Seeding Rates and Procedures

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94. When is the best time to seed a lawn?

Let nature be your guide. Seed during that part of the year when there is adequate rainfall and the temperature is best for seed germination. This will vary according to your locale. See Table 4-1 for the best seeding times.

Table 4-1 Best Seeding Times

Spring or early summer

Fall or early spring

Bahiagrass

Bermudagrass

Buffalograss

Carpetgrass

Centipedegrass

Bentgrass

Bluegrass

Chewing Fescue

Red Fescue

Tall Fescue

95. Can a general rule be given on how deep the grass seed should be put into the ground?

The depth of planting will vary depending on the size of the seed. In general, the smaller the seed, the shallower it should be planted.

The smaller seed of the bent-grasses should be ¼ inch to 1/8th deep, whereas the bigger seeds of tall fescue and ryegrasses can be as deep as ½ to ¾ inch. Any seed exposed on the surface is most subject to drying out.

96. How can I achieve even coverage when seeding a new lawn?


Figure 4-1. Sow seed from different directions for uniform coverage of lawn area.

The best method is to Cut the seeding rate in half and seed the area first in one direction, then again at right angles to the first direction. (See fig. 4-1.)

97. Someone told me of a machine that does seeding -- is there such a machine, and should I use it?

One way of seeding, which insures the best chance of getting a maximum amount of your seed to germinate is to rent a machine that actually places the seed in the soil at the correct depth and then covers it up. Since most of us do not want to rent equipment, another way, which works very well, is to broadcast the seed over the surface of the soil and then rake the ground lightly to help cover the seed. A light mulch would help conserve the moisture in the soil if you want to go to the extra time and expense. (See Table 4-2.)

TABLE 4-2: Standard Seeding Rates for Lawns

Type-seed

Pounds per 1,000 sq. ft.

Bahiagrass

Bentgrass

Bermudagrass

Bluegrass

Buffalograss

Carpetgrass

Centipedegrass

Chewing Fescue

Poa trivialis

Red Fescue

Ryegrass

Tall Fescue

2—5

1—5

2—4

2—3

1—2

2—4

2—4

3—5

2—3

3—5

4—6

4—6

TABLE 4-3: Seeding Rates for Small Areas (seeds per square inch)

Kentucky Bluegrass

Bermudagrass

Bentgrass

25 to 35

25 to 35

50 to 55

98. How is the best way to seed small bare spots in an established lawn?

First, loosen the bare ground so the seed will have a good seed-bed. Then hand-sprinkle the seed into the areas, followed by a light raking to cover the seed. (See Table 4-3.)

99. Can seed be planted during the winter months?

Yes. Cold weather will not harm the dormant seed. After the weather warms up enough to cause seed germination, moisture becomes the most important need of the plant.

100. What is the most common cause for new grass 8eedlings to fail?

Two things generally are at fault. Either the seedbed was not prepared adequately before seeding and the seed was not placed in good enough contact with the soil, or sufficient water was not applied. The soil should be kept moist at the surface for the first few weeks until the grass is up and the roots are one inch deep into the soil.

101. What does the term certified seed refer to on a seed label?

This is the best insurance that the buyer is getting seed of the highest quality. It shows that the seed was periodically inspected, while being grown, to assure the buyer of the genetic composition and purity (weed-free) of the seed. (See Table 4-4.)

TABLE 4-4: Characteristics Required for Quality Turf grass Seed

Seed per pound

Minimum purity (%)

Minimum germination (%)

Bentgrass

Bermudagrass

Bluegrass

Buffalograss

Carpetgrass

Chewing Fescue

Dallisgrass

Red Fescue

Ryegrass

Tall Fescue

8,000,000

1,750,000

2,200,000

45,000

1,200,000

600,00

160,000

600,000

225,000

500,000

95

95

95

85

90

95

75

95

98

95

90

85

75

50

90

85

6o

85

95

90

102. How can I tell when I’m getting good seed for my money?

Examine the label carefully. Look for the different kinds of grass seed present and the amount (expressed as percent of total) each contributes to the grass-seed mixture. Be sure the grasses present in the mix are adapted to your individual needs. Grass seed containing crop or noxious weed seeds can introduce bother some weeds into your lawn.

103. Is it advisable to buy lawn seed that has several different types (bluegrass, ryegrass, fescue, and bent grass) of grass seed in it?

This would depend on where you plan to use the seed and what type of seed is present in the mixture. You would not want a seed mixture high in sun-loving grasses if you plan on using it under the heavy shade of your trees. Be sure to buy a seed mixture that meets your needs and location.

Another thing to consider when buying a mixture of seed is the width of the grass blades when the plant matures. Ryegrasses have a wide-leaf blade (1/8 inch) and red fescue a very narrow-leaf blade (1/16 inch). Mixing these two together causes a lawn to look rough (not uniform) because of the contrasting widths of the grass blades. When mixing grasses together, be sure to do so in a way that each grass complements the other and the overall effect is an attractive lawn.

TABLE 4-5: Common and Scientific Names of Grasses*

Common Name

Scientific Name

Annual bluegrass

Annual ryegrass

Bahiagrass

Bentgrass

Bermudagrass

Buffalograss

Carpetgrass

Centipedegrass

Kentucky bluegrass

Perennial ryegrass

Red and Chewing red fescue

Redtop

Rough bluegrass

St. Augustinegrass

Tall fescue

Zoysia

Poa annua

Lolium multiflorum

Paspalum notatum

Agrostis palustris

Cynodon dactylon

Buchloë dactyloides

Axonopus affinis

Fremnochloa ophiuroides

Poa pratensis

Lolium perenne

Festuca rubra

Agrostis alba

Poa trivialis

Stenotaphrum secundatuni

Festuca arundinacea

Zoysia japonica

* Notice that many of the grasses have the same first scientific name; it is therefore necessary to check the second name for positive identification.

104. What do the terms fine texture and coarse texture refer to on a package of lawn seed?

These terms were originally set up to separate grasses according to the width of the leaf blade when the plant reached maturity. This system of classification is no longer accurate due to the work being done in the field of plant breeding. Several of the new, improved ryegrasses with a narrow leaf could easily be classified as fine-textured grasses, whereas some of the newer bluegrasses could be classified as coarse-textured grasses because of their wider-leaf blade. Tall fescue, ryegrasses, and timothy are classified as coarse-textured grasses; bluegrasses, red and chewing fescues, and bent- grasses are considered fine-textured grasses. (See fig. 4-2.)


Fig. 4-2. Location of leaf blade on grass plant.

105. When buying grass seed, how much importance should I place on the amount of crop seed and weed seed present in the package?

If you want the best for your money, avoid seed mixtures that have weed seed and crop seed. Even if only small percentages (1 percent to 3 percent) are involved, you could be buying future lawn problems. For example, a 5-pound package of lawn seed, with 1 percent weed seed (Poa annua) and 2 percent crop seed (tall fescue), would contain 112,500 Poa annua seeds and 50,000 tall fescue seeds. That means a possibility of 162,500 weedy plants becoming established in your lawn. A majority of the weed and crop plants that are found in grass-seed mixtures are extremely difficult to get Out of a lawn once they become established. To avoid an unsightly lawn and a lot of hard work, pay close attention to the weed seed and crop seed present in all the lawn seed you buy.

106. When I buy 10 pounds of grass seed, how can I tell exactly how much of it will actually be good seed?

State laws require producers of grass seed to list certain items on the seed labels. Two of the items required are the percent of germination and the percent of purity of the seed. Multiply these two percentages together, and you will find out how much of your seed is good.

EXAMPLE: Suppose your 10 pounds of seed is a variety of Bermudagrass and the minimum percent of germination is 85 and the minimum percent of purity is 95. Then 85 X 95 = 81 percent pure live seeds, so 8.1 pounds of the seed you bought will grow under ideal conditions.

107. Should I seed or use cuttings from other plants to start my new lawn?

The easiest way to start a new lawn is to sow seed. Using cut tings (called sprigs or plugs when talking about grasses) can be very expensive and requires more time and effort on your part. When you use seed, each grass plant will have small differences in characteristics (just as each child in a family has a different personality), while a lawn established by sprigs or plugs will produce grass plants that are very similar (just like identical twins). The variations in grass plants started from seed are not too critical when using bluegrasses, fescues, and ryegrasses, but when you’re seeding Bermudagrass or zoysia lawns, the variations in individual plants can be overwhelming. This is why Bermudagrass and zoysia are so often started from sprigs or plugs. Other grasses that are established by sprigging are bentgrass, centipedegrass, and St. Augustinegrass. Remember, you will be assured of getting a much more uniform lawn by using sprigs.

108. I have five pounds of grass seed left over from when I last seeded my lawn two years ago. Is this seed still good?

If the seed has been stored in a dry spot where little moisture has been present, the seed is probably still good. Seeds under these conditions remain viable for several years. To be safe, seed a little more heavily than normal to insure a good stand of grass. You should carefully measure the areas to be seeded and buy just enough to do the job. This will not only save you money but will also give you more storage room in your garage.

109. How warm does it have to be before the seed will start to germinate?

This will depend on the type of seed you are using. For blue- grasses and red fescues, the seed will start to germinate very slowly at temperatures just barely above freezing, with the optimum temperature being in the range of 55 to 6o degrees. The Southern grasses, Bermudagrass, St. Augustinegrass, and centipedegrass, will not germinate as well during the cool weather. The soil temperatures need to be about 6o to 65 degrees for best results with the Southern grasses.

110. What is the advantage of using a quick germinating grass (redtop, rye grasses) when seeding a new lawn?

About the only advantage is the quick green-up you will get. Usually the quicker the germination, the shorter the life span. If you are seeding on a slope, the quickly established grasses will help to control soil erosion until the slower-growing grasses become established.

111. How much of the quick-germinating grass seed should there be in a good lawn-seed mixture for starting a new lawn?

The percentage should be only a small proportion of the entire mixture. Ten percent of the quick-germinating grass seed is sufficient, with any mixture containing more than 15 percent questionable for home lawns.

112. When overseeding a Bermuda grass lawn in the winter, what type of seed should I use?

When overseeding you can use bluegrass, ryegrass, or red fescue.

A mixture of these three grasses will give you good results and an attractive lawn.

113. During what part of the fall should I overseed my Bermudagrass lawn?

This will be determined by when your Bermudagrass goes dormant and starts to lose its green color. In the northern part of the Southern grass region and in the higher elevations, you should be prepared to overseed by mid-October. In the warmer, southern areas, you may have to wait as late as December or the first of January before the Bermudagrass will start to lose its color. An exact date cannot be given because the grass variety and the weather affect the time when the grass becomes dormant.

114. After I prepared my lawn for seeding, it rained, and when the soil dried, there was a layer of hard, crusted soil. Can I go ahead and seed or should I break up this crust?

The crust should certainly be broken up before you seed. The crust makes it difficult for the grass seed to make good contact with the soil, and the seed that does germinate will have a difficult time getting the new roots through this hard layer of soil.

115. Should I use a mulch after seeding my lawn?

If the seedbed is adequately prepared and the seed raked into the soil and covered, it is not necessary to use a mulch. The purpose of a mulch is to shade the soil and keep the water from evaporating from the soil. This reduces the amount of time you have to spend watering your newly seeded lawn.

Straw is the most common mulch used and should be spread at about 1 to 1½ bales per 1000 square feet. Spread at this rate, the straw normally will not have to be picked up unless it gets piled up (by the wind, people, or dogs) and begins to smother the grass. Peat moss is another mulch commonly used on new lawns. And still another good mulch is hay, which hastens germination. What ever mulch you use, be sure that it is weed free or you will be spreading problems all over your new lawn.

116. Are there any disadvantages in mulching?

Yes. Some dry mulches, such as straw, may attract mice and insects. Straw can also be a fire hazard. Weed seeds may also be brought into your lawn by a mulch.

117. Can zoysia be put into an existing bluegrass lawn with any success?

Yes. Zoysia can be plugged (2 inches in diameter) into an existing lawn. How close the plugs are placed to each other will determine how long it takes for the zoysia to fill in. Usually 2-inch plugs, put in on one-foot centers, will fill in by the second year.

118. My Bermuda grass and zoysia lawns turn brown every winter. What can I do to keep them green if I don’t want to overseed them?

If you don’t want to overseed to green-up your lawn, then your only other choice is to use a turfgrass colorant and spray the grass green. There are several good turf colorants on the market; check your local garden center to find out what is available. But be prepared to take a lot of kidding from your neighbors if you use a green dye on your lawn!

119. I can think of several advantages to sodding my lawn, but what are some of the disadvantages?

The first one that comes to mind is the cost of buying sod, as compared to buying seed. The cost of sodding an entire lawn is usually prohibitive for the average homeowner. Another disadvantage, if you do the sodding yourself, is the amount of work required. But if you do sod a lawn, the transition from bare ground to a beautiful, green lawn is astounding and well worth the effort and expense.

Six Steps to Follow When Sodding Your Lawn

1. Remove all weeds, old grass, rocks, and debris.

2. Loosen up the soil to a depth of six inches.

3. Level and smooth the soil surface.

4. Apply a fertilizer on the soil surface just before sodding.

5. Lay the sod.

6. Water frequently until the new roots have penetrated into the soil.

120. When buying sod from a garden center, what should I look for to be sure the sod will send roots into the soil?

Usually a garden center will cut the sod from someplace off the premises and lay it on plastic or on the ground, where customers can readily see it. Check the edges of the sod to see if the soil has been allowed to dry out and if any of the grass has died. The grass should be a healthy green color and should have been mowed fairly short. Check the thickness of the sod. The thinner the sod was cut, the quicker the new roots will grow into the soil when the sod is laid.

121. How much watering does a newly sodded lawn require?

During the first two weeks, the sod will require large amounts of water applied daily. After the roots have gotten into the soil, then less frequent, heavy watering will force the roots deep into the soil. The slow-growing grasses, such as buffalograss and zoysia, should not be watered too heavily or weeds will become a problem. These grasses are drought tolerant and can survive on lesser amounts of water.

122. Would you recommend using a roller on newly laid sod?

A light rolling immediately after the sod has been put down will help push the sod into good contact with the soil. This reduces air pockets under the sod that could cause the sod to dry out. Rolling will also help smooth out your lawn area and eliminate the bumps. If you have the time, a light topdressing of granular topsoil will help fill in the low spots and cracks in your sodded areas.

123. How soon can new sod be fertilized?

Good quality sod has had a feeding months ahead of its cutting time. The easiest time to fertilize your new sod is right after your soil has been prepared for the sod, but before you lay the sod. This puts the fertilizer right on the soil surface, where the new roots emerging from the sod can readily get to it. The fertilizer should be put on at a rate of one pound of actual nitrogen per one thousand square feet. All the heavy watering required to keep the sod from drying out will wash much of the fertilizer away, so about two months after the sod has been down, another application of fertilizer would be beneficial.

124. On steep slopes, how can I keep the sod I’m laying from sliding to the bottom?

Always lay the sod along the slope and not in an up-and-down direction. Driving stakes into the sod and pegging it to the soil will prevent it from slipping to the bottom of the slope. Be sure the pegs are left exposed so you can pull them out after the sod has sent roots deep into the soil bank.

125. Can I do anything to improve the clayey soil in my yard before planting a new lawn?

Contrary to popular belief, adding sand to a clayey soil is not good. The addition of organic matter (manure, peat, compost, straw) will do more to improve the soil than anything else. The organic matter should be mixed thoroughly into the soil with a rotary tiller. When the organic matter decays, it breaks down into chemicals that bind the clay into granules, thus improving the soil. Remember, the increase of organic matter will require the lawn to be fertilized a little more often for a few years.

126. What is a soil sterilant?

This is a type of chemical used to kill every living thing in the soil. It is often necessary to use a soil sterilant when some undesirable weed, disease, or insect is present in your lawn. It should be noted that these chemicals are just as effective on people as they are on lawn pests and should therefore be handled with caution.

Soil sterilants can be used to solve the following problems:

1. quackgrass

2. unwanted bentgrass

3. Bermudagrass (in Northern lawns)

4. nematodes (microscopic worm-like animals)

5. soil fungi

6. soil insects

7. tree roots

8. weed seeds

127. Will continued, heavy watering or rains hurt the new grass seedlings as they sprout?

Yes. The water beating down on the bare soil surface tends to break down the soil, and a hard, dense crust is formed. This crust will make it difficult for the new grass to sprout. It also reduces air movement into the soil, thus slowing up the seed-germination process. This is why it is recommended to use a soft, mist spray when watering a newly seeded area for the first few weeks, at least until the grass is up.

128. Is any special care required when mowing new grass?

Be sure the lawn mower is sharp; a dull blade will tend to tear up the shallow-rooted grass. If the ground is extremely wet, avoid mowing rather than tracking up your new lawn and compacting the soil. Compacted soil makes it difficult for a young grass plant to survive.

129. Does soaking grass seeds before planting them shorten the time I’ll have to wait to have a lawn?

Usually, presoaked grass seed will not germinate any faster than unsoaked grass seed. If you keep the soaked seed inside and at the right temperature, without letting it dry out, it will begin to germinate. This seed can then be spread on your seedbed, and it will have a small head start. However, the work involved is hardly worth the effort.

130. How can I help the Bermuda grass predominate in the spring over the grasses that were overseeded into it for a winter green-up?

First, lower your mower down to about 1/2 inch and mow your lawn. This will remove most of the tops of the winter grasses (bluegrass and ryegrass) and put them in a stress that weakens them. Now fertilize the lawn at twice your normal rate and water it heavily. This will cause the Bermudagrass to green-up quickly and will give it a good jump on the overseeded grasses. All this has to be done just before the Bermudagrass begins to come out of its winter dormancy.

131. Will fertilizing and seeding my new lawn on the same day hurt the grass seed?

Seeding and then fertilizing the same day will very seldom damage the grass seed. It is actually beneficial to the new lawn if the fertilizer has been applied at the time of seeding. This insures an adequate supply of nutrients being available when the new grass seedlings first start to grow.

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