What to Consider When Renovating Your Lawn
If you’re considering renovating your lawn then one of two things are true. Either the summer has really taken a toll on your lawn or you’ve simply decided to invest in new beginnings as a way to insure having the best yard in the neighborhood. And come to think about it maybe there’s a third – you need to fix summer damage and want to have the best lawn on the street.
No matter the reason, there are three key considerations you must factor when starting a lawn over from scratch. The first is soil preparation, the second involves insuring optimal levels of soil nutrients and last, but certainly not least, is the use of high quality seed with excellent germination rates and optimized for the area in which you live.
This first phase of your renovation project is really pretty straight forward. You’re simply going to kill everything that survived the summer. This is best done by applying a product like Quik-Pro Grass & Bush Killer, which contains a high percentage of active ingredient (AI). Quik-Pro, with 73% AI, is the most effective product on the market for this purpose.
Quik-Pro comes in the form of water soluble granules and is best applied using a pump sprayer, either hand-held or backpack. Simply fill your sprayer to the appropriate level as marked on the side and mix in 1.5 ounces of Quik-Pro per gallon of water. Mix by giving the sprayer a few good shakes. A gallon of mix should cover approximately 1,000 square feet.
Oh yes, please be very, very careful not to spray Quik-Pro (or any other pesticide for that matter) when the wind is blowing even slightly. You don’t want the herbicide to find its way to any prized ornamentals.
Also be very sure to build some lead-time into your renovation project schedule. It’s important to apply the Quik-Pro at least ten (10) days two (2) weeks prior to the scheduled sowing of the grass seed. Once that time has passed the herbicide will have no negative impact on your newly sown seed.
The next preparation task is to open the soil down to the root zone by either rototilling or heavy plug aeration. The key is to address compaction and to provide direct seed to soil contact. As you open the soil to a depth of at least 4-6 inches you enable water, oxygen and nutrients to penetrate to a depth that can be used by the plant’s roots.
Achieving Optimal Soil Nutrition
The first task is to know what your soil contains and the only sure method is to do a Soil Test. We strongly encourage not guessing and applying nutrients in accordance with test results.
However, the reality is that if you’re reading this and haven’t done a test…well the ship has probably sailed. Certainly do the soil test but you won’t have time to mount a corrective program should one be indicated by the test.
Not to worry. When renovating you can safely and effectively apply two critical ingredients without the benefit of a soil test report; starter fertilizer and calcitic lime.
We recommend the use of a time release professional grade fertilizer with a relatively high phosphorous percentage as displayed in the analysis on the bag (the middle number). The phosphorous is critical for germination and overall root development.
The best bet is to apply Starter Fertilizer at a rate of 1lb. of nitrogen (the first of the three numbers ) per 1,000 square feet. If, for example you have a starter product with an analysis of 14-20-14 a 50 pound bag which will cover approximately 10,000 square feet of lawn area.
The next soil amendment to apply is calcitic lime. As a general rule this type of lime is recommended because many soils don’t require the addition of magnesium, which is prevalent in dolomitic lime. If pH test results are not available, we recommend applying a calcitic lime at a curative rate of 50 pounds per 4,000 square feet.
Should you have recent soil test results showing a pH between 6.0 and 7.0 we still recommend a calcitic lime application but at a maintenance rate of 50 lbs. per 8,000 square feet.
What Seed to Apply
All steps in the renovation program are key and it’s hard to say one is more important than another. However, if you don’t apply the seed designed for the area where you live and if the bag’s contents are not certified you run the very real risk of buying a seed that’s out of date or not optimized for your geography.
Unless you live on the coast the best grass type for listeners to In The Garden is turf type tall fescue. If you live at higher elevations Kentucky Bluegrass may be more to your liking and of course on the coast a warm season grass like Bermuda or Zoysia may be the best choice.
Generally, we recommend Turf Type Tall Fescue and always recommend a product with a blend of different seed types. With a mix you are better protected against a lawn disease from impacting your entire lawn as each member of the mix offers different disease tolerances.
Always check the tag normally attached at the top of the bag. The certification will show germination rates, the percentage of weed seeds and the amount of noxious weeds present. Just be aware that you get what you pay for. A less expensive seed with low germination rates is no bargain. Look for germination rates at 90% with “Other Weeds” and “Other Crop” showing as “None” and of course “Noxious Weed Seeds” displayed as “None Found”.
Our recommendation is to sow a certified seed that’s been treated with naturally occurring nutrients. In most instances a treated field proven seed will germinate within 3-5 days and be at mowing height within three-four weeks. And of equal importance the roots of treated seed grow deeper and are denser they non-treated seed. This will result in a grass that’s more drought resistant and maintainable.
So if you’re going to renovate your lawn it’s important to have a plan. And that plan should address soil preparation, the application of nutrients to achieve optimal levels and the use of a premium treated and certified seed blend.