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Avoid common grass seeding mistakes

Dawn Matlock, Turf and Ornamental Coordinator 2/25/2019

If the grass always seems greener in someone else’s yard, you are probably in good company. The most common mistakes that lead to a less-than-lush lawn begin with grass seeding. I’ve listed the top eight below, along with how to avoid them. By following these suggestions, your side of the fence can have gorgeous grass, too.

1) There are many ways to save money in your lawn and garden, but using inexpensive seed is not one of them. Bargain-priced seeds are often made up of inferior grasses that can include weed seeds and provide lower germination. Many of these weeds are hard to control and can be a nuisance for many years. You should buy only top-quality seed with low weed content.

2) A number of factors — such as pH level, lack of nutrients, and soil type — can affect the look of your lawn. Collect soil samples from the lawn and follow the recommendations from a professional soil analysis. You can get a kit for soil sampling at your local Co-op. Sandy soil dries quickly but does not contain many nutrients. Clay soil is compacted and has poor drainage. Loamy soil drains well, retains nutrients, and is best for turfgrass. For best results, the soil pH level should be between 6.0 and 7.0.

3) Have you had a problem with seed germination in the past? One common mistake is planting seeds too deep. After sowing grass seed, people will sometimes bury or rake the seed too deeply. Remember that lawn seed should be lightly raked into the soil or just scattered directly onto the soil surface. As a rule of thumb, seed buried more than its length will have a hard time germinating.

4) Covering the newly planted seed can be very beneficial. But be careful not to apply too much mulch or straw to the seeded area. Straw laid on top of the seeds will protect against wind, erosion, and hungry birds, but applying it too thick will smother the new seedlings. If using straw, one bale per 1,000 square feet is a good rule to follow. Also, make sure your straw is clean. If not, your lawn might become weed-infested. When covering with mulch, be sure to apply the recommended rate.

5) Water properly when establishing a lawn. It is ideal to water several times for short periods versus one long watering. Once the seed has been spread and germination begins, it is imperative that the seed isn’t allowed to dry out. If this happens, the lawn will most likely fail to establish.

6) Let grass reach 4 inches tall before mowing, and remove only the top inch. A common mistake when mowing a lawn is cutting it too short. Never mow a lawn below 3 inches in height, and do not

mow if the grass is too wet. Keep your mower maintained with sharp blades

for a cleaner cut. Use a lawnmower bagger to keep grass clippings from smothering new seedlings.

7) Read your starter fertilizer label before buying. You should choose a product formulated with a high phosphorus content for strong grass root development and quick greenup of the newly seeded lawn. Water the lawn immediately after applying so nutrients can filter into the soil.

8) Because thatching and aerating the yard are seasonal tasks, homeowners often make the mistake of forgetting to complete them. To avoid this, mark them on your calendar for a hardier, healthier lawn.

For more helpful grass seeding advice, contact your local Co-op.

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