Home & Garden: Plant & renew lawns during Grand Valley’s autumn
Free Press Gardening Columnist
Autumn is an excellent time to plant a new lawn of bluegrass, tall fescue, or perennial ryegrass. This time of year is also a great time to renew an old lawn, or fill bare spots in your existing lawn. To be effective, the grass seed must be in direct contact with the soil. This can be accomplished by aerating the lawn to cut plugs through the thatch down to the soil or by using a seeder-slicer, a device designed to cut slits in the lawn dropping in a seed in the process. In either case a top dressing of organic matter should be applied after seeding to protect the seed from the vagaries of wind and sun.
A new lawn also can be hydroseeded, which is a process where seed, mulch, and water are sprayed over the area scheduled to be lawn. Regardless of which technique is used, the lawn must be kept moist until the grass seed has germinated and the new plants established. Germination may take seven days if the seed is a perennial ryegrass or dwarf tall fescue grass, or up to 21 days if the grass seed used is Kentucky bluegrass or hybrid bluegrass.
The biggest problems we have with establishing lawns are ill-prepared soil and inefficient sprinkler systems. The soil needs to be prepared by working up to six cubic yards of organic matter into the top six to eight inches of soil, and the irrigation system must be installed properly to ensure the complete area is watered uniformly. Even with our cooler days the newly seeded area may need to be sprinkled four to five times per day. This requires a controller/clock or somebody available to turn out the system. The system may need to run no more than five to 10 minutes each time, but for those working out of the home an irrigation clock is absolutely necessary. Before you select the grass, you have to determine whether you want cool-season grasses or a warm-season grass.
Maybe what you want for your lawn mimics a high-end golf course, or maybe you just need something to keep down the dust and the mud. It’s possible the area where you want to have turf is too salty for any of the cool season grasses, and your only option is Japanese zoysiagrass, a hybrid Bermuda grass, or seashore paspalum. These warm-season grasses need heat to germinate and become established, therefore June and July are the best times to plant warm grasses. My comments about proper soil preparation and a properly designed and installed irrigation system is as critical for the success of a warm-season grass lawn as it is for a perennial ryegrass, tall fescue, or bluegrass lawn.
And in some areas of the valley, it is best to check your soil to determine the salt content prior to installing a lawn.
Several years ago I worked with High Country Lawns to develop a top-dressing regimen to improve the success of seeded lawns for those of you living in the Grand Valley. We also conducted planting trials of zoysia grass for use in salty areas. If you have dead spots in your lawn desperately in need of grass cover, call High Country Lawns at 970-245-0875.
GJ Free Press columnist Dr. Curtis E. Swift is a retired horticulture agent with the Colorado State University Extension. Reach him at Curtis.Swift@alumni.colostate.edu, 970-778-7866 or check out his blog at http://SwiftsGardeningBlog.blogspot.com. He owns Swift Horticultural Consulting and High Altitude Lavender.
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