2 years ago we moved into a new construction house which used to be
all woods (lots of dead roots under the ground) in South Jersey. I
don't know what kind of grass was put down for the lawn (front was
sod, back was seeded). It's my first lawn and I haven't been having
much luck with it (just not very green...some browning) and could use
some advice. Here are my questions:
1. What's better for the lawn...the Scott's treatments they sell at
Lowes or should I be using some other type of fertilizer?
2. If a different fertilizer is better...liquid or granules? And how
often do I apply it?
3. My neighbor had his lawn tested and said his PH was low. My
understanding is that lime helps this. Should I also be applying lime
to my lawn and how often? Again...liquid or granules?
4. A friend told me to reseed every fall...is this a good thing to
do? Or is too much seed a bad thing?
Sorry for all the questions...any help would be appreciated.
There's one problem.
You should be watering once a week, one full inch. If you have run-off
before you can put down a full inch, then you need to aerate.
Never fertilize in the summer. The grass is trying to go dormant. Watering
one full inch once a week will usually stop that, but you don't want any of
the grass's energies going towards the kind of new growth that fertilizer
Also, mow your grass higher than most people seem to think. Two to three
inches, depending upon the mix. Mow often enough that you never have to cut
off more than 1/3 of the blade to bring it back to the desired height. Use a
mulching blade, and leave the clippings on the lawn, and you may not even
Note that your watering every other day has likely encouraged shallow roots,
and since this is already summer, it's too late to encourage the deeper root
growth that proper watering would encourage. To keep your lawn green with a
shallow root system, you may have to change to watering every day, or even
twice a day until fall. You would probably be better off letting it go
dormant for the summer, and overseed it in the fall.
A freshly seeded lawn (or new sod) needs more frequent watering, but once
root growth begins, weaning off of the shallow watering pattern is needed.
Shallow roots dry out too fast.
Ok...I'll keep things the way they are and then basically start fresh
in the fall. Now for the specifics...when I overseed, do I need to
fertilize? If so (back to my original question) is Scott's the way
to go or should I use some other type of fertilizer? Is there any
good/bad time to aerate?
Hard to say for sure without taking soil tests. Others may disagree, but in
the absense of a soil test, what I would do is overseed in early fall, right
after the summer heat is done, and when Mother Nature starts taking care of
the watering. Push the envelope early if there are trees that will need to
have leaves raked-up so the new grass can establish itself before you have
to rake. (In fact, plan to blow or vac up the leaves instead of raking them
once they do fall.)
I wouldn't use any fertilizer when I overseed, but I would put some
"winterizer" fertilizer on at about 1/2 the rate shown on the bag between
mid and late fall once the new seed has germinated, and before the weather
gets too cold. Your local weather conditions may not leave the same windows
as mine do.
If there are some small spots that don't take, you can get them in spring,
but you may have an even shorter window. Generally the rest of your lawn is
going to be growing so fast that you can't not mow a large, newly overseeded
area for the time you need to leave the new seedlings undisturbed.
Who cares what brand it is? That's a marketing issue, not a lawn care issue.
I would never recommend following the Scotts "program". The goal of that
program has nothing to do with your lawn. It's goal is to sell you the
maximum amount of fertilizer they can. Fertilizer is not fairy dust. It
doesn't do anything magical. It's just a way to add nutriants when nature
isn't providing them. Beyond that, at best it's a walk around the yard
behind a spreader, and at worst it's a ticket to killing your lawn.
Properly mow and mulch, and if your lawn needs regular fertilizer, you're
probably trying to grow grass someplace it isn't suited for. A small bit of
"winterizer" fertilizer in the fall after overseeding is all I ever do, (and
I don't always do that, either), and I have the lushest lawn on the block.
Anytime is better than no time, but the best time is just prior to seeding.
Use a core aerator. It'll take plugs out to make the holes. (Using spikes
may make holes, but the soil around the spike is compacted even more than it
was, and you really haven't gained anything.) Leave the plugs on the lawn.
Initially it may look like the kennel club came down and left turds all over
your lawn, but they'll break-up soon enough, leaving loose, uncompacted soil
If you're in a real mood to work, right after you aerate, spread some
compost over the lawn. A leaf rake is good for breaking-up the small clumps,
and working it into the turf. Overseed after spreading the compost.
The new seed needs to be kept moist when germinating, but the lawn shouldn't
be wet when aerating. But if the soil is too dry, the aerator may just
bounce off instead of digging holes. Again, it's a matter of timing. So
you'll want to soften the soil with a watering (or rain) a day or two before
aerating, but if it's too wet, you could damage the soil structure. Then the
perfect thing to happen would be for there to be off and on shower right
after you overseed. If you don't get that, you may have to supplement Mother
Nature with some extra sprinkling, but nothing like you'd need to do if you
tried to do this under the summer sun.
Of course you're probably not going to water in the winter, and you may not
need to water much in the spring, either. Once Mother Nature stops watering,
remember to put down 1 inch in one watering per week. And no fertilizer!
Scott's works fine as long as you're following the label, and watering your
lawn once or twice a week. A -local- lawn service company might be of
service to you also, if you're too busy or aren't sure what you're doing
Did I mention -local- outfit? (stay away from the franchise service
To the advice already given, which is excellent, I'd add:
1 - Get your soil tested. Look in the county listings for the Rutgers
agricultureal extension service. You can get a soil mailing kit from
them and they will test a sample for about $10. There are also DIY
kits at garden centers. Test both the front and back. That will tell
you what the PH is and how much lime you need to adjust it. Also, take
a look at the soil that is there. To grow a good lawn, you need at
least 6 inchs of good top soil. If what's there is really bad, you;ll
have to fix that first to have a good lawn.
2 - Don't listen to the neighbor that says you need to overseed every
year. That should only be necessary is something has happened to kill
the grass so that it is thin or has bare spots. If that happens every
year, something is very wrong.
3 - If you do need to overseed, rent a slice seeder, which is the most
effective and easiest way, and do it early Sept. Apply a starter
fertilizer at the same time and then follow up with a winterizer
fertilizer in mid to late Oct.
4 - The Scotts products are excellent, but probably not worth the extra
money compared to a lesser known brand. And as was pointed out, I
would not get into the 4 step program. For weed control, once a lawn
is in good shape, for a typical lawn, all that you should need is to do
some spot weed treatment with a 2 gallon tank sprayer, when necessary.
For fertilizer, I'd do it once in the late spring, with a product that
include pre-emergent crab grass control. Then again in early Sept with
a regular fertilizer, and then again in mid oct with a winterizer.
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