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Spring Lawn Repairs

The muddy conditions of the winter months have compromised many home lawns, especially high traffic areas. We are still in a window suitable for establishing grass but the sooner the seed is sown or the sod laid, the better. The later in April grass in established, the less time the grass has to develop its root system before summer heat and weeds limit grass growth.

There must be a commitment to redirecting or at least dramatically limiting traffic over the area to be reseeded. This can be a challenge for areas that serve as an exercise area for children or pets. It is preferred to have a soil test before the seed or sod is applied. Virginia Tech soil sampling and testing is accessible through the Rockbridge Extension office but it may take two weeks to get the results due to high demand in the spring. Though not preferred, lime and fertilizer can be applied after the seed or sod is applied.

Where soil compaction is severe, the area needs to be manually loosened. A broad-fork tool or pick can accomplish this initially followed by work with a hoe or rotary tiller may be necessary to get a suitable seedbed. On other areas, light surface hoeing and raking will suffice. Sod especially should only be laid on a loose friable soil that allows the shallow roots to establish. If the area is prone to mud puddles or other standing water, some strategy to get excess water to drain away will be necessary for the lawn to be successful. If available, applying a thin layer of good quality compost is a good idea before seeding or sodding.

If seeding, rake the area very lightly to incorporate the seed no deeper than the surface 1/4 - ½ an inch. Rule-of-thumb is that some of the seed should still be visible on the surface; otherwise the seed may be planted too deep. Three to five pounds of seed per 1,000 square feet is the rule of thumb for fescue and bluegrass varieties. After seed is applied, roll or step the entire area to ensure seed-soil contact. Uniformly mulch the area with straw such that 25 percent of the soil surface is still visible. Keep the seed zone moist. New seedings may require a shallow watering more than once per week to keep the soil moist and ensure rapid germination.

Plan to participate in the Rockbridge Area Master Gardener virtual plant clinic on April 17 at 11 a.m. to learn more about planting, propagation, and plant purchasing.

Contact the Rockbridge Extension Office at 463-4734 for more detailed information on re-seeding lawns or other spring gardening questions.

The News-Gazette

The News-Gazette Corp.
P.O. Box 1153
Lexington, VA 24450
(540) 463-3113

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