Timing is important! The best time of year to overseed, establish, and rebuild a great lawn is in the fall — more specifically in September.
Lawns provide curb appeal as well as great play areas for families and their pets. A well-maintained lawn means fewer weeds in plant beds and provides visual relief/rest (negative space) for the eye between structures and plant beds. Many homeowners come to us struggling with their lawns, but the good news is early fall (September to mid-October) is the absolute best time of the year to be growing grass from seed because the ground temperatures are still relatively warm, but the air temperatures are starting to cool off. It is also a good time to overseed thin lawns or repair any bare or thin patches. Grass seed typically takes about 14 days to germinate so typically in our Bucks County location, if you want grass seed to germinate in the fall, you should plant it by October 15th, which is about 2 weeks before our usual chance of a heavy killing frost.
Basic tools needed for DIY Lawns
• Spring rake
• Stiff rake
• Rotary or drop spreader
• Rain gauge
• Lawn sprinkler and hose
• Mower and string trimmer
• Rental tools*: Power rake and aerator
*NOTE: Coming soon to our new store off of Mearns Road, we will be offering lawn machine rentals!
Follow our suggestions and get back on track to having a beautiful lawn by next year that will make your neighbors green with envy.
Steps 1 and 2: Soil/pH test, Remove weeds
• Begin the process of rejuvenating your lawn early (August) to give you enough prep time to be ready to seed as soon as the weather starts to cool off.
• A complete soil test can be done by your local Penn State Cooperative Extension. Click HERE.
• There are simple pH tests available for sale at Gasper Home and Garden Showplace which can help you determine the amount of Mag-I-Cal or lime you need to apply.
• Kill existing weeds in the lawn with an herbicide such as Round-Up or Dr. Earth’s Final Stop.
• Mark irrigation heads in the area if applicable.
Steps 3, 4, and 5: Mow Lawn Short, Remove Thatch, and Aerate
• Mow Lawn very short.
• Remove thatch with a power rake or stiff rake.
• Mow gathered thatch or use a spring rake to collect and compost.
• Aerate lawn with a rented aerator.
• If you’re looking for an alternative to heavy and unwieldy aerators, Jonathan Green Love Your Soil® naturally loosens compacted soil and increases necessary airflow to your lawn’s root system.
What is Lawn Thatch?
Lawn thatch is a fibrous layer of predominantly dead and some living grass roots, stems, and runners lying between the grass plant above the surface and the roots below. If it breaks down at the same rate grass grows, it will not present a problem, but that does not usually happen and thus builds up, preventing water and nutrients from getting to the grassroots. Excess thatch is usually caused by over-fertilizing and poor lawn practices. The desired thatch depth is about 1/4 inch at which depth it protects and cools root areas.
What is Lawn Core Aeration?
Core aeration is done using a machine with hollow tines to mechanically remove plugs or “cores” of soil and thatch from a lawn. This helps reduce soil compaction, creating a channel through which oxygen, water, and nutrients can penetrate the soil. This is an ANNUAL PROCESS for good lawn care. It is also good to do prior to reseeding a lawn because it creates pockets for seeds to fall into.
Steps 6, 7, and 8: Address depressed areas, Apply Nutrients and Seed
• Spread quality organic topsoil to fill any small, depressed lawn areas using a stiff rake.
• Large areas that are very compacted may need tilling.
• Apply any needed lawn nutrients according to your soil tests, specifically Mag-I-Cal, Love Your Lawn, Lawn Fungus Control.
• Spread desired seed with a broadcast spreader.
• EZ straw or seed establishment mulch is optional but can help keep the seed moist and aid in germination.
Steps 9 and 10: Water and First Mow
• Keep the newly-seeded area evenly moist.
• Grass seed typically takes about 14 days to germinate.
• Mow when new grass is about 4″ high which should occur about a month after seeding.
Follow Up Care and Maintenance
The Following Spring
• Apply Green-Up Crabgrass Preventer or Corn gluten pre-emergent in early spring.
• Then begin to follow the Jonathan Green’s 4 Step seasonal lawn care plan found HERE.
• For an organic approach, use Corn Gluten Weed Preventer, Organic Lawn Food, and Organic Insect Control. Mag-I-Cal and Love your Soil are also organic products.
• If using an organic approach, you will need to be a bit more tolerant of some weeds in your turf.
• When following the 4-step annual program, the fall becomes a time of aerating and over-seeding only.
• Dethatching may not be an annual consideration with proper lawn care.
• We recommend Mag-I-Cal and Winter Survival the following fall.
• Be sure to keep leaves off lawn in the fall; left there, they will kill the grass.
General Care and Maintenance
• Should you see evidence of pest insects, be sure to identify them before applying any application to ensure you are treating them correctly.
• The same advice follows for diseases. Fungus is especially difficult to treat once present.
• Keep your mower blade sharp.
• Mow at a height of 3-4”.
I always thought a yard was three feet, then I started mowing the lawn.