly withholding all of these inputs. The lawn turns into a complex ecosystem of every law-growing plant imaginable, except, perhaps, turf grass. Yet sooner or later despair gives way to hope and procrastination turns to action.

Before you call the landscape company or drie to Lowe’s, diagnose why your lawn needs work.  Is the grass being out competed by weeds?  Has moss taken over?  Is it shot through with bare spots?  Has your tall fescue been replaced by wild Bermuda?  The reason for asking is that the causes of lawn collapse must be addressed before the old lawn is rejuvenated.  The weeds that were out-competing your established turf grass will certainly out-compete your new seedling grass.  A lawn given over to perennial broadleaf weeds must be treated with a broad  leaf herbicide at least 6 weeks before reseeding.  A lawn that is infested with Bermuda on the other hand requires a total herbicide assault in the form of glyphosate (“RoundUp”), as no amount of mechanical weeding will ever eliminate Bermuda.  If the soil is covered in moss, the likely causes are shade from the tree canopy and competition from tree roots. No amount of fertilizer, seed or water will cure these issues. You might have to give up on grass in that location.

The second preliminary step is to take a soil sample and send it off to NC State’s free laboratory for a soil analysis.  The report will recommend the amount of fertilizer and lime per 100 square feet that your lawn needs. From this you can figure out the application rate yourself or hand it to your landscape company in advance so it can properly apply these nutrients when reseeding the lawn.

NC State also has recommendations as to the best grass seed varieties to plant in NC. (Go to the http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/ website to get this and other valuable information). Try to get your landscape company to use a blend based on these recommended types.

With these preliminaries out of the way, you will be ready to prepare the soil and apply the seed. Tall fescue grass seed mostly will not germinate in Davidson without adequate soil preparation. Tilling soil brings up more weed seeds; core aeration therefore is essential before the seed is applied. Although this step is rarely performed, using a roller to press the seed into the soil after sowing is highly recommended.

New seed must be moist; it cannot dry out.  Unfortunately, our fall months, when experts recommend that new fescue lawns be planted, are our driest months. The natural drought of the season must be combatted with a light application of wheat straw to shade the tender seedlings and daily (even twice daily) light watering.

For more information, go to http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Files/Documents/Publications/2008/carolina_lawns.pdf

Tom Watson

Tom Watson is a Volunteer Extension Master Gardener in Mecklenburg County. He has also received a Certificate in Native Plants from UNC-C and a Certificate in Horticulture Technology--Residential Landscape Design from CPCC. He and his wife, Sue Bartlett, own The Cedars Davidson Bed & Breakfast.

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As the temperatures start to cool in August, many homeowners think of renovating their lawns. Most of us know in our bones that lawns soak up more labor, money, water and chemicals than any other aspect of our landscaping or gardening and react by despairingly withholding all of these inputs. The lawn turns into a complex ecosystem of every law-growing plant imaginable, except, perhaps, turf grass. Yet sooner or later despair gives way to hope and procrastination turns to action.

Before you call the landscape company or drie to Lowe’s, diagnose why your lawn needs work.  Is the grass being out competed by weeds?  Has moss taken over?  Is it shot through with bare spots?  Has your tall fescue been replaced by wild Bermuda?  The reason for asking is that the causes of lawn collapse must be addressed before the old lawn is rejuvenated.  The weeds that were out-competing your established turf grass will certainly out-compete your new seedling grass.  A lawn given over to perennial broadleaf weeds must be treated with a broad  leaf herbicide at least 6 weeks before reseeding.  A lawn that is infested with Bermuda on the other hand requires a total herbicide assault in the form of glyphosate (“RoundUp”), as no amount of mechanical weeding will ever eliminate Bermuda.  If the soil is covered in moss, the likely causes are shade from the tree canopy and competition from tree roots. No amount of fertilizer, seed or water will cure these issues. You might have to give up on grass in that location.

The second preliminary step is to take a soil sample and send it off to NC State’s free laboratory for a soil analysis.  The report will recommend the amount of fertilizer and lime per 100 square feet that your lawn needs. From this you can figure out the application rate yourself or hand it to your landscape company in advance so it can properly apply these nutrients when reseeding the lawn.

NC State also has recommendations as to the best grass seed varieties to plant in NC. (Go to the http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/ website to get this and other valuable information). Try to get your landscape company to use a blend based on these recommended types.

With these preliminaries out of the way, you will be ready to prepare the soil and apply the seed. Tall fescue grass seed mostly will not germinate in Davidson without adequate soil preparation. Tilling soil brings up more weed seeds; core aeration therefore is essential before the seed is applied. Although this step is rarely performed, using a roller to press the seed into the soil after sowing is highly recommended.

New seed must be moist; it cannot dry out.  Unfortunately, our fall months, when experts recommend that new fescue lawns be planted, are our driest months. The natural drought of the season must be combatted with a light application of wheat straw to shade the tender seedlings and daily (even twice daily) light watering.

For more information, go to http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/Files/Documents/Publications/2008/carolina_lawns.pdf4

Tom Watson

Tom Watson is a Volunteer Extension Master Gardener in Mecklenburg County. He has also received a Certificate in Native Plants from UNC-C and a Certificate in Horticulture Technology--Residential Landscape Design from CPCC. He and his wife, Sue Bartlett, own The Cedars Davidson Bed & Breakfast.