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Keeping lawn green is no conspiracy

By Sara Busse
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When my husband thinks of the grassy knoll, he thinks conspiracy. I think about the front lawn.I've written this before and I'll write it again -- our lawn is not pretty. I've blamed kids and dogs and all sorts of things, but the real reason has truly been my lack of concern for growing perfect grass combined with just too much grassy area to improve. It's been a great place for bocce, cornhole, badminton, volleyball and just running with the pups, but it is starting to look pretty rough.According to, overseeding makes for a full, lush lawn that is a natural deterrent to weeds."Overseeding is one of the most important lawn care tasks, yet few homeowners ever do it. So, you ask, if I fertilize my lawn properly, why do I need to add new seed, especially if my grass looks pretty good right now? The answer is grass is not immortal. After five or six years, grass plants will slow down their reproduction rates; they get tired just like we do as we age. Thin grass invites weeds."Overseeding compensates for that natural slow down of the turf's reproduction. There are two major benefits to overseeding every five or six years. First, you ensure your lawn stays thick and dense, or if it has thinned, you will make it thick again. Thick grass has few if any weeds if it is mowed over 2 inches tall."The second benefit is disease resistance. The new varieties of seed you sow this year will have better disease resistance than those varieties already in your lawn."The real lawn experts tell us not to seed in the spring. I've read extensively about fall seeding, and I'm afraid that doing all that the experts tell me to do is above my pay grade.But here's a rundown of what I've learned:
  • First, aerate your lawn, going once in one direction and once in the other (horizontal and vertical).
  • Then, put down 5 to 7 pounds per 1,000 square feet of 80 percent Kentucky blue grass and 20 percent perennial rye and immediately soak the entire lawn for an hour and a half. (Here's another problem for me -- can't water that much -- so I have to time it to coincide with an upcoming rainfall.)
  • For the next two weeks, keep it damp, watering throughout the day in small doses. Four weeks after initial seeding, fertilize the entire lawn with a starter fertilizer. It will take six to eight weeks for the bluegrass to germinate, but the rye will pop up in 10 to 14 days.
  • In the winter, after the ground is frozen, right before a decent snowfall, seed the entire lawn again at 5 to 7 pounds per 1,000 square feet and immediately add a winterizer fertilizer.
  • If you just want a quick patching method, follow these steps:
  • Rake and remove dead grass.
  • Break up the soil with a garden rake.
  • Add 2 inches of compost, mix it in. Smooth the surface.
  • Sprinkle on seeds. Be sure to add perennial rye grass to mix (it germinates quickly, AND it helps break up the soil for the other seeds).
  • Add starter fertilizer (but not if you want an organic lawn or if budget doesn't permit). Some have pre-emergent weed control that let the grass germinate but not the weeds.
  • Lightly rake in the seed, step lightly on the patch to ensure soil-to-seed contact.
  • Lightly water, keeping seedlings moist throughout the day until they're an inch high.
  • Pennkote makes a seed that is coated with a substance that birds don't like, so they won't eat your seeds.Foil those chipmunksPBS's "Cultivating Life" producer and writer Tovah Martin offers this advice when planting bulbs."For those of us tormented by chipmunks, voles and other bulb pilferers, try this trick. Buy crushed oyster shells (or, try chicken grit or bonemeal) from the grain store and toss it liberally into the hole when planting tulips, crocuses, lilies and other bulbs that furry critters devour. I put a layer of shells below and above the bulb -- like a sandwich. It's an inexpensive solution and it works. Why? Apparently little pests don't like their pedicures ruined by the gritty oyster shells. They leave the bulbs in place."Last week, I gave some tips about fall planting, found at Doug always has great advice and his website is chock-full of beautiful photos, great articles, advice, and more. You can also follow Doug on Facebook and his videos are found on Youtube -- check him out! Reach Sara Busse at or 304-348-1249.
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