Simple Steps to Restore Your Lawn
David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist
We spent the summer months combating hot, dry weather and annual weeds that left our lawns thin and patched. Now it is the perfect time to focus on repairing the damage with a combination of overseeding and fertilizing to restore our lawns to a thick carpet of green.
As the fall season approaches, the weather creates optimal growing conditions for cool season grasses. The shorter days and slightly cooler temperature stimulates growth, and more frequent rain helps prevent the seeds from drying out in the heat. But still the soil is warm enough to help the seeds germinate and establish root systems before winter. In our area, prime seeding time is generally from September 1 through October 15 for cool-season grasses.
The good news is that seeding is simple and you make a dramatic improvement to your landscape in a short period of time! It just takes preparation, the right mix of seed and fertilizer, and water to keep your soil moist to the touch.
Preparation is Key
When you paint a room in your house, it takes longer to prepare the room than it does to actually paint. The same is true with seeding! The more effort you put into preparing your grass, the better your results will be.
To begin, mow your lawn shorter than usual to about a two-inch cutting height. Then it’s time to rake your soil, remove old debris and dead grass and dethatch, if necessary. At a minimum this can be achieved through vigorous raking. If you have a larger space or access to an aerator, we recommend core aerating the surface to cultivate the ground and open up the turf canopy to increase your soil to seed contact.
Selecting Your Grass Seed
At Merrifield we’ve developed three custom grass seed blends. We’ve mixed them specifically to include varieties that are superior performers in local and regional turf trials conducted independently by Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. These varieties have been evaluated locally for our conditions and blended for three different environments:
Merrifield Tuff Play
This is our most versatile and popular mixture and contains tall fescues with a touch of Kentucky bluegrass. This mix performs well in conditions with at least four hours of sun to full sun. It establishes itself quickly, tolerates drought, wear and tear, and disease problems for a beautiful, low-maintenance lawn.
This blend contains fine-textured fescues and is ideal for use in moderate to heavy shade conditions. This mix performs well in dry, shady conditions where trees may compete for sun, water and nutrients.
This blend consists of top performing Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass, which provide a premium quality lawn with a rich, dark green color. The finer-bladed grasses in this blend perform well in full sun to part shade conditions but do require more maintenance and water than fescue blends.
Our plant specialists can help you find the appropriate grass seed and amount for your lawn based on your conditions and the square footage of your yard.
Apply Your Seed and Starter
Disperse your grass seed uniformly over the soil, either by hand or by using a handheld or push spreader. Turn over a rake and use the back of the tines to gently work the seed into the soil. Be sure to keep your strokes light to avoid redistributing the seed.
Once you’ve dispersed your seed evenly, add a starter fertilizer to promote seed germination. We recommend our Merrifield Select 14-18-14 as it’s high phosphorous level promotes strong root development. It’s also slow release so it won’t burn the new seedlings.
Add Your Top Coat and Water
Top dress your seed and fertilizer with a thin layer of compost. As the compost breaks down, it helps improve the soil structure and keeps the seed moist and protected to promote germination.
When watering seed, our objective is to keep the surface of the soil moist to the touch. This is different from watering an established lawn where we aim to water deeply to develop an established root system. A general guide is to water your new seeds for 10-minutes every day the first week, 10-minutes every-other-day the second week, and 10-minutes every third day the third week. Check the soil daily and adjust your watering schedule according to the weather.
If you prepare and water properly, you can see sprouting with Merrifield Tuff Play within one week and be at mowing time within four weeks!
Four to six weeks after your initial application, fertilize your lawn with Merrifield Premium 26-0-12. This fertilizer contains sulfate of potash for drought resistance and turf vigor and long lasting, slow release nitrogen for a thick, healthy lawn. Reapply Merrifield Premium a second time, four to six weeks after the first application. After each application, water within a day to activate the fertilizer.
With any landscape project, exposing your soil can promote weed growth as weeds live within your soil. If you see weed growth following your restoration project, please bring your lawn samples into our Plant Clinic. Our plant specialists can recommend a treatment for your unique lawn conditions.