Picking the Right Grass Seed

Grass Seed

If your lawn is comprised of cool-season grasses, such as Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass, fine fescue or tall fescue, late summer through early fall is the perfect time to reseed your lawn. Soil temperatures are warm to allow for faster germination, air temperatures are favorable for the growth and development of the new grass plants and natural irrigation increases. Having the lawn aerated before seeding is a great way to incorporate the new seed into the lawn. The biggest question is what type of seed should you use to meet your lawn’s needs and grow well in your location.

By looking at the map to the right, determine the zone in which you live. Different grasses grow best in certain zones. For the cold winter, humid zone and the mild winter humid zones, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue are the most popular grasses. In the transition zone, the most popular grass is turf-type tall fescue. There is a push in the transition zone for people to use more zoysia grass, but zoysia is usually installed either as sod or through sprigging or plugging and not as seed. In the cold winter, arid zone, turf-type tall fescue, Kentucky bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fine fescue will all grow in that zone.

For the warmer parts of the US, the lawns are either installed as sod or through sprigging or plugging so this article is not as applicable for lawns that are comprised of Bermuda grass, St. Augustine grass, centipede grass or zoysia grass. Some homeowners in these areas choose to overseed their lawns with annual ryegrass in the fall for the lawn to remain green through the winter dormant period. Once the heat returns the following summer and the desired grasses green-up again, the annual ryegrass will die off.

It is a good idea to determine the amount of sun the lawn receives and how it is being used to make your next decision. Here is a quick chart to help you make this decision:

 

Grass Type Sun or Shade Traffic Tolerance
Kentucky Bluegrass Full Sun Light
Perennial Ryegrass Full Sun High
Fine Fescue Full Sun to Moderate Shade Light
Turf-Type Tall Fescue Full Sun to Moderate Shade High

 

Determining the amount of seed to purchase depends on the variety of seed and the size of the area you are seeding. Here are the recommended amounts of grass seed to sow per 1,000 square feet:

 

Seed Type Existing Lawn New Lanwn
Bluegrass 2 pounds 4 pounds
Perennial Ryegrass 5 pounds 10 pounds
Fine Fescue 3 pounds 6 pounds
Turf-Type Tall Fescue 5 pounds 10 pounds

 

Once you have determined the type of grass seed you need to plant and how much to purchase, your next step is to go to the local garden center or home improvement store. Some homeowners pick the cheapest seed and often regret that decision. Look at the seed label to determine the types and cultivars included in the seed mix. Be sure that there are not any weed seeds or other crop seeds included in the mix. A good quality grass seed mix should cost between $3 to $5 per pound. That may seem like a lot of money for a pound of seed, each pound off seed contains thousands of seeds.

One thing to keep in mind is the number of seeds per pound. Bluegrass is the smallest seed and contains about 1,500,000 seeds per pound. Ryegrass and Turf-Type Tall Fescue contain between 250,000 to 400,000 seeds per pound. If you purchase a 10-pound bag of seed that is 50 % bluegrass and 50% ryegrass, you are getting about 7,500,000 bluegrass seeds and about 1,250,000 ryegrass seeds. If you want more bluegrass than ryegrass, this blend would work fine. If you want more ryegrass than bluegrass, change the ratios.

Don’t wait too long to start seeding your lawn. It is the perfect time to start the process to make sure the new grass has plenty of time to grow and gain strength before the winter sets in. If you want more information on overseeding your lawn, contact your neighborhood lawn and tree care professional at Spring-Green

How Rust Lawn Disease Develops and Ways to Prevent It

rust lawn disease

If you have ever walked across your lawn in the late summer and notice that your shoes have taken on an orange hue, there is a good chance that your lawn is suffering from a common turf disease called Rust. The lawn disease appears as orange or yellowish-orange powder on grass blades, usually in the late summer to early fall, although I have seen in develop in the spring.

How Does Rust Develops On Lawns?

The disease can develop on turf that is not growing normally due to several stress factors including drought stress or low fertility. It can also develop during periods of heavy rain fall. Cool nights with heavy dew is another environmental condition that can favor its development. On the other hand, warm, cloudy and humid weather followed by hot, sunny weather can also lead to its development. In other words, just about any type of weather we can get in August can benefit the development of Rust.

The grass species that are most prone to develop Rust include Perennial Ryegrass, Tall Fescue, Kentucky Bluegrass, Zoysia Grass and St. Augustine Grass. Not all cultivars of these grasses are prone to Rust, which is a good idea to check for the cultivars that are less susceptible by searching the NTEP or National Turfgrass Evaluation Program by going to www.ntep.org. Some of the data may seem too technical, but if you scroll through the various reports, you will find a list of the species and cultivars that were tested, where they were tested and the quality ratings of each cultivar.

Rust starts off as small. Yellow flecks on the grass blades and stems. Over time, these flecks grow and expand into raised pustules that are also orange or yellow in color. Once the pustules reach maturity, they will rupture and spread a powdery mass of spores across the turf along with your shoes, pants, lawn mower, dog, etc. In heavily infected areas, the turf can thin out and clouds of rust spores will rise as the turf is disturbed. Once all the spores are released, the pustules will turn black. The spores that are left behind are present to re-infect the turf once the optimal environmental conditions return.

Preventing Rust On Your Lawn

You can reduce the likelihood of the disease developing again by following good cultural practices for proper mowing, watering and fertilizing for the type of turf that is in your lawn.

Proper watering is one of the more critical cultural practices to help prevent outbreaks of Rust. Water deeply, but infrequently to encourage roots to grow deep. Allow the turf to dry out between watering and avoid watering in the evening hours.

There are disease control materials that can be applied as a preventative, but once the pustules form, it is too late to control the disease as it is at the end of its life cycle. Often, an application of fertilizer with nitrogen will stimulate new growth and help the lawn recover from the effects of the disease.

If you see that your shoes are turning orange after walking on your lawn, contact your local lawn care professional at Spring-Green to have your lawn checked for Rust. Spring-Green will develop a program that combat the effects of Rust.

Spring Lawn Care Tips: Your Guide to Mowing, Seeding & Fertilizing

spring lawn care tips

Now that lawns are beginning to become green throughout the country, many people start to get anxious to seed and fertilize and, believe it or not, mow their lawns—and they’re looking for the spring lawn care tips to get them on the right track. (For me, having to start mowing my lawn again is a chore, although not a difficult one. Maybe this is the year I hire an outside service to handle this work for me… On second thought, maybe not, as no one can mow my lawn better than what I can do.)

Tip #1: Mow High

I have written on the subject of mowing many times in the past, but it bears repeating. Proper mowing is the key to having a green, healthy, and more weed-free lawn, and it’s the #1 spring lawn care tip I consistently tell people. Unless your lawn turned completely brown during the winter, start mowing at the highest recommended height for the type of grass growing in your lawn. Bermuda and Zoysia should be mowed shorter—around 1 ½ to 2 inches. Centipede lawns should be mowed at about 2 inches, and St. Augustine at 2 ½ inches. Bluegrass and perennial Ryegrass should be mowed at 2/12 to 3 inches and Tall Fescue at 3 to 4 inches high. Set your mower at the appropriate height at the first mowing and leave it at that level for the rest of the summer. If your area experiences drought-like weather, it is better to mow a notch even higher.

Tip #2: Seed Smart

Many people want to seed in the spring. This is an okay practice as long as you take into account a couple of important lawn care tips. First, for those in the warm-season turfgrass areas, the availability and success rate for growing new grass from seed is usually low. If your lawn has cool-season grasses, you may end up battling weeds for a good part of the summer as you wait until the plants are mature enough to apply weed control products.

Pro spring lawn care tip: If you seed in the spring, you cannot apply any commercially available crabgrass control materials for as long as 4 months after seeding. If crabgrass has been a problem in your lawn in the past, it would be better to get that under control first and seed at the best time for cool-season grasses: late summer to early fall.

Tip #3: Fertilize Carefully

Finally, spring is a great time to fertilize your lawn. As the plants start growing in the spring, they are using up the food that was stored in the roots during last summer and fall. Pushing out new plants will use up a lot of that stored food and it needs to be replaced. Just don’t overdo it – too much fertilizer can either damage the lawn with fertilizer burns or push out too much top growth instead of helping the roots grow better and deeper.

It is great to see lawns and landscapes beginning to wake up from their long winter’s nap. By following a few basic practices, your lawn and landscape will improve and provide you with a pleasant outdoor environment.

Your local Spring-Green owner has countless other spring lawn care tips—and recommendations for summer, fall, and winter. Get in touch today!

Dormant Seeding Dos and Don’ts

lawn that needs dormant seeding

If you live in the south, dormant seeding is not something you can do to help your existing lawn. Seeding for warm season grasses is generally completed in the early summer. Although seed is available for many warm season grasses, getting it to germinate can be a real challenge. Most repair work is done using sprigs or by resodding bare areas. If you live farther north, where cool season grasses like bluegrass, perennial ryegrass and fescue make up the majority of lawns, you can still lay dormant seeds at this time of year. The one consideration is that you have to live in an area where the winter is normally cold and damp. It is important that the new dormant seeds do not have the chance to germinate and then be exposed to freezing temperatures that can damage the seedlings.

You have to wait until the chance for warm weather to return is minimal. In northern Illinois, late October is about the earliest you want to dormant seed a lawn. Personally, I have dormant seeded a lawn in the Chicago area as late as early December and had fairly good results. Dormant grass seeding is pretty straight forward. You follow the same procedures as you would for seeding in the late summer or early fall. Dormant seeding works best in areas where the grass has thinned out due to adverse weather conditions, excessive traffic or from disease or insect damage.

Thick, dense lawns will have to be core aerated first to make sure that there is a place for good soil to seed contact. Thin lawns also require some prep work prior to seeding. If the area is not too large, using a good hand raking to loosen the soil at the surface is the best approach. If the area is larger, it is best to core aerate it in several directions to provide areas for the seed to germinate. Most rental companies, home improvement centers and hardware stores have core aeration machines for rent. Lawn care companies, like Spring-Green, offer core aeration as an optional service. This may be the best way to go as a core aerator will not fit in most cars or even SUVs.

Once the site preparation is completed, spread the dormant seed across the areas that need to be seeded. For a bluegrass/ryegrass blend, spread about 4 to 5 pounds of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. For Turf Type Tall Fescue, you will want to use about 6 pounds of seed per 1,000 sq. ft. One thing to keep in mind is the number of seeds per pound.

  • Bluegrass: 1,500,000 seeds per pound
  • Ryegrass and Turf Type Tall Fescue: 250,000 to 400,000 seeds per pound

If you purchase a 10-pound bag of seed that is 50% bluegrass and 50% ryegrass, you are getting about 7,500,000 bluegrass seeds and about 1,250,000 ryegrass seeds. If you want more bluegrass than ryegrass, this blend would work fine.

Once you have finished dormant grass seeding, you will have to wait until spring to see the results. The dormant seed will not germinate until soil temperatures reach about 55 degrees. You do not want to apply any crabgrass preventer to the areas in the spring since that material will also prevent your new seed from germinating. If you do get crabgrass, you may have to hand-pull it next summer. The same is true with broadleaf weed control. Hopefully, your lawn will fill in enough that these weeds will not be a problem.

Along with core aeration services, Spring-Green can also treat your lawn for crabgrass and broadleaf weed control. Click here to contact your neighborhood Spring-Green Lawn Care professional.

The Basics of Lawn Care: Aerating, Overseeding, and Fertilizing

On Page Seeding

Like many people across the country, Mr. Roy wondered how to reclaim his thin, bare lawn after an especially harsh winter, so he sought the advice of Spring-Green’s authority on lawn care, Harold Enger. Read below to see how you, too, can thicken up your grass and get your lawn back.

Question:

“My lawn is very thin and has some bare spots after this hard winter. What do I do to thicken up my lawn and fill in the bare spots?”

Mr. Roy, thank you for sending in your question. I would not be doing my job if I didn’t tell you that you should contact Spring-Green and request a lawn evaluation. You can visit our website at www.spring-green.com or call (815) 436-8350. If you prefer to attempt to do the work yourself, here’s what I suggest:

Step 1: Core Aerate

Rent a core aeration machine from your local hardware store or rental center. This machine travels across the lawn, removing plugs of soil and thatch and leaving them on the lawn. This opens up the lawn to allow more air, water and nutrients to penetrate the soil, and it also helps to build the root system. The cores or plugs that are left will dissolve back into the lawn with rain or normal irrigation.

Step 2: Plant Grass Seed

Following core aeration, you’ll have a good site for seed germination. I usually recommend seeding cool season grasses in late August to early September, but if your lawn is thin, then you may want to consider seeding this spring. There are a few considerations that you have to keep in mind. First, you cannot apply a crabgrass preventer as this product will keep your grass seed from germinating as well. Second, you cannot apply a broadleaf weed control for dandelions, clover or other broadleaf weeds until the new seed has germinated and has been mowed three or four times. Light, frequent watering is the best for new seed. If you plan to seed your entire lawn, you may be disappointed with the results if it cannot be watered. I recommend a blend of 70% Perennial Ryegrass to 30% Bluegrass. Most hardware stores carry seed, and this is one area where you don’t want to look for the cheapest price. Buy good, quality seed.

Step 3: Fertilize Your Lawn

Applying fertilizer will help thicken up the lawn by stimulating new growth. As with grass seed, get a good quality fertilizer. Although there are regulations in Illinois that prohibit the use of fertilizer that contains phosphorus (the middle number on the fertilizer analysis) you are allowed to use it after seeding. If possible, use a fertilizer with an analysis of 14-14-14. Read the label that comes with the bag to ensure you are not over-applying the product.

Conclusion

In addition to following the above order, you want to follow good cultural practices, too. Mow at 2.5 – 3 inches in length, leave the clippings on the lawn after mowing and do your best to supply 1 inch of water to your lawn at least once every other week. In my experience, I usually try to talk customers out of seeding in the spring so that the weeds can be kept in check throughout the spring and summer, then, it makes sense to aerate and overseed in the fall. The fertilizer you apply now and throughout the summer will help to thicken the lawn and get it in better shape for the fall. Or, as I said earlier, contact Spring-Green and let us do the work for you!

When to Plant Grass Seed: Spring Seeding & Cool Season Grasses

1686-Spring-Green_EDIT

It may seem like spring is the best time for planting grass seed, and you can do it, but you need to keep a few things in mind before you spend the time and money to do so. First of all, you need to consider the temperature that the soil has to reach before the seed will germinate. Bluegrass and Fine Fescue begin germinating when soil temperatures reach around 60 degrees. Perennial Ryegrass germinates when soil temperatures reach about 70 degrees. This means that you should wait until about May before you begin seeing any germination occur. How much grass seed do I need? Use this chart to determine how much seed you will need to apply per 1,000 sq. ft.:

grassseedchart

The second consideration involves controlling weeds. If you seed in the spring, you cannot apply conventional crabgrass control products. These products will prevent crabgrass seed from germinating and it will keep your new seed from germinating as well. If the area that you are seeding has broadleaf weeds, such as dandelions or clover, you may not be able to use regular broadleaf weed controls. Most of those products state that you have to wait 6 to 8 weeks after the application before seeding. They also require the product cannot be applied until the lawn has been mowed 2 or 3 times after the seed has germinated. What this may mean is that your new grass will have to compete with weeds for the majority of the summer.

Another consideration is the length of time it takes for the seed to germinate. Ryegrass germinates in 5 to 7 days; Fine Fescue germinates in 7 to 10 days; and Bluegrass takes 28 days to germinate. The seed has to stay moist for the entire time from when it is sowed until it germinates. It also needs to receive water for at least two weeks after it germinates. If it is hot and dry, it will continue to need water until it is established.

Finally, you need to have good seed to soil contact to promote germination. Planting grass seed across an established lawn will result in very little germination. The best way to ensure good germination is to core aerate the lawn first and then broadcast the seed.

Planting grass seed in small areas in the spring may work, but trying to reseed your entire lawn in the spring is not a good idea. It is better to wait until mid to late August to seed. Soil temperatures are higher, rain is often more regular and weed pressure is less in the fall. Follow a good fertilization program and control weeds through the summer and the results will be better when you seed cool season grasses in the fall.

The Importance of Regular Lawn Care Service

End Of Season

It’s a relatively common misconception that after several years of yard service, a lawn can become “numb” to the care and results become stagnant. It’s not necessarily a question of a lawn becoming unresponsive after several years with a professional lawn care service. Rather, it may be that results are not as dramatic or impressive as they were when service first started.

Our goal as a lawn care service is to get your lawn to a point where it is green, healthy and consistently looks good. We’ve done our job if the lawn’s appearance is healthy and doesn’t change much from month to month.

Lawns respond to whatever inputs you provide. Lawns themselves are not naturally occurring by default. So they need to be maintained to thrive and stay alive. If you choose to stop lawn service to let your lawn “rest” a year, the density will start to decline and the root system will diminish. Also, weeds, damaging insects, and lawn diseases can increase.

Turfgrasses grow best in well-drained soils that are rich in nutrients and organic content. Most home lawns do not have the best soil for turf to grow and thrive. Lawns need additional food, water and proper maintenance practices to make up for the poor soil on which they are expected to grow. That is why we recommend such additional services as core aeration to help root systems expand.

Careful fertilization, mowing, watering and reseeding decisions need to be made in order to maintain a lawn, and are determined by the type of turf you have and the weather conditions your particular lawn faces.

A healthy lawn, well-maintained by a lawn care service, will recover faster from the effects of adverse weather conditions as well as attacks from insect and disease infestations. If a lawn remains fallow for a year, it is less likely to have the ability to come back from these pressures. Therefore, you should continue with regularly scheduled applications of fertilizer on your lawn every year.

Contact your local Spring-Green lawn care service provider to discuss which lawn care services are right for your yard.

Can I Seed My Lawn In The Spring?

Can I seed my lawn in the spring? (Part 2)

Continuing with this question, another consideration is the amount of broadleaf weeds present in your lawn. If dandelions, clover, thistles or any of the numerous other broadleaf weeds growing in the lawn or in the area where you want to seed, they should be controlled before seeding. The problem lies in the time that should transpire after spraying the weeds with a commercial weed control product, which is about three to four weeks. If you decide to wait until after the seeding is completed, then the wait time is about 4 to 6 weeks. An option would be to hand pull weeds, but this can be a time consuming process and often times the weeds come back from the roots. If weeds are a problem in your lawn, it is better to get them under control and delay seeding until the fall.

Many times, shady areas thin out over the summer time and look very thin in the spring. Seeding a shady area is an option in the spring as crabgrass usually does not grow well in this type of area. You still have to be careful not to apply a crabgrass control product to the area or use a broadleaf weed control in the area.

Depending on the amount of shade in the area where you want to seed, trying to grow grass in shady areas can futile and frustrating. Most turfgrass requires about 4 to 5 hours of at least filtered sunlight to grow well. If grass just doesn’t seem to grow in a shady area such as under a tree, consider switching to a groundcover or mulch the area.

Spring Lawn Seeding (Part One)

Can I seed my lawn in the spring? (Part 1)

Maybe. There are a couple of things to consider before deciding to seed a lawn in the spring. First, what type of grass is growing in your lawn? Most warm-season grasses are not propagated or established by seed, but by sodding or sprigging. Seed for Bermuda, St. Augustine, Centipede or Zoysia are usually not easily available. Cool-season or Transition Zone grasses are grown from seed, so it is possible to purchase seed for areas where these grasses grow.

Second, how much do you have to seed? Unless your lawn has a lot of perennial ryegrass or Tall Fescue, any spots that are less than the size of a dinner plate will quickly fill in on their own. Ryegrass and Tall Fescue generally grow as a clump, so these grasses don’t fill-in bare spots as quickly as those grasses with aggressive root systems.

Third, does your area have a problem with crabgrass germination in the summer? Except for the Pacific Northwest, most of the US has a problem with crabgrass germination in the summer. The normal method of control is through an application of a pre-emergent crabgrass control material applied before the crabgrass germinates. This material will also keep grass seed from germinating as well. The new seed may germinate, but it could be crowded out by crabgrass later in the summer. Broadleaf weed control cannot be applied until the new seed has been mowed three or four times, so the newly seeded area will also have to compete with dandelions, clover and many other weeds.

I will continue this posting with some other concerns about seeding in the spring next week. A lawn can be seeded in the spring, but it requires some careful consideration before doing so.

Dormant Seeding in the Winter for Home Lawns

What is dormant seeding?

This is a process where seed is sown during the winter months of November to March. The seed will remain in a dormant state until the ground warms up and soil moisture is adequate to promote germination. The key to dormant seeding is good seed-soil contact. A good way to create places for the seed to germinate is to core aerate the lawn prior to seeding. You can rent a core aeration machine if you have a vehicle large enough to transport it and the muscle strength to handle it. Most people hire a lawn service to do the work for them. The lawn has to be moist for good penetration of the coring tines and, of course, the ground cannot be frozen.

The seed is generally spread with a rotary-type spreader that will evenly distribute the seed across the lawn. Depending upon the seed you are using spread about three to six pounds of seed per one thousand square feet. For example, bluegrass seed contains about 1.5 million seeds per pound whereas Turf Type Tall Fescue contains about 250,000 seeds per pound. A little bit of bluegrass goes a long way.

It is very important that you do not apply pre-emergent crabgrass preventer during the spring. These products create a barrier that kills newly germinating crabgrass seeds. It will also kill the new grass seed that was put down. You may have to live with some crabgrass for a year, but if you water and mow high you can keep its population in check.