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Fall Lawn Renovation (Traditional Zone)
by Tom Kent

If youÕre planting cooler season seed, early fall is the best time to do your lawn renovation. If youÕre planting warmer season grass seed, spring is the best time. If you are unsure, refer to your Temperature Zone Chart to decide the best grasses to grow for your lawn. For laying new sod, plugs, or almost any time during the growing season will work.

  • Step 1: Test your soil
    Testing your soil is the first step you should take in any lawn renovation. This will help you determine if you lawn is ready for new seed.
    First, check the soil with a soil test, which can be bought at your local home & garden center. This will make sure the current soil has adequate nutrients and the ideal pH level for growing grass. If you can, get your soil completely tested by a laboratory. Check with your local service companies to see if they offer this mail-in kit. You should get your results in about 2 weeks.
  • Step 2: Remove the old lawn
    Removing your existing lawn down to the bare soil is not an easy task. Get some friends and family , some cool drinks, and a sod cutter (you can rent these for about $75 a day) and you can knock this task out pretty quickly. ItÕs not easy work, so be prepared to butter your friends up with a nice meal afterwards!
  • Step 3: Prepare the yard
    DonÕt send your friends home yet, you still have work to do!
    Carefully look over your site. You should remove rocks, exposed roots, or anything else you can see. Large, partially-visible rocks should be dug up, and tree roots should be trimmed down to below the soil level. Any holes or depressions should be filled with additional topsoil.

    Now you need to make a shopping list. YouÕll probably want to add some sand and come aged compost (adding a lot of tasty bio-mass to the soil). YouÕll need about 3 cubic yards per 1,000 square feet.
  • Step 4: Tilling and fertilizing
    Rent a rotary tiller (with the tines in the rear) from your local garden center. These run about $50 a day. Turn the soil until there are no big clumps or patches of packed earth.

    Next add nutrients lime, peat moss, or sulfur to balance the soil's pH level.

    Spread the peat moss with a shovel. Using pelletized lime or sulfur, spread with a walk-behind spreader set to the appropriate calibration rate listed for your spreader.

    Next, you need to get a metal rake and spread the starter fertilizer to the entire area. Just work the fertilizer into the surface. Make sure the soil is level and is not interfering with the natural drainage pattern.
  • Step 5: Seeding
    Make sure you have a grass-seed type suitable for your area and purchase based on square footage. You need to spread the seed as evenly as possible. This should be possible by a hand spreader, but a walk-behind spreader works better, especially for larger areas.

    After youÕve put down the see, gently work the seeds into the soil with an upside-down leaf-type rake. Use short, light strokes until the seed is into the top ¼" of the soil. You don't need to pack it down.
  • Step 6: Water regularly and often
    Once youÕve finished seeding, gently water the area with an oscillating sprinkler. For the first ten days, you should water twice a day to keep the soil evenly moist, but do not soak it! Avoid over-watering at all costs!

    Once the seed has started to sprout, only water once a day, in the morning if possible.

    Once the new grass has grown to about 2½", you can begin to gently mow the lawn. Be careful not to make an harsh moves that could damage the soft new soil. And only cut new grass when the soil is dry.

    Just before Thanksgiving, you can put down a second application of fertilizer.



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