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Garden Tips for the Garden State – Growing Grass

Flickr - Photo by hummyhummy

In New Jersey, September is really the best time of year to seed your lawn. The seed will come up and thrive in the cooler fall weather. Plus, there’s no worries of the impending summer heat threatening its chances of survival before it can grow deep roots and become established. Whether you plan on over-seeding your existing patchy spots or seeding a completely new area, here’s everything you need to know to grow healthy new turf.

Find Grass Seed For New Jersey

One of the most important things you can do is to find seed that is formulated to grow specifically in our zone 6 climate. Avoid the big box stores on this shopping trip. The bigger brands have to formulate seed that will work for the entire country, which means some of the mix might not particularly enjoy growing in New Jersey.

Seek out smaller garden shops where many will have locally mixed grass seeds specifically designed to grow in a zone 6 climate. You’ll want to make sure you get the correct mix for where you plan to sow it.

Pay close attention to the area of your lawn and it’s “micro-climate” before heading out to the store.  You’ll want to know if it gets full sun, sun and shade, or all shade.

The mix will vary based on your needs, either having more Bluegrass, Fescue, or Rye depending on how much sun the area will get. Bluegrass will do well in full sun and high traffic areas, while Fescue is more tolerant of shade. Rye will do well in full sun, but will tolerate some shade as well and comes up fast.

I should mention that these are all cool season grasses which go dormant (brown) in the heat of summer.  You technically can plant a warm season grass such as Bermuda grass (think Florida lawns) which stay green in the summer but brown in the fall and through the winter. This requires a lot of sun and loose sandy soil which allow for very deep roots, and thus their ability to grow in the heat of summer.

Spreading Seed

Rake the area you will plant with a stiff lawn rake to slightly loosen up the soil.  Doing so will provide better seed to soil contact and allow the roots to enter the soil easier. Spread your seed at the rate suggested on the bag or by the garden center.

This is so important. Planting too much will result in the grass choking itself out. The rate to spread the seed is usually surprisingly less than you think. Be brave and follow the rules this time. The grass will fill in even more over the next spring.

Turn your rake over to use the flat side and gently rake the grass seed in. It doesn’t need to be planted any deeper than a just light dusting and exposed seed on top of the soil is fine too. It will settle when watered.

Add a light layer of straw and you’re done, but make sure it’s straw and not hay, hay has its seed tops still on it and you will just plant hay with your grass which is a bad thing.

Watering

Start by watering daily to keep the entire area moist throughout germination. Once the grass has germinated and you can see it coming up (usually about a week) you can start cutting back. Now water 2-3 days in a row for one week, then let it dry out completely for one day. The following week water 1 day on 1 day off. After you reach this point you can cut down to 1 good soaking per week.

The watering schedule above should only be done if there is no rain.  Take rainfall into consideration. You may only have to water that first week a couple times to keep it moist through the germination process and then you can let mother nature do her thing.

The overall idea is to gradually step down, you want to allow dry days so the roots will grow downward in search of water.  The longer the roots, the more drought tolerant your lawn will be.

Don’t Do Anything Else

The last tip here is to let it do its thing. There’s no need to fertilize along while planting seed. A seed of grass is 5% seed 95% food for that seed to use while germinating.  It essentially has its own fertilizer built in. You will do more harm trying to apply fertilizer too early, or during this process.

Do not apply pre-emergent chemicals and make sure you have not applied this type of chemical anytime in the last three months as this will prevent grass seed from ever coming up. It can be liquid, granular, or mixed in with other fertilizers.

If you apply this before the grass is fully established, you could possibly kill the grass too as many pre-emergent chemicals kill the first leaf stage of grasses.

Wait till the spring to do anything else in these newly seeded areas and you’ll be golden!

Click here for more Garden Tips for the Garden State, or send your questions to me Chris.Eannucci@townsquaremedia.com.

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