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How to Have A Worry Free Lawn

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For information on “How to Have a Worry Free Lawn” join me at the Brigham Young Historical Park on the corner of State Street and North Temple at 8:00pm on June 12. The talks are free and no tickets are required. Good lawns are established by following the basic rules of soil preparations whether seeding, hydro seeding, or sodding. Poor soil conditions are the primary cause of lawn failures. The only time significant changes in soil can be made is before the lawn is established. Once established, soil improvement can only be made very gradually with great cost and difficulty. Poor quality, exposed subsoils are often used for planting lawns. Unless these soils are improved by adding organic matter, they will not grow satisfactory turf. Five to six inches of quality soil are needed for good turfgrass establishment. Selecting of the right varieties of seed is extremely important. Cheap grass seed is not a bargain. Cheap seed may contain annual grasses that will not grow back year after year. Most lawns in Utah are established with blends of several improved varieties of Kentucky Bluegrass. Acceptable lawns are also established with improved, turf-type tall fescues or perennial ryegrasses. Annual ryegrass, common perennial rye grass and common tall fescue are all weeds and should never be planted as a home lawn in Utah. SOIL PREPARATION STEPS 1. Control perennial weeds such as quackgrass, tall fescue and bentgrass before tilling soil. Spray when weeds are actively growing using glyphosate (Roundup or Killzall). Allow 5-10 days for good control. Do not use broadleaf weed killers before or during seeding as they damage young seedlings. 2. Remove debris including large rocks, wood, and trash. 3. Add topsoil ONLY IF NEED TO BRING THE SOIL UP TO GRADE. Add organic matter to improve existing soil and roughgrade the area. 4. Apply a complete fertilizer high in phosphorus and rototill or disc to mix soil and amendments together. Topsoil should not be layered on top of existing soil. 5. Install sprinkler system and fill and settle trenches. 6. Remove remaining rocks, water freely to settle the soil, and regrade. Roll only if footprints sink deeper than 1/2 inch. SEEDING 1. Choose a suitable grass blend or mixture for your site. Mixtures with ryegrass should not exceed 20% rye. 2. Apply seed with a drop spreader; applying one half of the seed in an East-West direction and the other one half in a North-South direction. 3. Rake in seed, covering it with no more than 1/4 inch of soil. Seedbed should be firm. 4. Never let seed dry out but don't overwater and wash it away. 5. Water frequently until seed germinates. Ryegrass germinates in 3-4 days. Bluegrass germinates in 10-28 days. 6. Water every other day until grass is 1 inch tall, unless grass shows water stress. 7. Adjust watering so moisture penetrates to 8-10 inches into the soil to encourage deep rooting. Water when grass shows signs of stress. Hydroseeded lawns are watered according to the instruction of the company that seeds the grass. Check seed blends or mixtures and use the same high quality seed and good varieties used for seeded lawns. Sod is often used to establish lawns. Although initially more expensive, sod has several advantages; 1) the lawn is established faster--two to three weeks to root firmly compared to 3-4 months for seed; 2) sod can be laid in midsummer when seeding is difficult; 3) a lawn can be established more readily on a steep slope or terrace; 4) sod can be used for immediate repair of bare areas in established grass. Use only top quality sod that contains desirable varieties of permanent grasses, is acceptably green and free of weeds. Bluegrass and bluegrass blends are used in most sod grown in Utah. Check with sod dealer on the grass varieties. Mixtures or blends of three or more grasses have the highest resistance to diseases and insects. If shade is a problem, select a sod that contains some shade tolerant grasses. If a shade tolerant sod is not available, overseed sod after it has been established with grass that is shade tolerant. Sod is perishable. Do not leave it rolled or folded in warm weather. In hot weather, store sod in the shade or lightly water the exposed sod surfaces. If it cannot be laid immediately, covers may be used to keep the sod from drying. During cooler weather, sod may be kept for several days without any noticeable damage. If necessary, sod can be unrolled on concrete or plastic sheeting and watered until permanently laid. Lay the first course or row of sod along a straight line across the width of the site. In the next row, stagger the end joints as if laying bricks. Individual sod pieces should be placed close to one another but should not overlap. Do not stretch the sod during the laying process. When laying sod on slopes work from the lowest point to the top. Lay the sod strips across, not up and down the slope. On steep slopes pegging or stalking is necessary to keep the sod in position until it roots. Water the soil if the weather is hot. Laying dry sod on dry soil keeps the roots from growing quickly. Work prepared topsoil into any noticeable joints or seams that develop between the sod pieces. This prevents excessive drying of the ends of the pieces and avoids spaces. Keep the sod well-watered but not saturated, until it is firmly rooted (2 to 3 weeks). Prevent concentrated traffic on the sod during this time. After it is firmly rooted, the sodded areas are managed like other established lawns. Water a newly sodded lawn with increasing amounts of water, applied less frequently as it becomes established. Add water when grass shows signs of stress (turns a blue-black color or footprints remain in the lawn after walking across it). Fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer every 4-6 weeks. Mow the lawn at 2½ to 3 inches.

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