Consistent watering will help your grass seed take hold and grow. Lack of water for six hours will kill germinating grass seed and new seedlings. (PhotoDisc)
Those who were hit by flooding and had belongings sitting on their lawns for several days may sadly be left with large patches of yellowed grass, which will probably die. Any bare spot in the lawn larger than 4 inches in diameter should be reseeded before weeds have a chance to sprout. The good news is now is the best time do the job. And this is also the perfect time to aerate the lawn.
When removing dead grass and weeds from the bare patches, I dig rather than pull any perennial weeds to be sure to get all the roots. Re-sprouting weeds compete with grass seedlings for moisture. Using a rake to loosen and smooth the soil will provide a soft bed for the seed.
Grass seed can take 21 days to germinate, however, spreading ¼ inch of bio-activated Organimax compost over the surface of the prepared soil speeds up the process. The beneficial organisms Mychorriza and kelp in Organimax make the seed pop, and I have had seed sprout in 10 days.
After spreading the seed, gently rake it in and tamp it down to make good contact with the soil. I use a fine spray to water the new seedbed. Spreading straw over the seeded area serves as a mulch to hold in moisture.
The rate of seed application varies by brands and use. While the directions on the bag may dictate 5 pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet, if you want your turf to look dense like the greens on a golf course, spread 10 to 12 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Coated seed coverage varies, so check the instructions on the box and do the math. In a small area, there will be about 60 grass seeds per square foot at the rate of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet. Dense seeding provides some seed for the birds and still produces a thick stand of grass. Thick grass also keeps weed seeds from sprouting.
After all this work, water is the real key to success. Soil allowed to dry for six hours will kill germinating seed and new seedlings, so daily watering is a must and 4-6 p.m. is the best time as it cools down the soil as well as adding moisture. On a hot, dry day, morning and evening watering is recommended.
Even if a starter fertilizer is used, new grass should be fertilized after 30 days, and my product of choice is the organic slow-release fertilizer Grass Magic.
Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. Email her at Szerlag @earthlink.net. You can also read her previous columns at detroitnews.com/homestyle.