So, you say you have no grass left and this summer is way too dry. Now is the time for planning turf renovation and this is why—over 68% of the country is still experiencing some semblance of precipitation shortage ranging from (D0) abnormally dry to (D4) Exceptional Drought.Maybe that wasn’t your problem—a chinch bug or white grub invasion caused turf loss. Perhaps it was new construction or there just wasn’t a satisfactory lawn in place.
Whatever the reason, now is the perfect time to begin planning for the solution.
Prepare Now for New Turf Seeding
In areas with cool season turf, late summer to early fall is the optimum time for repairs or full renovation.
The reasoning—seasonal rainfall and cooler temperatures tend to be far more conducive to turf reestablishment. Lawns are starting to revert from survival mode to root development or as it’s sometimes called, the second growing season.
As days pass by in late summer to early fall, the threat of drought and severe weather tends to dwindle, providing excellent conditions for new seedling survival.
We are still a couple of weeks ahead of that so now is time to get the plan down on paper and begin implementing the preparation work. Here are some key steps to take into consideration prior to regrassing:
1. Determine How the Space Will Be Used
In this case, you would look at sun or lack thereof, and amount of traffic. For instance, turf type tall fescue is very wear-tolerant and it survives better than most in light-to-moderate shade. Take this time to trim trees and shrubs to allow for more sunlight penetration and air flow.
2. Assess the Area to Determine How Much Renovation is Needed and Assess Thatch Content
Is it a non-selective and reseed or just patch management that’s needed? Excess thatch should be addressed by dethatching, aeration, or power-raking.
3. Address Irrigation and Drainage Needs
Low areas and those with poor drainage should be handled at this point.
A critical aspect of turf health is water management, which includes irrigation as well as excess moisture. Waterlogged soils tend to be lacking in oxygen leading to root loss, and a happy place for pathogens. Chronically saturated turf will be far more susceptible to disease.
Water is a key factor and now is the time to conduct irrigation repairs and upgrades or even opt for a quality irrigation system.
4. Investigate Seed Species and Improved Cultivars, and Assure Availability
There is a world of information to be uncovered by visiting the National Turfgrass Evaluation website, NTEP.org, and one could spend hours researching turfgrass species and varieties.
One cautionary statement is that some of these cultivars may not be found in your area, so it’s important to look for those that perform better, but make sure to curb your enthusiasm due to availability.
5. Identify Weed Species and Percentage of Cover
Before renovation is the opportunity you’ve been waiting for to destroy problematic weeds.
Don’t leave anything behind—seeing non-selective herbicide spots in a new lawn will leave you with regrets. Be sure to read herbicide labels prior to use with respect to seeding following the application.
6. Seed or Sod?
This tends to be an availability question. Is sod prevalent in your area? Do they have some of the species and varieties that you are looking for?
Sure, the satisfaction of an instant lawn appeals to some, but sod can take two to three years to decide if it wants to be there and it can be a struggle throughout that period.
There will be more options in terms of seed, but there is some labor and a waiting period to consider.
7. Settle on a Seeding Strategy
Seed-to-soil contact is absolutely critical for good establishment.
In this phase, it’s good to develop a strategy for physical seed incorporation. There are options including the mechanical means of aeration, slit seeding, or other equipment that creates a furrow or subsurface place for seed to be sowed.
In other cases, light topdressing with soil or combinations of soil with compost can make for a fantastic seed bed, particularly where there is little thatch.
I do not generally recommend rototilling. Major soil disruption or cultivation can cause weed seeds that have long been dormant in the soil to come to the surface and germinate.
8. Are You Using a Cover?
This aspect uses things like slopes and wind as factors in the decision-making process.
Because steep slopes are prone to wash-out and wind-swept areas are prone to seed loss in the breeze, these areas are good for straw mats. Others are fine with loose straw; remember it will introduce weeds.
Other options include peat moss, which is expensive and labor-intensive and Seed Aide CoverGrow. This product will swell to cover the newly seeded area and help manage moisture.
9. Starter Fertilizer and Co-Product Decisions
Lastly, adding a starter fertilizer into the plan is highly recommended.
Starters have a high middle number like the often-used 18-24-12. That middle number is phosphorus, which improves seed germination and helps develop dense, healthy root systems.
Begin the journey with a soil test to determine if there are any deficient nutrients or a pH that should be adjusted.
Also, performing an irrigation audit will help with coverage issues along with figuring run times. No system? No worries! Hoses and sprinklers will get the job done; just remain vigilant.
There are also some selective herbicides that can be used at or shortly after seeding to prevent unwanted weeds from germinating.
If you do select sod, irrigation is just as important for establishment and reduction of shrinkage. Dry sod will shrink allowing weeds a clear path in the seams.
Turf renovation can offer many benefits for your customers.
For help with soil tests, irrigation audits, and other ideas and solutions for a successful season, visit your local Ewing location or our Turf Products page at EwingIrrigation.com today, and feel free to ask questions by calling Ewing’s T&O Solutions Helpline, 480-669-8791, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday. Don’t have time for a call? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have tips or a story to share about fall turf renovation, email it to email@example.com.