If you were wandering around my yard, you would find an abundance of mint and coneflowers. You also would find patches of browning grass and exposed dirt. It has only gotten worse with the hot and dry weather. Linn County Master Gardener Judy Stevens provides some guidance on how to take care of your lawn.
Q: My lawn needs some help. When is the best time to refurbish a lawn?
A: With the recent drought following a wet spring your lawn may not look as attractive as you would like. You are in luck since fall is the best time to seed your lawn. Mid-August to mid-September is the best time to establish a new lawn from seed. The typical warm days and cool nights of fall plus the fall rain, hopefully, will promote rapid turf grass growth.
Q: How do I prepare the planting site?
A: A soil test is always a good start to see if your soil needs any particular amendments. If no soil test is done, apply a starter lawn fertilizer, level the planting area, sloping the soil away from buildings and sidewalks with a rake.
A: How do I apply the seed?
Q: The seed can be applied by hand or a drop-type seeder. If using a seeder, apply one half of the seed in one direction and the other at a right angle to the first application. Lightly rake the area to cover the seed 1/8- to 1/4-inch thick. Rolling or tamping the area will ensure good contact between the seed and soil.
Q: What type of grass seed should I use?
A: The type of grass seed selected should match the area to be seeded. Determine if your site is sunny, shady or partially shady. For sunny areas, the best choice is Kentucky bluegrass. Shady areas will need to be seeded with fescue seed. Ten-percent perennial rye grass should be added to your selected seed to help establish the lawn since bluegrass and fescue are slow to germinate.
Q: What is overseeding and how is it done?
A: Overseeding is applying seed to an existing lawn to increase the actual number of plants and make the lawn more lush, but just throwing grass seed onto your existing lawn doesn’t work because there is no soil and seed contact. One method of obtaining better soil to seed contact is to aerate the lawn using a core aerator, which will remove plugs of soil from the yard. Go over the lawn several times so there are 20 to 40 holes per square foot, apply the seed and drag the area with a piece of chain link fence to break up the soil cores and mix the seed into the soil.
Q: How often should I water?
A: For new seed, the upper 1 inch of soil should be kept moist, which means watering one to two times per day. When the grass is 1 to 2 inches tall, reduce watering frequency, but water more deeply.
Q: What do I do about weeds in the newly seeded area?
A: You may apply a broadleaf weed killer six weeks after the grass seed sprouts.
Q: What can I do if I have seeded and overseeded and still cannot establish a lawn in the shade?
A: Some areas of your yard may simply be too shady to establish a lawn. As your trees grow, the shade becomes more intense and tree roots compete for the moisture. The only solution for these areas will be ground cover or organic mulch.
This article was compiled from material from Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Richard Jauron with horticulture, Laura Sternevers with Reiman Gardens and Pamphlet 403: “Choosing a Grass Species for Iowa Lawns, and Grass Selection for Iowa Lawns.
- Master Gardener Summer Webinar: “Efficient Home Landscape Irrigation,” 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Benton County Extension Office, 501 First Ave., Vinton. Contact: Greg Walston, (319) 472-4739. Register by Monday.
- Collaboration as a Beginning Farmer Strategy, 9:40 a.m. Wednesday at Mogo Organic Farm, 2542 Iowa Ave., Mount Pleasant. Strategies related to agritourism, speciality crops and related topics. Lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m. Beginning farmer Morgan Hoenig is using various collaborations – from multifaceted strategies to people partnerships – to help get Mogo Organic Farm established. Years of diverse vegetable production are now joined with diverse marketing efforts. Among them, Morgan is currently renovating an old barn into an agri-tourism and retail infrastructure, with a walk-in cooler and Coolbot and vegetable preparation and retail areas. A three-farm marketing collaboration has also resulted in Green Share Organic CSA as well as a shared-use equipment research project. One of two field days being held this day to highlight these topics, this one is from a beginning farmer’s perspective Contact: Morgan Hoenig, (319) 931-1458.
- Dissecting the Specialty Farm Experience Wednesday, September 4th, 12:30pm at Harvestville Farm (1977 Iowa Route 2, Donnellson)This is the second of two events being held in tandem this day to highlight strategies related to agritourism, speciality crops and related topics. Lunch will be served at 12:30 p.m. ~ RSVPs Requested. Explore the Hohl family’s diverse on-farm strategies that integrate agritourism, value-added products and specialty crop production. Tour the Retail Barn with sales floor, play area, educational area and corn maze. See a design area where guests create wreaths, harvest baskets, scarecrows, birdhouses and more. Discuss particulars of how the Hohl family produces a diverse array of products, from jams and salsas to cookies, breads and cobblers. Enjoy a wagon ride tour of the fields that include 35 acres of pumpkins, squash and hard-shell gourds spanning more than 100 varieties, and hear the specifics of creating a destination farm and managing it over time. RSVP to: Lauren Zastrow, 515.232.5661 or email@example.com, by Monday, September 2nd.
- Outstanding Trees for the Midwest Home Garden Class, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Marion Public Library, 1095 Sixth Ave., Marion. Linn County Master Gardener Mike Anderson will discuss trees that make excellent additions to the home landscape, including his favorites for fall color, spring blooms, unique leaf shape, trunk structure or growth habit. Contact: (319) 377-9839
- Backyard Chicken Basics, 7 p.m. Thursday at Indian Creek Nature Center, 6665 Otis Rd. SE, Cedar Rapids. Basic information needed to raise hens in urban and suburban areas. Participants will receive a certificate of completion that enables them to get a permit to legally keep chickens in Cedar Rapids. Cost is $7 to $10. Register by 4 p.m. Wednesday at (319) 362-0664 or www.indiancreeknaturecenter.org
- Seed Saving and Tomato Tasting, 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Lowe Park Greenhouse, 4500 N. 10th St., Marion. Linn County Master Gardener Shelby Foley will lead this hands-on workshop in the methods for selecting, collecting and saving seeds for the next gardening season. Participants will be provided a map and a few containers to collect seeds from the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens. Participants can also taste the 26 varieties of tomatoes grown. Contact: Michelle Kenyon Brown, (319) 377-9839, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Questions on gardening, land use or local foods? Contact Michelle Kenyon Brown, community ag programs manager at Linn County Extension, email@example.com.