Summer was cruel to our well-intended lawns. Even with regular and responsible irrigation, the combination of record-breaking heat and few real rains wreaked havoc and provided weeds and critters with optimal conditions. So...now's the time to regain our emerald glory before the temps drop.
To begin...mow the lawn, short (1 to 1.5 inches). This will make the tasks to follow easier and more successful.
De-thatch. Take a hard rake to the lawn, remove the build-up of thatch, exposing soil between areas of healthy lawn. You might as well remove large weed colonies as you see them and rake those areas, too.
De-bump. While you're de-thatching, check for bumps, depressions, unevenness in the soil and correct with good topsoil. if those imperfections reside underneath good sod, lift it and correct, then reposition the sod.
Test. Now is a very good time to check your soil's ph which will likely be low if you haven't checked it in a while. We live in an area of primarily acidic soil which is why we can grow so many wonderful broad-leafed evergreens. But that condition is not optimal for grass. Take a soil sample, in baggie, to your local garden center for a quick ph test and adjust as recommended with a simple application of lime (too much can be too much, so make sure to adjust according to their recommendation based on the test result). You can use a spreader but do not mix the lime with fertilizer in the spreader! Water well after it's applied. it's unlikely that a soil test will indicate a too-high ph reading. If so, your garden center will recommend a sulphur product (be careful not to use too much...you might burn the turf) to lower the ph.
De-weed. Walk the lawn and stop to remove, by root, the weeds. On our properties, we remove large areas of weeds and apply sod. On smaller areas we seed. This is the ultimate organic weed removal!
Compost. On all cleared areas, apply a layer of mushroom compost or composted leaves that you might have stored on your property. Rake into the existing soil, smooth (mix well...you may want to apply a mix of topsoil and compost). Not only will the compost fertilize the lawn but it will help to break down clay and add beneficial microbes to the soil structure which will digest grass clippings, dead roots, other green waste over time.
Aerate. Every few years, consider renting a core aeration machine or hire a service. Or strap on a pair of aeration sandals and get some exercise. Aeration allows roots to penetrate deeper, and fertilizer/compost and moisture to work further into the soil. The effect for just the first few days is like having a team of dogs doing their business everywhere.
Seed. Use a premium mix for shade and sun, available from a number of seed companies...choose a mix that is not too heavy on perennial rye. Primex carries some top quality seeds. Apply according to directions. Be sure you've loosened and composted your soil first, and added lime if needed.
We apply seed first to those areas we've prepared, and then to the rest of the lawn right over the existing turf. A walking seed spreader is the easist way to apply the seed, but be sure you've gotten enough of it to the spots in need.
Water!!!!! And a few more exclamation marks as well. Immediately after applying the seed, soak the areas well. Twice a day thereafter, a light watering so that the seeds don't move into clumps. Morning and late afternoon, unless of course it's raining. If the soil dries out, the seeds won't germinate or will die once they have. When the new grass is at least 2 inches tall, resume your normal watering schedule and mow with a sharp blade at any time thereafter.
Fertilize. Create a schedule for regular ongoing fertilization of your lawn. A number of excellent organic products are available.
Many folks remark that a lawn is impractical and unnecessary. Though it's true, a lawn also provides cool green on a hot summer's day. A soft carpet for walking barefoot. And it affords a house and property the look of being well-loved and cared for. Enjoy yours!
And please call if you can use our help.