Q. How and when should I plant grass in the greater-NYC region?
A new lawn can be planted in spring or fall. Fall is a better time, due to the cooler weather and consistent soil moisture. These conditions help a lawn germinate faster. Weed competition is also reduced in the fall because lower temperatures reduce weed growth. In spring, plant lawn seed early to take advantage of the cool, rainy, conditions. Rake the seeded soil gently to increase soil/seed contact without covering the seed by more than 1/8th of an inch. Cover seed lightly with straw to deter birds from eating the seed and roll with a garden roller for best results.
Improving the soil long before fall will greatly improve the fertility of your future lawn. It is also a good idea to get an initial soil test. State cooperative extension services provide soil testing services. With the test results, you can be certain about what is needed to improve your soil.
You can also get information from the service about what lawn seed mixes are best for your area. Cornell University Turfgrass Program has advice for finding the right mixture for your lawn conditions in New York State. For instance, for a lower maintenance lawn, in sunny (6 to 8 hours daily), cool-climate, conditions a classic mixture would be:
65% Kentucky Bluegrasses
15% Perennial Ryegrass
20% Fine Fescues
Some general techniques for improving soil before planting a lawn include: add compost to increase the soil's organic matter content to as much as 7 percent and greatly improve water retention at the same time. To apply compost as a topdressing for areas smaller than 2,000 square feet, use a wheel barrow and drop small piles intermittently around your lawn; then rake the compost out to about a quarter to three-eighths of an inch. For larger areas, use a spreader.
In general, apply a low dose fertilizer in early fall and in midspring. Organic fertilizers come from natural plant, animal, and mineral sources. Once these products are applied to the lawn, soil micro organisms break down the nutrients into a form that plants can take up. Always follow the directions on the label to avoid overfeeding (yes, you can overdo organic fertilizers, too).
Mowing grass 3 inches high is just as effective as using herbicides to suppress crabgrass, Set your mower blade to its highest level, 3 inches is best. Just be sure to keep it sharp—dull blades leave ragged edges on the grass blades, which allows rapid evaporation of water and makes the grass more susceptible to infection. Tall grass stays greener and shades the soil, preventing weeds from germinating.
Mow often, because you never want to cut off more than one-third of the grass blades at a time. Wait any longer and you'll shock your grass, slowing its growth.
Instead of bagging up grass clippings and sending them to the landfill, invest in a mulching blade for your mower and leave the clippings on your lawn. As they decompose, they add valuable organic matter to the soil and about 2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet each season, which means you have to spend less time and money on fertilizing. Problem thatch is caused by overfertilizing, not grass clippings.
Once your lawn is establshed, aerating it every five years or so will help compaction problems.
Some additional information on sustainable lawn care is available from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. And for tips on lawn care from the turf care team at NYBG please refer to our guide Lawn Care Tips from the Experts.
note: See google links on how to level your ground for a new lawn. (No herbicides please)
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service