With summer coming to a close and kids returning to school, now might be the time to consider dealing with those bare spots of grass in the yard. A yard is an eco-system unto itself and the reason behind the bald patches of grass need to be dealt with before the replanting or re-sodding begins.
What’s Causing the Spots?
There may be a number of causes: lack of water (irrigation is broken or not properly calibrated), rocky or non-draining soil, grubs, dog urine, disease, shade, and compaction. Before you waste time and money you need to figure out what’s causing the problem, deal with it and then proceed.
If your problem is too much traffic, consider rerouting traffic or laying stepping-stones to discourage stepping on the lawn. If shade is the trouble, select a shade-happy variety of lawn seed or sod. If your dog’s urine is the problem, take it for a walk.
In addition to planting grass seed there are several alternatives to restoring your lawn:
If you don’t want to wait for the grass to grow, re-sodding the area is always an option. Home improvement superstores sell sod by the piece and it’s relatively inexpensive. The ground should be properly prepared, fertilized and leveled before cutting the sod to fit the exposed area.
If you don’t want to spend a lot of time fixing up the lawn, there are some great products that incorporate seeds and a mulch-like covering in one easy application. These products work very well because the shredded paper and pulp that is mixed with the seeds is very effective at keeping the ground moist and the birds at bay. The filling is usually colored blue or green so you can easily see if you have the entire area covered.
The health of your lawn and new plantings depend upon the soil in which it is planted.
- Dig up and remove the grass in the problem area. Remove the top layer of remaining turf and soil
- Turn over the soil using a spade shovel (has a rounded or pointed end). Be sure to go down 4″ in depth. This breaks up soil compaction making it easier for your new seedling’s roots to grow deeper with more ease. Remove any stones, roots or other plant materials that may hinder the growth of your new grass as you work.
- Amend the soil by placing compost or a commercial bagged product from your garden center into your loosened topsoil. This can greatly improve the growing conditions for your lawn’s roots. The darker the color of the soil more organic material and nutrients there are in it. Work the organic material into the soil using the spade and or garden rake.
- Level the surface by using your garden rake to level and create a smooth surface. The soil surface should be the same level as the surrounding soil (or slightly higher to allow for settling). If you are using sod, the soil should be 1″ lower to allow for the depth of the sod’s soil and roots. Take care the surface is even with no low or high spots. This will create a lumpy end result and depressions can collect water, which may lead to disease.
Spread the Seed
Pick a quality grass seed that matches both the type of grass currently growing in your lawn and the requirements of the area it is to grow in.
With the soil prepared, lightly sprinkle the grass seed over the exposed area. Be sure to spread it at the rate as described on the seed packaging. Rake a thin layer of soil over the seeds. Apply a starter fertilizer to assist with jumpstarting the seed growth and ensuring strong roots.
Apply Mulch Covering
Cover the seeded area with a protective layer of mulch. Typical materials include straw, peat moss, or other commercially available products made of recycled newspaper, which conserve moisture and contain starter fertilizer. The covering used is not as important as what it does: conserve moisture, increase turf density and minimize weed seeds from finding your freshly prepared fertile soil.
Keep Soil Moist Until Seeds Sprout
Lightly water the seeds every day, multiple times a day if it is warm, sunny or windy. Keep them moist until you see the seeds germinate and begin to root into the soil, then reduce the frequency of watering. Allow your grass to grow and fill in before you mow. Mowing it too early or too short can damage the grass and possibly uproot it.
Grass consumes an extraordinary amount of water and there are so many alternatives to its use that I suggest, before you spend time and money trying to maintain a perfect lawn, you consider replacing your lawn or a considerable portion of it with drought-tollerent, sustainable native plants and succulents. I’ve written a number of blogs on this subject including my last post, Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn. Help save water and save money by re-thinking how your garden grows.