If your lawn is more than ten or fifteen years old, then you might consider renovating it. The grass seed industry works hard to develop new varieties of grass all the time. Over the last ten years they have come up with some excellent new introductions. You have much to gain by working these new varieties into your lawn.
The new varieties of blue grass being introduced today are much more resistant to insects and diseases that attacked the older bluegrass varieties. The old varieties of perennial rye grass were coarse textured and not very attractive. The new rye grasses are fine textured, and every bit as desirable as bluegrass. By adding these new grasses to your existing lawn, you will make the entire lawn more insect and disease resistant.
When installing a lawn it only makes sense to use a blend of different grasses for several reasons. Bluegrass has a germination period of 28 days. That’s a long time. Most weed varieties have a germination period of just a few days. If you were to install a lawn of 100% bluegrass, guess how many weed seeds could blow in and establish themselves before the bluegrass could germinate? Tens of thousands if not millions. Rye grasses germinate in six days. Fescues take a little longer, but certainly not 28 days. By using a blend of all three you get grass in less than week. The first plants to come up act as a nurse crop for the slower growing varieties, providing shade and protection for the small seeds.
Once all the varieties have germinated you have a very diversified lawn that will stand up against the old and new pests that attack lawns. Lawn pests are selective, a pest that can destroy one variety of grass may not effect the others at all. Having at least three or more varieties of grass in your lawn is like taking out lawn insurance. If one variety fails for any reason, you still have at least two or more to keep your yard looking good.
You do not have to dig up your entire lawn to renovate it. There are two different approaches you can take, neither involves digging up the entire lawn. As a matter of fact I don’t recommend digging up an entire lawn unless it’s done by a professional with the proper equipment. Even then, most contractors are not willing to take the time to properly prepare a lawn, when they are starting with an established lawn. A lawn can not be properly worked with equipment until the old grass is completely broken down, and that requires the help of Mother Nature with sun and rain, and working and re-working. This should be done over a period of a few weeks. A contractor can not afford to devote that much time to the job.
Depending on the present condition of your lawn you can chose one of two methods of renovating. If your lawn is in pretty good shape but you would like to introduce some new varieties of grass, the procedure is quite simple and should be done in the fall.
The first step is to cut your lawn very short, absolutely no longer than one inch, and a little shorter if possible.
Step two is to aerate your lawn with a commercial aerator. You want the soil to be loose, not compacted. Aeration will accomplish this. You can rent an aerator from an equipment rental shop.
The next step is to run over your lawn with a de-thatcher. Even if you do not have a heavy thatch build up, de-thatching is necessary to disturb the roots of the existing grass just a little bit. This will stimulate new root growth, and loosen the soil to prepare a seed bed for the new seed you are about to apply.
The next step is to over seed with the grass seed you have selected. Do not buy your grass seed at a discount store. I don’t care what the bag says. Go to a full service garden store and talk to somebody who knows what they are talking about. Here in the north eastern part of the country I recommend a blend of bluegrass, perennial rye, and fescues. You want a blend that contains the new varieties, not the old standards. Don’t skimp on price. Good quality grass seed is a bargain no matter what it costs, but the price difference is not that significant.
The final step is to apply a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and higher in phosphorous. Ask for a recommendation at the garden store. Consider an organic fertilizer such as Milorganite®.
If your existing lawn is not so nice and is full of invasive weeds, then you need to deal with that problem before starting the renovation. One technique that is often used is to spray the entire lawn with a post emergent herbicide to kill both weeds and grass. Once all vegetation has turned brown and is crispy, follow the procedures outlined above.
Be very careful when applying herbicides. They can and will harm your landscape plants, and can drift very easily if not applied properly. You don’t want over spray to drift onto your neighbors lawn or landscape plants. This could bring big trouble. To minimize chemical drift adjust the spray nozzle so it delivers larger droplets that can not be carried by the wind. A spray pattern that delivers an atomized mist can, and will drift very easily.
Visit the garden store and tell them what you are doing, they will recommend an herbicide that will do the job, but will not harm the new grass you are about to plant. The herbicide you use must not have any residual effect at all. In other words, it can not linger in the soil. There are excellent products on the market that work really well. When you visit the garden store, make sure you talk to a professional. For years I have watched inexperienced sales people dish out bad advice.
Keeping your new lawn nice is not that difficult. The easiest path is to hire a lawn care company to care for your lawn. Is this a good idea? There are mixed opinions about this. This is my opinion. Lawn care companies are in business to make money. The way they do that is to sell you as many services and applications as they can. I don’t feel that your lawn needs that much chemical treatment. If your lawn is healthy and happy it will not have a weed problem. Getting your lawn healthy and happy starts with the renovation that we just went through. Keeping it that way should start with a regular application of organic fertilizer. Organic fertilizers are not a flash in the pan treatment. They help to rebuild the soil by reactivating the micro-organisms in the soil. Chemicals do just the opposite.
When you water your lawn, water deeply. Apply at least one inch of water to each area before moving the sprinkler. Place a coffee can in the path of the sprinkler to measure the water. Shallow watering is not good. It promotes shallow roots, which makes for a lawn that is vulnerable to all kinds of problems, especially drought.
The final step is to enjoy your new lawn and your life. Slow down and take some time to smell the flowers and to watch them bloom.
by Mike McGroarty