With springtime springing, many people are thinking about planting in their yards and gardens. While the best time of year to plant grass seed and renovate is in the fall, we have a narrow window in the spring that can be taken advantage of to try to fill in bare spots and thin areas. Thin or weak areas that may have been damaged over the winter or even last summer are very prone to crabgrass and other weed invasion as we get farther into spring and early summer. With cooler weather forecast later this week (many areas are predicted to have frost in the morning), we still have a good window over the next two weeks for spring grass planting. If you have already applied crabgrass preventer, then you’ll have to wait until fall to plant grass seed, but if you haven’t, now is a good time to try to “thicken up” some weak spots and create more density before weeds have a chance to get a foothold.
While a “full scale” lawn renovation should only be done in the fall (unless you are using all sod), spring is a good time to rejuvenate thin or weak areas. To do this, use a hard metal rake to remove any dead plant debris from the area and expose the soil. Use a drop spreader or handheld spreader (larger area) or sprinkle seed by hand (smaller area) as you try to get good, even coverage of the area (for tall fescue seed you will want to have about 6-10 seeds/square inch seed density). You can then very lightly rake the area to get the seed worked into the soil less than 1/2″ or carefully step on seeds to ensure good seed-to-soil contact. Next, be sure to cover the seed by topdressing compost or peat moss over the newly seeded area. This will help the seed retain moisture until it starts to germinate and provide some protection from birds. Lastly, try to keep the new seed damp at least until germination. With our cooler weather and a few showers in the forecast, the upcoming weather will help with keeping the seeds moist until they germinate but you may have to do a little watering with your garden hose or sprinkler too.
We don’t have a big window of time for spring seeding, but seeding now before crabgrass and other weeds become more active later in spring will help increase the density of the lawn and make it better able to resist weed invasion!
By Geoffrey Rinehart, University of Maryland Institute of Applied Agriculture