MU Extension: Lawn establishment best in early fall

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Specialist discusses cool-season lawns

Early fall is the optimum time to establish a cool-season lawn from seed according to Kelly McGowan, 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 McGowan.

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 Extension office for information on the best way to collect and submit the sample.

"The soil sample report will include valuable information to guide any needed applications of soil amendments," said McGowan.

Next, remove any existing grass or weeds from the site. A non-selective herbicide, applied in advance, can help with this process according to McGowan.

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.

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, McGowan 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 McGowan. "Follow this with seeding of the desired grass species. Turf fescue and Kentucky bluegrass are commonly planted in southwest Missouri."

McGowan recommends checking 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 McGowan.

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," McGowan said. "Start mowing the new lawn when the grass seedlings are three inches tall."

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

For more information, contact the Barry County Extension office at 417-847-3161.