It’s seeding time! Now is the second-best time of the year to seed your lawn with cool season grasses. The best time of the year is mid-August to late September, but if you missed that window last fall or just need to fill in some of those thin spots, now is the time.
Timing is critical. Seeding should be complete by mid-April as competition from weeds and moisture stress make seedings from late spring to mid-summer seldom successful.
When selecting a variety of grass seed, the University of Kentucky recommends a turf-type tall fescue. It is the best adapted grass for Kentucky. Problem lawns with shade, poor soil or heavy traffic should almost always be established with tall fescue.
Do not underestimate the importance of soil preparation in lawn establishment, even in the spring. While soil moisture is usually very good, soil temperatures are low, which makes germination very slow. However, once germinated, growth is usually rapid. Make sure you have good seed to soil contact. You can do this by scratching the seed into the soil with a hard rack for small areas. Be sure to only work your soil when it is dry. Working wet soil can cause damage that can take years to correct.
Seeding larger areas is usually done with a rotary or drop seeder. For uniform distribution, divide the seed into two equal lots. Seed the second lot at right angles to the first. Lightly cover the seed to prevent it from being washed away during heavy rains, but don’t over-do.
Don’t be afraid to mow a new lawn. After the turf begins to grow, mow at recommended heights of 2 to 2-1/2 inches for fescue. By mowing early and not letting excessive grass accumulate, the texture will be finer, many upright weeds will be killed, the turf will become denser, and lateral spread will increase.
Although early spring usually is not the best time to apply nitrogen, it is the right time to apply a pre-emergence herbicide for persistent crabgrass problems. Since a pre-emergence herbicide only is effective before crabgrass germinates, be sure to apply it prior to mid-April and before crabgrass germinates and begins to compete with your grass. But remember that most pre-emergent herbicides are not compatible with sowing grass seed. Be sure to check the label prior to applying.
For more information, please contact the Woodford County Extension Service, 873-4601.