Tag Archive for: grass

Turf Tips: Seeding & Fertilizing

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist

A thick, healthy, dark green lawn is important to the look of your overall landscape. Colorful annuals, healthy shrubs and stately shade trees are wonderful features, but the overall appearance of your property is often dictated by the lawn. Having a beautiful lawn is not as difficult or time consuming as you might think. Mowing the lawn is the biggest chore, but all the other tasks are rather minimal.

Spring is the ideal time to get started building a healthy lawn. Controlling weeds is the first order of business. Next up is seeding and fertilizing, two simple steps that can be done the same day, and in any order.


Seeding gives you the opportunity to introduce new and improved varieties of grass to your lawn. The term “overseeding” simply means applying grass seed “on top of” the existing lawn. New seeds will settle down on the soil surface between existing blades of grass, and from there it will germinate and fill in the lawn.

Although we carry many different types of grass seeds, we recommend our private label options as they are custom blended for the specific conditions in our Northern Virginia area. The varieties in our mixtures were selected because of their superior performance in local and regional turf trials conducted independently by Virginia Tech and the University of Maryland. We have three different blends of grass seed:

Merrifield Tuff Play

  • Our most versatile and popular mixture. Great for high traffic areas as it contains top performing tall fescues with a touch of Kentucky bluegrass.
  • This mix performs well in full sun to 70% shade conditions.
  • It establishes itself quickly, tolerates drought and wear and tear, and is resistant to disease problems.

Merrifield Sunny

  • This blend contains top performing varieties of Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass for a premium lawn with a rich, dark green color.
  • This mix performs best in full sun to part shade conditions and requires more maintenance and water than the fescue blends.
  • Good traffic tolerance.

Merrifield Shady

  • This mix contains top performing fine-textured fescue, shade tolerant perennial ryegrasses and Kentucky bluegrass.
  • This mix is ideal for use in moderate to heavy shade conditions.
  • It produces a soft, fine-bladed grass that is not quite as traffic tolerant as Merrifield Tuff Play.

If you need assistance selecting the right seed for your lawn, stop by or call the garden center and speak with one of our turf experts.

Before you seed, mow the lawn and rake out any thatch or dead grass. Then you can apply your grass seed with a drop or rotary lawn spreader to ensure proper coverage. If you have any bare spots, you’ll need twice the amount of seed in those areas. Then cover those areas with soil or straw when you are done.


Fertilizer is very important to the overall health of the lawn. It provides beneficial nutrients necessary for it to perform at its best. At a minimum, fertilizer contains the nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium your lawn needs. Many also contain iron and other micro-nutrients that will help your lawn thrive.

At the time of seeding, we recommend fertilizing with Merrifield Select Lawn Food 14-18-14. This high phosphorous formula will aid in seedling germination and promote strong root growth, which is critical to new seed. In the fall, we recommend following with two applications of Merrifield Premium 26-0-12. After you have seeded and fertilized, be sure to water the lawn thoroughly.

Turf Tips: Preventing Summer Weeds

David Yost, Merrifield Plant Specialist and Turf Expert

Untreated summer weeds have a way of wreaking havoc on our lawns. The good news is that they haven’t germinated yet. You can intervene in the process by applying a summer annual weed preventer now. If you haven’t already, you’ll want to start by treating any winter weeds that currently reside in your lawn.

Types of Summer Weeds

Summer weeds include varieties of grassy and broadleaf weeds. Grassy weeds include crabgrass—the most infamous of all—goosegrass, foxtail and Japanese Stiltgrass. Japanese stiltgrass is now the most common weed in the state of Virginia. Each of these plants produces over 1,000 seeds that will remain viable in the soil for 3 to 5 years.

Many broadleaf weeds begin germinating in early spring and include spotted spurge and lespedeza, among others. Regardless of what type you have, all of these will stick out like a sore thumb in an otherwise healthy and attractive lawn.

Preventing Summer Weeds

To determine which product you should use to prevent summer weeds from attacking your lawn, you must first decide if you are going to seed the lawn this spring.

If you’re not planning to seed the lawn

If you are not seeding the lawn this spring, there are three different products you can use to control summer weeds:

  • Preen Crabgrass Control
  • Organic Corn Gluten

Preen Crabgrass Control contains dimension, a very effective ingredient that prevents summer weeds. Both products will remain active in the soil for 2 to 3 months, which means you need to put down two applications per year (for example, one in mid-March and another in early June).

Corn gluten is an organic weed preventer, which naturally inhibits all seed growth. This product will last about 1 to 2 months in the soil, which means you need to put down two applications per year (for example, one in mid-March and another in late April or early May).

If you put down two applications of any of these products in the spring and early summer, your lawn will be ready for fall seeding. Fall is an ideal time to seed as the warm days and cool nights provide the optimal growing conditions for cool season grasses.

If you are planning to seed the lawn

If you are seeding the lawn this spring, we recommend using Scott’s Step 1 for Seeding (Starter Food with Weed Preventer). This product contains tenacity, an ingredient that can distinguish between the “bad” summer weed seeds and the “good” grass seeds. This product also provides starter fertilizer to help your grass seed germinate.

Once your new grass seed has germinated and been mowed twice (this typically occurs about 6 to 8 weeks after seeding), you can apply a second application of another summer annual weed preventer. For the second application, we recommend using one of the three products for not seeding your lawn. By this point, your new grass will be mature enough to withstand the dimension ingredient. You should only use the Scott’s Step 1 for Seeding for the primary application as your lawn doesn’t need a second application of the starter fertilizer that comes automatically in the product.


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


Before seeding and fertilizing

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.

Merrifield Shady

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.

Merrifield Sunny

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

After Seeding and Fertilizing

After seeding and fertilizing

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!

Fertilize Again

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.

Tag Archive for: grass