Time to Talk Turf!
Do you have trouble establishing a good stand of grass in your home lawn? Do you notice bare spots? Do you have more weeds than grass? If you answered yes to any of these questions, September is a good month to carry out several lawn maintenance practices to help improve the appearance of your lawn.
- Soil Test, Soil Test, Soil Test!
The secret to having a green lawn is a soil test. Testing the soil gives homeowners the exact recommendations of lime and fertilizer rates needed to reach optimum plant growth. To improve the appearance of the lawn, first start with a soil test.
To test the soil for a home lawn, sample the top 2 to 4 inches of soil using a garden shovel or trowel. Collect soil from different locations in the lawn at random and make sure to avoid getting any grass clippings or leaves when sampling. Some people sample their front and back yards separately. Place soil in a clean five-gallon bucket. Repeat this same process 10 to 12 times and mix all the samples together. If there is any excess moisture in the soil, allow the sample to dry on newspaper for 24 hours.
After collecting soil, bring samples to the local extension office. In Warren County, soil tests cost $7.00 per sample. Some basic information about the crop being grown is needed to go along with the sample before being mailed. When results come back, extension agents review and sign the soil test recommendations. Soil test results generally take about 7 to 10 days to be processed.
- Sow Grass Seed
Mid-August through late September is the best time to establish new grass in the home lawn. The best type of grass to select for a home lawn situation is a turf type tall fescue variety. Purchase a recommended variety of turf type tall fescue with a dark green color and improved disease tolerance. Kentucky 31 fescue has a lighter green color and is less dense compared to newer tall fescue varieties. To see a list of recommended turf type tall fescue varieties, please visit this link: http://www.uky.edu/Ag/ukturf/tf.html.
Before sowing grass seed, make sure that the soil is prepared and ready in order to get good seed to soil contact. Seed tall fescue at 6 lbs. per 1,000 square feet using a rotary spreader. For best coverage, divide the seed in half and sow this half in one direction. Then, apply the other half of seed crosswise over the first run. Cover the seed by raking lightly or rolling with a water-ballast roller. Place a light covering of clean straw over top of the newly seeded area. Water the area frequently after sowing seed until seedlings germinate. For more information about lawn establishment in Kentucky, check out the AGR-50 publication through the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service found at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR50/AGR50.pdf.
- Fall Lawn Fertilization
Fall is the absolute best time to fertilize cool season grasses in the home lawn. By performing this practice in the fall, the root system is stronger and can make it through the winter months. September, October, and November are the best months to apply fertilizer according to soil test recommendations.
The number of times nitrogen fertilizer is applied will depend on the lawn quality desired. Most general home lawns with no irrigation system are maintained at the low to medium maintenance levels. These levels require either one or two application of nitrogen. Make sure to have the soil tested to know these exact recommendations for the home lawn.
For more information about home lawn fertilization, see the AGR-212 publication for Fertilizing your Lawn: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/AGR/AGR212/AGR212.pdf.
- Lawn Renovation Practices
In certain situations, homeowners may want to consider other lawn renovation practices. These situations are when there is less than 50% desirable turf, the soil is compacted, the need to decrease weeds, and to improve damaged areas of turf from heavy traffic or disease. To learn more about specific lawn renovation practices, visit AGR-51 publication for Renovating Your Lawn at this link: http://www2.ca.uky.edu/agcomm/pubs/agr/agr51/agr51.pdf
September is the month for second chances in the home lawn! Take advantage of our soil testing services and get the soil tested. Look at purchasing an improved variety of tall fescue and sow seed in September. If needed, carry out other lawn renovation practices in the fall to improve the appearance. These turf tips will help put you on the right road to seeing results in the home lawn for next year!
Kristin G. Hildabrand, Horticulture Extension Agent for Warren County