SYCAMORE – Gardeners will soon see how much last summer’s drought impacted the landscape. It may take three to five years to see the impact on trees, but other plants respond quicker. Although most lawns revived better than expected last fall, University of Illinois Extension horticulture specialist David Robson anticipates many will need renovation this spring.
According to Robson, fall is a better time to seed. Spring results may be satisfactory, but summer’s heat can create problems. Grass plants need sufficient time to establish before hot and dry conditions set in. A strong root system and dense plant stand is the goal. Most grass types need six to 12 weeks of ideal growing weather once germinated to produce an adult stand.
Another problem with spring seeding is the competition with weed seeds germinating, especially crabgrass. Crabgrass pre-emergence weed controls are not formulated to distinguish between weed and desirable grass seed. A homeowner may end up with excellent crabgrass control as well as control of grass seedlings. Siduron or Tupersan can be used at half the recommended rate to provide some crabgrass control and allow grass seeds to germinate and grow. Read and follow all label directions.
When sowing grass seed, make sure seed is covered lightly with soil. It is essential to have good soil-to-seed contact for germination.
Bare patches should be raked of debris, seed sown, covered and kept moist until germinated. Daily watering to wet the ground an inch is sufficient.
Overseeding can improve the turf’s stand. Sow the seed and rake in. Use a leaf rake to push the seed down to the soil.
Fertilizing should be avoided until grass plants become established. The recommended time to fertilize in the spring is May 15. Grass seeded in early April should be up and growing by that date.
Keep the soil moist until the seed germinates, but be patient because Kentucky bluegrass seed takes time to germinate (up to two to five weeks) compared to ryegrass, that germinates in five to 10 days. Once seedlings become established, settle for an inch of water per week. Continue watering through June and early July. Deep and infrequent watering are the best. New plants should be mowed when needed.
For more information on lawn care, visit the University of Illinois Extension LawnTalk website at http://urbanext.illinois.edu/lawntalk.