Seeding is usually the most economical method to establish a new lawn. Warm season-grasses should be started in May, June, or July. Cool-season grasses should be seeded in late August or September. Before seeding have a soil test taken to determine lime and fertilizer recommendations. Examine the area for persistent, hard to control weeds. You may need to apply a non-selective herbicide several weeks before seeding. If the soil is compacted you should till the soil to a dept of 6 to 8 inches. Incorporating a 2- to 3-inch layer of organic matter is encouraged. Allow the soil to settle and rake to eliminate low spots.
To ensure uniform seed coverage, use a centrifugal (rotary) or drop type spreader. Apply half the seed in one direction and the other half moving at right angles to the first pass. Lightly cover the seed by hand raking. Roll the soil lightly to firm the surface and provide good seed-to-soil contact.
Mulch the bare ground with weed-free small grain straw or hay. Use one bale per 1,000 square feet for warm season grasses and 1 to 2 bales for cool season grasses. You should be able to see half the soil through the mulch. Mulching will help conserve moisture, keep the soil surface cool, reduces erosion and surface crusting until establishment. Once in place, stabilize the mulch by rolling or watering. If applied evenly and lightly, the mulch does not need to be removed.
To prevent drying, keep the top 1/2 inch of the soil moist. This may require light watering two or three times a day for 15 to 20 days. Germinating seedlings can die in a few hours if they become dry. Bluegrass takes 7 to 14 days longer to germinate than other cool-season grasses. For mixtures containing bluegrass, do not make the mistake of decreasing water as soon as the seedlings appear. Continue watering until the bluegrass seedlings emerge. As the seedlings grow and root, water less often but to a greater depth.
Apply a starter type fertilizer to the soil surface. Use 10 pounds of 5-10-10 or 5 pounds of 10-20-20 per 1,000 square feet. The best time is shortly after seed emergence. This surface application should be made in addition to the fertilizer incorporated into the soil.
Begin mowing as soon as the grass is 50 percent higher than the desired height. For example, mow tall fescue back to 3 inches when it reaches 4 1/2 inches.
© Erv Evans, Consumer