Ozark Outdoors

Best time to re-establish lawn is early fall throughout Ozarks

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These days a new lawn can come from a spray nozzle along with fertilizer suspend in mulch. Or it can be rolled out by the square yard with grass from a sod farm (below left).

These days a new lawn can come from a spray nozzle along with fertilizer suspend in mulch. Or it can be rolled out by the square yard with grass from a sod farm (below left).

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Early fall is the optimum time to establish a cool season lawn from seed, according to Patrick Byers, horticulture specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Turf species such as tall fescue and Kentucky bluegrass establish well from seed at this time, the weather is cooling and rains are more regular, and weeds are easier to manage,” said Byers.

The following are the steps to establishing a new lawn from seed.

First, collect a soil sample from the site of the proposed lawn. Check with the nearest University of Missouri Extension office for information on the best way to collect and submit the sample. (Resources are also available online at http://extension.missouri.edu/greene/soiltestcentral.aspx.)

“The soil sample report will include valuable information to guide any needed applications of soil amendments,” said Byers.

Next, remove any existing grass or weeds from the site. A non-selective herbicide, applied in advance, can help with this process. Then rough grade the lawn site, remove any rocks or other debris, and rake smooth. Apply amendments such as lime and fertilizer as recommended by the soil test report.

Grass from a sod farm is far more expensive than seeding or reseeding, but the same advice applies. The best time for grass is fall.

Grass from a sod farm is far more expensive than seeding or reseeding, but the same advice applies. The best time for grass is fall.

Many lawn soils benefit from an application of compost or peat moss; spread out the material to a depth of one to two inches, and work into the upper four to six inches of the soil. Then, Byers recommends completing the project with a finish grading for a smooth lawn surface.

“The next step is to apply a starter fertilizer such as 10-24-18 to aid in rapid grass seedling growth. Work this fertilizer into the top inch of soil,” said Byers. “Follow this with seeding of the desired grass species. Turf fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are commonly planted in southwest Missouri.”

Byers recommends conferring with a turfgrass seed dealer for a recommendation of the best blend and the best seeding rate for a specific site.

A drop seeder works well to spread the seed. “Calibrate the seeder to apply half of the correct amount of seed, and distribute the seed in two passes, with the passes at right angles. Rake or drag the site to cover the grass seed lightly, and then lightly roll the soil,” said Byers.

Spread a thin layer of straw mulch over the lawn, and water the newly seeded lawn daily until the grass seedlings are two inches tall.

“Cut back the watering frequency at this time, but water more deeply. Start mowing the new lawn when the grass seedlings are three inches tall,” said Byers.

Weed pressure is much less in the fall, but if weeds become an issue, Byers says to consider using a postemergence herbicide after the lawn has been mowed three times (generally 45 days after seeding).

For more information, contact one of MU Extension’s horticulture specialists or educators in southwest Missouri. These include Patrick Byers in Greene County, (417) 881-8909, Kelly McGowan in Greene County, (417) 881-8909 or Robert Balek in Jasper County, (417) 358-2158.

George Freeman is a veteran journalist and photographer. An award-winning writer, editor and columnist in Springfield, Mo., with more than 50 years experience. His preference is for positive and uplifting stories about people, places, traditions and trends that make the Ozarks one of the most livable regions anywhere. A member of the Garden Writers Association of America, he is a past-president of the Society of Professional Journalists of Southwest Missouri, the Kansas and Ohio AP societies; a board member of Friends of the Garden and a member of the Rotary Club of Springfield. In 1976, he traveled to India as a member of a Rotary Foundation Group Study Exchange Team.

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