Fall is the best time to refurbish or plant cool season turf. It’s the most common groundcover used by homeowners, in full sun, when provided with moist, well-drained soil rich in organic material.
Lawns help control erosion and dust, dissipate heat and noise, reduce glare, lower fire hazards and are used for recreation and aesthetics.
|Utilizing Lawn As A Path|
They are specialized, withstanding regular cutting at heights of 2”-4”, perennial, green most of the year and grow into a tight carpet that will withstand some foot traffic.
Turf is divided into two types -- warm and cool season. In the Washington DC region, now is the time to establish or renew cool season grasses. We live on the northern cusp of hardiness for warm season grasses. The only variety practical to plant here is zoysia and that’s in spring.
Cool season grasses stay green during cool temperatures and turn brown during drought and heat. Some will stay green through winter. They hold their chlorophyll longer and withstand our winters better. Even now, coming out of this hot summer, it took only one soaking rain and cooler temperatures for them to begin growing.
Pick a cool season grass seed by choosing between two types – dwarf, turf-type tall fescue or a fine leafed variety, such as bluegrass, creeping red fescue and perennial rye grass hybrids. A blend of several compact growing tall fescues or a mix of fine textured grasses for seeding your lawn depends on your needs. Tall fescues are wear tolerant, disease resistant and mowed at 3”-4” in height. Fine textured bluegrass, fine fescue, and/or perennial rye are softer to the touch. They can be mowed at 2 and ½” and still maintain their lush appearance.
Most cool season grasses grow best in soil with a pH of 6.5 (pH is the measure of acidity and alkalinity). Find where to have your soil checked through your County Cooperative Extension System, www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension.
Create a healthy lawn:
• Aerate with a plug aerator from an equipment rental company. Spikes must be hollow and remove plugs of soil. Go over lawn three or four times, more if possible. Never aerate when lawns are soggy.
• Condition soil with compost that is fine textured enough to fill aeration holes. Sprinkle about ½” over holes. Don’t cover healthy turf because you will kill it. LeafGro is a locally composted, fine textured material. You might use as many as five bags of LeafGro per 1000 square feet of turf, if your lawn has a lot of bare areas, and only one or two bags per 1000 square feet if your lawn is thick.
• In September and October cool season grasses can use high nitrogen fertilizer because their leaves and roots grow vigorously until winter. Use a fertilizer that is at least 40 to 50% organic or has a percentage of slow release or water insoluble nitrogen (WIN) utilizing a drop or broadcast spreader. Always follow instructions on the packaging.
• There is a fine textured cool season seed mix, blended for thickness, slow growth and low nutrient requirements called Pearl’s Premium Ultra Low Maintenance Grass Seed Sun or Shade, www.pearlspremium.com. This mix contains five species of low growing native fescues plus frontier perennial rye and deep blue Kentucky bluegrass. This mix is slow growing, so lawn might only need mowing monthly. Follow directions on package for seeding.
• Moisture is available to plants in the form of dew with cooler temperatures. But, be sure your newly aerated and amended lawn is moist enough by sprinkling seed with water lightly every day. As seed begins to sprout, water more deeply to keep grass growing.
©2012 Joel M. Lerner
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