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Starting Lawns from Seed

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This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

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.

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