Is Fall The Best Time To Start A Lawn?

Spring is the natural seeding time for most garden plants, while fall is the time for harvest. However, sow the seeds of grasses early enough in the fall so that they can germinate and produce hardy plants before winter.

Considering the many advantages of fall sowing, it is a wonder that anyone should want to sow a lawn at any other time—except in an emergency, of course.

Starting Lawns in FallPin

If it is necessary to plant in the spring, it would be wise to sow a temporary grass crop in place of a permanent lawn.

This would provide a lawn-like surface during the summer and when worked into the soil in the fall. give additional organic material.

The term “fall” covers a fair period, and you may well ask for a more specific date to start making your new lawn.

Best Time To Sow Grass Seed

The best time to sow seed in temperate zones is about Labor Day. If the weather is still hot and dry, wait until there’s some sign of rain.

I’m often asked for the latest date on which seed can be sown. This is a question without a definite answer since weather varies from year to year.

As a rule, fall sowing should be done early enough so the lawn can have enough root growth to withstand freezing and thawing during the winter.

You cannot see the roots, but once the lawn has been mowed two or three times, it will grow some good roots.

Root growth will also continue for a while after the grass tops stop growing.

Following this, count about ten days for the grass to show green, another ten days until first mowing, and three weeks for two or three subsequent mowings.

This totals about six weeks, so you should have the seed sown six weeks before growth normally stops.

The Steps Of Making A Fall Lawn

The steps for making a fall on the lawn are much the same as that which must be followed in the spring.

First, and too much emphasis cannot be placed on this, prepare the soil thoroughly.

Have enough plant food and humus in the top 6” inches so your lawn will get off to a good start and continue growing well with a minimum of care.

Remember that this lawn, properly made, will last as long as your house is standing. It is easy to prepare the soil now but to get the essentials down under the grass roots.

Humus, desirable to most life, can be from your compost piles, from the woods in the form of leaf mold or peat moss, or the several varieties of commercial peat and humus products available at your local garden shop.

How much to add depends on how much is present in your soil. Your county agent or state experiment station can advise if you show a sample of your present soil, or this service may be available at a local nursery or garden center.

It would be well to add ground limestone at 50 pounds for every 1,000 square feet. unless soil tests indicate that a different quantity is necessary. One application usually lasts for several years.

Lawn Plant Foods

Lawn plant foods should be high in nitrogen and phosphoric acid. Every bag of fertilizer must show an analysis of its contents.

The first figure is always nitrogen. the second phosphoric acid, and the third potash.

Since nitrogen is the principal requirement of grass and all leafy growth, a good lawn fertilizer should show an analysis such as 8-6-2, 10-6-4, 9-7-4, or something similar. Part of this nitrogen should be in organic form to give longer-lasting benefits.

One of these formulas should be applied at the rate of 25 to 30 pounds to every 1,000 square feet when making a new lawn.

The hummus, lime, and plant food may be raked or rolled into the soil during the rough grading operation, but they should be kept in the top 6” or 7” inches of soil.

Final grading consists of raking and rolling to establish an even grade. consistent with the contour of the property.

Any necessary slopes should be as gentle as possible. Steep slopes are difficult to mow and maintain.

A light raking after the grade is established will prepare the soil to receive the seed.

Seeding should be done on a day when there is not much wind, and it is best done with one of the many excellent seeders on the market.

Sowing by hand, it is difficult to spread a pound of good seed over more than 200 or 300 square feet.

With a good spreader, though. It is a simple matter to cover from 500 to 1,000 square feet with one pound.

Next Comes The Seed

Sow the best you can buy. It is the least expensive in the long run because it will give you all permanent grasses.

Good seeds are also quite small, and there are six times as many actual seeds per pound as in mixtures containing a large proportion of temporary grasses, usually large-seeded.

Study the formula, which must be shown on every package.

Look for the following desirable permanent grasses:

  • Bluegrass—Kentucky, Merion, or Delta.
  • Poa trivialis (sometimes called rough bluegrass)–This should be a small percentage unless the mixture is for a shady spot.
  • Fescue — Chewings or Creeping Red (varieties such as Illahee, Trinity, Rainier, etc., are improved strains of Creeping Red.)
  • Bentgrass — Astoria, Colonial, Highland, and Cascade are upright-growing strains suitable for home lawns. Seaside
  • Creeping Bent is not recommended for a home lawn because it is hard to maintain in good condition.

Question mixtures that contain the following grasses, unless they are for a special purpose or a temporary cover:

  • Ryegrasses — Perennial, Domestic, or Common. Sometimes used as nurse grasses but are not permanent. Large-seeded.
  • Alta fescue, Kentucky 31 Fescue—Coarse grasses, not suitable for home lawns except under special conditions.
  • Meadow Fescue—Broader left than the red fescues. A small percentage may be useful sometimes.
  • Red Top and Timothy—Temporary grasses which will eventually die out.

Sowing The Seeds

Sow seed at the rate of 1 pound to 500 square feet by splitting the required amount of seed into two equal parts and sowing one half in a north-south direction and the other in an east-west direction for even distribution.

Rake the seed into the top half-inch of soil, but be careful not to disturb the grade. A metal, rubber, or bamboo lawn rake will do a good job for you.

The lawn should then be rolled lightly to press the seed into the soil.

Light watering will be necessary on days when there is no rain or heavy dew. A mixture of good permanent grasses, containing some fescue and bent, should begin to show green in about ten days. An all-bluegrass formula will take longer.

Temporary mixtures containing ryegrasses often come up in as little as five days, but this is their only good feature. Permanent grasses are the only ones that can give a good lawn.

Mow your new lawn as soon as it is about 2 ½” inches high, setting the mower to cut about 1 ½” inches from the ground.

Allowing the grass to grow too long necessitates removing a large percentage of the leaf surface at one time is harmful to the grass. Continue as long as grass grows.

44659 by James Shiel