Category Archives: seeding

Who says you can’t grow grass in sandy soil?

sandy soil lawn

This picture inspired me to find a couple good resources for dealing with Sandy Soil in home lawns.

Here are a few links to some very good information on amending sandy soil in general and when planting new grass seed.

Next Time, We will deal with CLAY even though they touch on it here.

Growing grass seed in Sandy soil
Amending sandy soil with compost

For some seed selection help in sandy or dryer soils, check my previous post “Selecting the right grass seed

Printable Lawn care guide to soil & fertility. A little more advance for those that want to know about soil structures and fertility. A great read from Washington State University regardless.

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How to select the right turfgrass seed

How to select the right turfgrass seed

One of the most important factors in selecting turfgrass seed for your site is to decide which species (or mix of species) best fits your needs. This is important whether you are deciding on the seed for athletic fields, home lawns or for renovating your existing turf to add newer improved varieties to your lawn.

Turfgrass breeders are constantly making improvements every year, so do your homework and try to find the best new varieties available. The extra cost of high quality seed is a tiny part of the total cost of any seeding job, so choose the best seed varieties available that fit your needs. You have to live with the lawn you put in, so it makes sense to buy the best quality available.

This article will focus on cool season species because cool season species are most widely used in the northern two-thirds of the country. Each of the most popular cool season species has unique growth habits and I will discuss them briefly here.

Perennial Ryegrass
Perennial ryegrass has a non -spreading, bunch type growth habit. It germinates and establishes quickly. It has a dark green color, medium fine texture, and good mowing characteristics. Perennial ryegrass is best in mixtures with other species. High quality perennial ryegrasses will be endophyte enhanced . These endophytic ryegrasses are naturally more resistant to lawn damaging insects like chinch bugs.

Kentucky Bluegrass
Kentucky Bluegrass is a widely adapted species that is used for many situations. Its dark green color and medium fine texture contributes to it sometimes being called the king of lawn grasses. Kentucky bluegrass is able to spread and recover because it grows by underground primary lateral stems called rhizomes. These rhizomes grow out from the main plant and form a new plant, allowing it to form a dense cover. Kentucky bluegrass is a good choice for athletic fields, home lawns, and golf courses. For high quality turf, Kentucky bluegrass should receive medium to high maintenance.

Hybrid Bluegrass
New Hybrid Bluegrasses have recently been developed that exhibit the same great qualities as Kentucky Bluegrass, but are Drought and Shade tolerant. Kentucky Bluegrass was bred with other warm weather bluegrass varieties to come up with these wonderful Hybrid Bluegrasses. Availability is still limited, and they cost a bit more, but they look great.

Turf Type Tall Fescue
Tall fescue is another bunch type grass that persists in the warmer areas of the cool season range of adaptation. This is primarily due to the fact that it has a deep root system, which helps it be more heat and drought tolerant. Plant breeders have made great improvements in this species over the last decade. The newer varieties are as dark green and almost as fine textured as the improved Kentucky bluegrass varieties. It does not tolerate as close a mowing height as Kentucky bluegrass or perennial ryegrass, so a mowing height of 2 –3 inches is recommended. Turf Type Tall fescue requires slightly less water and fertilizer to produce a high quality turf stand.

Fine Fescues
Chewings fescue and Hard fescue have a bunch –type growth habit. All have a fine leaf texture. They are particularly well adapted to dry, shady conditions as well as lower maintenance situations. Creeping red fescue is the most widely used of the three main fine leafed fescues. It has slow spreading rhizomes.
The fine fescues are primarily used in mixes with other species like Kentucky bluegrass and perennial ryegrass

Whichever species you choose, always try to choose quality named varieties with superior genetics that have improved disease and insect resistance, and drought tolerance, and that will fit your long-term goals.

Consider the following before you choose which grass will work best for different areas of your lawn.

Shade tolerance. Grasses are sun-loving plants. They need an absolute minimum of 4 hours of direct sun a day. Areas that get much traffic require at least 6 hours. If your light is marginal, fescues tolerate shade better than regular bluegrass or ryegrass. Some new Hybrid bluegrass varieties are new to the professional market, and they tolerate shade real well. They are also much more drought tolerant and look great too !

Drought tolerance. If you don’t plan to water during summer droughts, or your soil does’nt retain much water, the Hybrid Bluegrasses and Turf type tall fescues are your best choice. Some professional mixes actually combine both.

Wear tolerance. Fine fescue doesn’t stand up well to traffic. Choose one of the other species for lawn areas that take a lot of wear and tear.

Establishment. Perennial ryegrass is quick to germinate and protect the soil — an important consideration on slopes that are vulnerable to erosion. Kentucky bluegrass is the slowest. The fescues fall between the two.

Growth habit. Kentucky bluegrass spreads by underground stems called rhizomes. It forms a tough sod. When damaged, the rhizomes can creep back in to cover the bare spot. The other grasses are bunch grasses that don’t spread as well or form as dense a sod. This is why Bluegrasses are desirable to incorporate in the lawn.

Leaf texture. Fine fescue has very thin, fine leaves. Turf type Tall fescue’s leaves are a little courser but are still pretty fine. Ryegrass and bluegrass fall in between.

In addition, you also need to consider how much time and money you plan to invest in your lawn, and how good you want it to look. The fescues are good choices for low-maintenance lawns that you won’t have to fertilize often, and that you won’t mow closer than 3 inches to the ground.

At the other end of the spectrum, Kentucky bluegrass makes a fine-looking lawn, but requires a little more careful management to stay healthy. Plan to fertilize it four times a year, and keep in mind that it is more susceptible to drought (unless you use one of the new hybrids) and pests.

When you purchase grass seed, it is often a mix of several species. Read the label to find out what’s in the bag before buying. Again, cheap seed is never a bargain.

Never purchase a mix that contains more than 2% inert matter, or any noxious weed seeds. Avoid grass seed mixes with annual ryegrass. I will germinate and grow quickly, but usually dies over winter. It is very inexpensive and is usually a sign of poor quality mixes. Sometimes keywords like “quick” , “tough” & “contractors” should be indicators to read the tag .

Four typical mixes matched for different situations:

Shady Areas


Uses: New seeding and over-seeding of shaded grass areas in all fine turf situations. Adapted to residential and commercial turf, Shady mix is an ideal choice for renovation of “lawn” areas with mature trees and sun, which restrict sunlight.

Features: This Shade mix contains three species of fine fescues, (red, chewings, and hard), which have been found to have a positive affect on disease and insect pressure, unlike typical “least cost” mixtures which often contain the lower performing common creeping red fescue, common bluegrass and ryegrass. These three species have the ability to withstand shade created drought caused by competing tree root absorption and leaf canopy uptake of light rains that never reach the ground.

Rates establishment: 4-5 lbs/1000 sq ft
Rates overseeding: 2-3 lbs/1000 sq ft

Sunny Lawns (medium-higher maintenance)


Uses: Excellent choice for new seeding in mixed sun and shade where sunny areas predominate such as medium to mature landscapes on home lawns and commercial turf. Many public parks and campuses have a similar mix of sun and moderate shade, and Sunny Supreme can be utilized in newly seeded, renovated and overseeding applications to improve turf cover.

Features: Attractive mix of fine leaf textures creates a more natural look as compared with sod. Broad based of species offers excellent genetic resilience to a wide range of environmental stresses, as well as performance under the range of weather conditions experienced in the New England climates. A quality sun mix like this is the highly attractive professional alternative to the generic Sun mixes so widely available to the homeowner and “least cost” landscaper.

Rates establishment: 4-5 lbs/1000 sq ft
Rates overseeding: 2-3 lbs/1000 sq ft

Sunny Lawn Overseeding

(Usually 2-3 different varieties)

Uses: Ideal for athletic field over-seeding as well as heavy wear performance driven turf. When used in lawn maintenance for fall overseeding, the fast establishment of the high percentage of perennial ryegrass provides the visual results the customer is looking for. By utilizing an aggressive bluegrass, the capacity to compete and not be overtaken by the ryegrass is realized. Likewise, the aggressive bluegrass can move rapidly into other areas. This overseed mix is an excellent choice for home lawns and athletic field oversedding.

Features: The main feature of this mix is very rapid establishment, including on a relative scale, the bluegrass variety. Aggressive growth and strong lateral tillering contribute to density and turf cover of heavy traffic areas. It can be utilized during the short “down-times” on athletic fields and home lawns. Endophyte fungi living symbiotically with these perennial ryegrasses, repel surface feeding insects such as chinch bugs and sod webworm.

Rates establishment: 3-5 lbs/1000 sq ft
Rates overseeding: 1 ½ -2 ½ lbs/1000 sq ft

Sun & Shade


Uses: Primarily designed for new seeding or aggressive renovation of residential and commercial turf. This sun & shade mix can thrive under more shade than other sun mixes, and therefore is suited to sun and shade conditions often found in mature landscapes of public parks and older residential landscape areas.

Features: It is fine textured and cuts clean from 1 ½ to 3 inch height of cut, with the high heights during the peak of summer heat and humidity. Improved varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass and perennial ryegrass offer better turf quality and disease performance as compared to least cost-common type formulations in similar mixes.

Rates establishment: 4-5 lbs/1000 sq ft
Rates overseeding: 2-3 lbs/1000 sq ft

There are many other mixes that incorporate specific factors for a situation, but these four encompass many situations.

For more information on grass seed and lawn seeding , visit

12 steps to lawn renovation success

Renovate your own lawn like a pro 12 steps to renovation success.

Deciding to renovate your existing lawn ,or to scrap the entire thing and start from scratch, can be a difficult decision . Usually If 50 % of the lawn is grass, then renovating the existing lawn is the way to go. If the lawn is completely overrun with weeds , or has other problems, you will have to address those first.

Late Summer and Fall are great times to germinate seed. Usually the temperatures are perfect , and you don’t have to compete with weeds and crabgrass like you do in the spring and summer. Even the best professionals have a hard time keeping these things out in the spring.

Let me make this statement before we go on. There are no magic ingredients in seeding your lawn. The closest thing to guaranteeing success is water. Moisture . That’s it.
The newly seeded area needs as much moisture as possible until germination. If you follow these steps and idealy keep the new seed from drying, you will have success.

1.Get rid of the weeds. This step will keep other species from competing with your new grass.

The most effective way to eliminate existing weeds and turf is with non-selective herbicides that contain the active ingredient glyphosate (Round-up, or one of the generic brands that is much cheaper). Other non-selective herbicides include glufosinate (Finale) or the herbicidal soap formulation Scythe. Don’t walk on the grass until the product dries on the leaves.

Most of these products will allow you to seed in 7 days or so. Read the label of whatever you are using. Make sure you don’t apply a selective lawn weed killer . Most of those will keep your seed from germinating for 3-6 weeks.

If the whole lawn is weeds, spray everything. If only a few patches exist of stubborn weeds , spray only those weeds. You will see dying and yellowing soon.

Once the weeds are dead, mow the area you are renovating down as short as you can just prior to renovating. This will ensure the seed will make soil contact.

2. Fill in any holes or low spots. Take care of holes before you replant. Now is the time to eliminate low spots and take care of other drainage problems.

3. Amend the topsoil you have left .
• Biosolid organic fertlizers are inexpensive and add organic matter to the soil
• Ph adjusting products like lime or Solu-cal to raise PH if needed
• Gypsum or Solu-cal S to help condition clay soils
• Any quality animal manure based organic fertilizer

Sandy soils can be amended by incorporating a small amount of clay or organic material to enhance water- and nutrient-holding capacity. Add high-phosphorus starter fertilizer with about 1 lb. N/1,000 square feet and/or pH modifiers such as lime or Solu-cal based on information from your soil test.

4. Pick the right grass. The species and variety you choose will depend on:
• What quality of sod you expect.
• How much work you want to do to maintain it.
• How you plan to use it.
• Sun and shade.
• Drought tolerance
• Resistance to insects and diseases.

Stay away from cheap blends of seed. The bargain from the garden store is no bargain. In this world you get what you pay for , and it is no different in grass seed.

Stay away from mixes with Annual grasses , Noxious weed content , unnamed varieties of seed , and low germination percentages. Usually any mix with the words quick , fast , contractors , and tough are products you might want to stay away from as they are usually low end. Rememeber, if it is less expensive then all the others , you probably don’t want it.

5. Prepare the soil. You need to somehow rough or prepare the soil. You can use an aerator or a slice seeder. Both of these can be rented at most rental shops. This time of year they are popular so reserve them early.

If you use an aerator , don’t be afraid to really open the lawn up. Go in 2-3 different directions when pulling plugs. Really beat the area up.

If you use a slice seeder , go half rate in 2 directions then use a spreader to go over the barest areas again to help get a uniform look.

Make sure you seed at the right rate . The larger the seed, the higher the seeding rate. Studies show that there is no benefit from seeding more than the recommended rate. Excessive seeding rates create too much competition between the seedlings. Seeding at the correct rate or slightly lower encourages tillering – lateral spreading of the grass plants. (Sometimes if conditions are less than ideal, a higher seeding rate may be justified.)

Use a rotary “spin” spreader at half of the recommended seeding rate. Then apply the seed in two different directions at right angles to each other. This assures more uniform coverage. It is also easier to be lighter and go over it twice then it is to run out of seed ¼ the way though.

If you are reseeding small patches or around mailboxes and corners, the garden weasel is a great tool. It is a very veratile tool every gardner and professional should own. It quickly roughs small areas and tight spots to allow you to make good seed to soil contact. If you don’t own one, you should .

6.Lightly rake in the seed. In the bare spots ,mix the seed and soil so that the seed is covered no more than 1/16 of an inch or so. I like to use the back edge of a plastic leaf rake without pressure to incorporate it.

7. Roll the soil. Only roll if you have a lot of bare spots as opposed to grass you renovated. Light rolling assures good seed-to-soil contact needed for the seeds to take up water and germinate. I usually don’t even fill it with water , using only the weight of the roller. It usually works fine.

8. Mulch large bare spots. Use weed-free straw or marsh hay to conserve moisture and help prevent erosion. (Avoid pasture hay as it is often loaded with weed seeds.) Other effective mulching materials include products made from wood fiber, paper pellets, and other kinds of erosion-control blankets. Products made from a combination of pelletized paper and water-absorbing gel such as PennMulch are highly effective and hold water better . They are also green , and wont require raking when done. PennMulch even has a starter fertilzer on it already.

Erosion blankets are great when you have slopes to protect. After seeding , you roll the erosion blanket out and staple it down. The grass grows right up through and the blanket decomposes. No mess and most are green also .

9. Water , water, water. New seeds and young seedlings will quickly die if allowed to dry out. Keep seedbeds moist at all times until seeds emerge. This is the single most important aspect of seeding. Water only enough to moisten the surface. Do not overwater causing runoff. Gradually reduce water after emergence to encourage deeper rooting. Once grass covers about 50-percent of the ground, the surface should be allowed to dry.

10. Fertilize. About 4-5 weeks after seeding, apply about 1 lb. N/1,000 square feet. This is the standard setting on most Fertilizer products. This will increase shoot density, color and the seedlings’ ability to withstand diseases such as rust.

11. Mow. Once more than 60 percent of the grass reaches the recommended mowing height (at least 2 to 3 inches), start mowing. Mowing encourages lateral shoot development, increases stand density and helps the turf outcompete weeds. Make sure your mower blade is sharp. Dull blades will tear young seedlings from the soil.

Once you’ve Mowed the lawn twice , it is usually safe to use weed control products again. Be careful because you may still have young seedlings that will be prone to injury.

12. ENJOY YOUR LAWN. You worked hard for it, so use it for picnics , baseball, or whatever you like. Its there to be used .

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