Remember Ed from Basking Ridge who wrote in about his digger dog? It seems Dulcie also loves a good game of fetch and Ed wonders how to create a lawn to stand up to speedy turns. His current lawn rolls up, has little root structure and is mostly crab grass and clover. Whether you have canine kids or the two-legged variety, over seeding can help. While the best time is September, early spring is the next best time and with irrigation anytime will work.
I called on my “turf guru” and teacher from way back when. Based on the presence of crab grass and clover Professor Tolley guessed Ed’s soil is in good shape in terms of pH, though most likely compacted. Still, a soil test is always recommended. Tolley suggested over seeding with a Tall Fescue mix that includes 5 -15% Perennial Ryegrass for quick color. Kentucky 31 is the most durable cultivar of Tall Fescue but is course and pale in color.
Now for the “guru” part: You can pre-germinate seed (called malting) by soaking it in water for about 24 hours and then air dry. If left to soak longer you’ll need to aerate with a fish tank bubbler. Warm water up to 80 degrees works well; if any hotter you’ll be making beer (hmm). With pre-germinated seed you can have coverage in a couple of days but it must be spread my hand in order not to damage the seedlings.
Whether you opt to malt or not, aerate first or use a slicer/seeder to help with compaction and improve the seed-to-soil contact. Top dress using organic matter based on your soil test mixed with sand. Turf blankets, burlap, or a thin mulch layer will slow drying, trap heat and keep birds away. Perhaps it goes without saying; do not apply weed preventer on new grass seedlings.
Cutting grass 3 inches high is always best as a taller blade equals more root and less overall maintenance. You will see greater improvements from increased mowing, every 7 days or less, over any application of fertilizer, lime or pesticides says Professor Tolley. Imagine a happy turf with no chemicals! Yeah baby. Garden dilemmas? firstname.lastname@example.org