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Turfgrass Tips

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Everyone wants the perfect lawn. Some people just don’t have the basic ingredients readily available at the house to accomplish it. Otherwise, they would already have a good-looking lawn.

One alternatives for establishing a better lawn is to top dress a lawn and not have to dig it all up. There is nothing wrong with rototilling an area that has very little grass established, but here in the Boston area there are going to be rocks brought up to the surface that will then need to be raked out and hauled away. The labor factor in getting all the rock out and finding a dump site to get rid of the rock can certainly be hard to do in the Boston area. The goal is to provide a good planting medium for the grass seed and not disturb the underlying area since the work factor goes way up by a factor of at least ten-fold in time and labor. These days, no one seems to have extra time available or if you do have some, you want to use it for your interests.

Top Dressing

Creating a good seed bed for the grass seed is the goal of this effort. The first thing to do is cut the lawn as close as possible so that the dirt that is going to added will not fold over and mat down tall grass as would happen if the existing grass is not mowed short. Then, if the mower does not pick up most of the clippings, rake up the dead grass or clumps of grass that may be left behind. This also lets the loam sift down around the short stems of grass. Grass seed needs to be covered by about an eighth of an inch to a quarter of an inch of loam. Keep the seed moist and have the seed germinate well.

Spread screened loam evenly across the areas to be planted. This forms the foundation of the seed bed.  One of two ways works for us. Plan "A" is to bring a wheelbarrow with soil in it, park it off to the side from the area to be top dressed and, with the shovel, cast the soil across the area to be reseeded to create a thin layer of new, clean, rich loam.  With practice, this can create a thin layer of soil and stretch the material to be spread a long way. If the thickness is kept uniform at 1/4", you should expect to use three-quarters of a yard of loam. Since it is hard to be that accurate, it is probably best to figure on buying a yard of material for a project that size. The other way is to dump small piles of soil and rake the piles out over the grass to be reseeded. With that, you have created a medium to germinate the grass seed in and fill in the lawn so it will look good.

Next, when the soil is all leveled out, it is ready to plant the seed. Spread the grass seed evenly across the area to be planted. For small areas, hand spreading is fine. In larger cases, a spreader helps to evenly distribute the seed.  If lime and fertilizer is needed, add it with a spreader at this time. Next on the list of the things to do is to take a lawn rake, turn it upside down and lightly mix the seed and fertilizer into the soil. By lightly back-dragging the rake, a good mixing action can be achieved. A cross hatch pattern helps to mix the soil and prevent lines of seed forming.  The goal is to even out the grass seed and cover it with a very light coating of dirt. Using screened topsoil makes this easier since not a lot of rock or stones will need to be removed. The key to good germination is good soil/seed contact. This keeps the germinating seed wet so it will fill in quickly before the weeds get too far ahead. If a roller is available, lightly roll the area so there is good contact with the soil.

Water well

Successful germination is a snap with frequent light watering. If you keep the top layer of soil wet, the seed will come up fast and full. It does not need to be a drenching watering. Just the top layer of soil where the seed is should be kept moist. So, with a 5- to 10-minute watering, twice a day, and the temperature above 70 degrees, the grass will germinate in 3 to 4 days. Germination rates will also vary based on the type of seed. Some seed types are just really slow to germinate; others are planted just because they germinate and come up fast.  We find that using an inexpensive timer works well to just wet an area, then it turns off. Move the sprinkler to another area and let it run for 5 minutes. You do not want to drench the area or have run-off since it may wash out the grass seed and cause bare spots. The more consistently you keep the surface wet, the more consistent the grass growth will be and the faster it will fill in.

Mowing

Firt cutting should be when you will take off a third of the blade of grass or less. Make sure that the blade is just sharpened so that it will cut the grass easily and not tend to shatter the blades of new grass or pull them out of the soil. If you stop and look closely at the cut grass, the cut should be even across the blade, not jagged or torn. After two mowings and the grass is established, go back to regular watering based on rainfall. With enough water, you can grow grass on a rock or the body of a Jeep. If you have a problem with getting the grass going, the problem is most often not enough water. So, enjoy your better-looking lawn and mowing. As it fills in, you can combat the weeds with weed killers that are selective and keep weeds from competing with the turf looking great.

Buying Loam for a lawn

If, in fact, you are looking to improve your lawn and are going to being buying screened loam, please check out our loam calculator to easily figure out the amount of loam needed by putting in the length and width of the area to be covered and the depth of soil you want. It will accurately calculate the amount for you. When you know that, call Paul at 781-254-2773.

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