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Cool-season Grass Zone? Time to Seed.

Lawn & Yard Care

By Marty Ross

Fall is a great time to plant a new lawn from seed—but only if you live in an area where cool-season grasses, which grow best where summer temperatures are moderate, are the turf of choice. Before you get started with fall lawn seeding, do a little research to find out what kind of grass is appropriate in your area. It’s the first step to success.

Know Your Zone
Lawn-care professionals divide the continental United States into three turf-grass regions:

Discover which zone you live in here. If you’re in a cool-season zone, it’s time to seed. When summer temperatures soar, cool-season lawns become dormant. Fall temperatures are perfect for cool-season grasses to germinate and grow, so if you live in an area where cool-season grass thrives, or in the transitional zone, you can start your fall lawn seeding.

2-seed

Select Your Seed
Garden shops often sell grass seed year-round, which doesn’t make it easy to decide just when you should sow seeds, and what kind of seed is appropriate. In cool-season areas, you might plant bluegrass, ryegrass or fescue—or a blend with some combination of these. Bermuda grass, centipede, zoysia and St. Augustine are common warm-season turf grasses.

It’s a good idea to check with your local university extension experts (try an internet search with the keywords lawn, extension and the name of your state) for recommendations for your area, and weigh their opinions against the selection at your garden shop. Lawn grasses thrive in full sun, but some (fescue, zoysia) tolerate light shade. Some (fescue, bermuda) are drought-tolerant, low-maintenance choices. Others (bluegrass—think of a golf course) perform best when they are pampered.

Sow Your Seeds
When you’re getting ready to plant, check your calendar. If you’re nurturing a new lawn, it is not a good time to take a vacation. Grass seeds need to be watered daily until they germinate and the tiny plants become well established. You’ll be using your sprinkler every day to make sure your investment in seeds grows into a healthy, well-established lawn.

Spread the seed according to the instructions on the bag. A simple, hand-held rotary seed spreader or a walk-behind spreader is a good investment. Fill the hopper and walk back and forth across the area you’re seeding. Then walk the area again, at right angles to your first passes with the seed spreader. This will give you uniform seed coverage. Remember, more is not better: If you over-plant, the young seedlings compete with each other.

You don’t have to tip-toe on the areas you have seeded. Good contact with the soil is important for germination, and walking on the seed helps establish contact.

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Water Smart
Now water. Gilmour’s Adjustable Length Wind-resistant Rectangular Sprinkler is an ideal tool to help moisten the seeds efficiently in a large area. The sprinkler’s 20 jets cover up to 3,800 square feet, and you can adjust the sprinkler’s spray pattern to cover the shape of your lawn.

Set a timer for seven or eight minutes—no more. You’re not trying to water deeply; you only want to moisten the seeds. Too much water will cause them to wash into clumps, leaving bare spots. Move the sprinkler around the yard to make sure all the seeded areas are moistened. The dial on Gilmour’s sturdy metal sprinkler can be adjusted to fit the seeded area. You need not waste a drop of water.

Grass seeds germinate in a few days, but they may not germinate uniformly. Water without fail every day until you see the tiny grass plants start to emerge. Then keep watering daily: these little plants have correspondingly tiny roots. Sun and wind will cause the surface of the soil to dry out, and if the young grass plants begin to dry out, they may not recover. Do not allow them to wilt.

4-bubbler and jet

Growing On
You can water less frequently as grass plants grow, but you should water more deeply, for longer, as the grass sends down deeper roots. Make sure the sprinkler’s spray jets are not clogged with dirt: Use the little plug on the end of the sprinkler to clean out any blocked jets, so the sprinkler waters your new lawn uniformly.

To water in just a small area where you may have patched a bare spot in the lawn, use a stationary sprinkler. Gilmour’s Stationary Square Sprinkler is versatile and handy for small spots: Turn the water up and it sprays an area up to 30 by 30 feet. Turn the water down and you can water a much smaller spot. Give it just a few minutes—enough to moisten grass seeds.

There’s no need to mow in newly planted areas until the plants are at least three inches tall. Once the grass is up and growing, mow (never cut more than one-third of the grass blades) or rake lightly to keep autumn leaves from becoming matted over the young plants. Water during dry spells, and your new lawn is off to a great start.

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