Lawn Planting Time

Question: I heard on the radio recently that fall is the best time to plant a new lawn. I am planning to plant a lawn in an area which was partly a driveway and partly a large vegetable garden previously. I have not decided whether to plant from sod or seed. Could you explain the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Answer: Yes indeed, fall is the natural time to plant grass. This is the time when mother nature starts new grass. The soil is still warm so seed sprouts quickly and sod roots quickly into the soil. Night temperatures are cooling which gives ideal growing conditions for establishing new plants.

In the area which was compacted by a lot of foot and vehicle traffic, I would highly recommend incorporating some organic matter into the soil before planting. Adding organic matter to the other area would not hurt either.

Bark dust, sold in bulk in full service nurseries, is the cheapest and most uniform of any source of organic matter. If you don’t have a pickup, most stores will deliver bark dust to your drive way. Cover the area 2 or 3 inches deep and rototill it into the soil several times to make sure it is uniformly distributed.

Rake the area to create a fine uniform planting bed. Apply lawn fertilizer at the recommended rate.

The biggest cost difference is the next step. Five pounds of grass seed for a 1000 square foot lawn will cost less than $25. Good quality sod will cost about $450.

After laying sod all you need to do is water once a day for the first week and three times a week after that until rain takes over.

If you plant seed, you will need to rake the soil lightly after seeding so that two thirds of the seed is covered. A quarter inch layer of bark dust on top of the seed will reduce the drying rate and assure a better germination rate.

The critical step with seeded lawns is to make sure the soil is kept wet on top for the next month. This usually means watering at least 3 times per day.

This time of year a sodded lawn will be ready to use in 2 or 3 weeks. It will take 2 or 3 months to establish a seeded lawn.

New lawns can be mowed when the grass reaches a height of 2 to 3 inches.



Allen Wilson

Allen has been writing about gardening for over 30 years. He is a retired professor of Horticulture.

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