Seeding Lawns in Spring

Winter has been harsh this past year, hasn’t it?  For most of the people I talk to during the week, the answer is a strong “Yes!”.  Perhaps it’s just the spring fever, but we certainly have had a seemingly large number of cold and windy winter days.  All of this undesirable weather has left many property owners with bare spots in the lawn.


As spring is sprung here in mid-April, the next question is what to do about it.  Like many gardening activities, it’s a step by step process.  First, the soil needs to be prepared.  Though lawns are often thought of as a group of plants to be walked on and admired, the prep for planting is exactly the same as it is for veggie gardens – to loosen the soil so that the seed can be in contact with it.  So, if you’ve ever successfully planted radishes, carrots or beans, you already know how to do it.


If the area is a bit on the shady side, choose a turf type tall fescue; if it’s full sun, Kentucky bluegrass is usually the best choice.  Read the seed package for instructions on how much to use, but generally 10 pounds per 1,000 sq. ft for tall fescue and 2 pounds of bluegrass per 1,000 sq. ft. are in order.  Bluegrass is slower to start in the spring, but if you follow the step by step, establishment will be successful.


After seeding, rake the area lightly with a leaf rake to ensure seed to soil contact, then irrigate lightly to keep the soil moist, not soggy or dry.  Next, apply starter fertilizer to encourage rooting and get the new plants off to a good start.


You may wish to consider using a new product on the market this year, Scotts Turf Builder Starter, which contains mesotrione.  This active ingredient is much more effective and less costly than siduron, the one that has been recommended in the past.  It will suppress weeds such as crabgrass and dandelions but allow the desirable turf to grow.Again, read and follow the label directions.


Perhaps the most important key to success is the guideline of “Keep it moist, not soggy or dry”.  If the new seed is wet and the weather turns cold, it will just sit there and pout.  If, on the other hand, it’s dusty, it’s not much better than expensive bird food, and not likely to become a lawn.


Overall, the process will take about 3-4 weeks, producing a durable and functional turf surface.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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