Fall Lawn Renovation

Most lawns in Western Kentucky have fescue as their preferred grass and September is the best time of year to establish a new lawn or renovate an existing lawn. The heat and drought of Kentucky summers often take a toll on fescue lawns so here are some important steps to take before you begin.

grass seedlings

First, ensure that you have selected a grass that is hearty and properly adapted to this area and your individual circumstances. A drought resistant cultivar of turf type tall fescue would seem appropriate for most areas in Kentucky. The National Turf grass Evaluation Program evaluates many cultivars every year to determine which ones perform the best under dry conditions as well as many other characteristics such as color, density, and disease resistance. You can find these results at http://www.ntep.org. Most likely, your local lawn and nursery suppliers have good turf type tall fescue varieties on
hand this fall.

After seed selection, a seeding method must be determined and much consideration should be given to the best way to get “seed to soil” contact. We have several options to help get the seed through the existing vegetation and in contact with the soil. Many local rental yards offer a slit seeder for rental. This machine has discs that slice into the soil and drops seed into the furrow. I would recommend seeding in at least two directions however, to prevent your grass from coming up in rows.

Another method would include a heavy aerification before seeding. Aerification helps you lawn by breaking up the vegetation and exposing some soil, therefore offering a “hole” for the seed to fall into. In addition, aerification aids with water infiltration and thatch reduction. Most rental yards offer an aerifier for rent. After aerification, you can apply your seed with a standard fertilizer spreader.

The last option for renovating your lawn would be a total kill and rototill. This option is very labor intensive and involves applying a non-selective herbicide to your lawn before tilling it. Be careful to lightly compact the soil back down after tilling, otherwise, you will end up with a very bumpy lawn as it settles naturally.

Do not forget to adjust your fertility as needed during renovation. Take this time to get a soil sample to ensure the three major nutrients are present in the soil at sufficient levels. A soil sample will also provide information on the pH or acidity of your soil. It is very possible that an application of lime may be needed to raise the pH but, without a soil test, you have no idea how much is needed, if any. Contact your local County Extension Office for instructions on properly taking a soil sample and for recommendations on
managing your fertility levels.

Once renovation and reseeding is complete, the work is not finished. Properly watering your new lawn will be imperative to your success. The general rule is to water deeply and infrequently but with newly seeded grass, less water, more often is needed in the first few weeks of establishment. With a little luck, some fall rains will reduce your water bill and save some labor!

Submitted by Andrew Rideout, Agent for Horticulture, Henderson Co. Cooperative Extension Service