Read about the reasons you shouldn’t seed your lawn in the spring, and why going with the most trusted lawn care company in Sioux Falls, SD and Sioux City, IA is your best option. Breaking the Spring Seeding Cycle Loading player for /content/dam/ext_vt_edu/topics/lawn-garden/turfgrass/turfandgardentips/tips/Breakspringseedcycle.mp3. Break the Spring Seeding Cycle:
The Problems with Spring Seeding
As winter reaches its welcome end, you begin to have visions of a lovely lawn all the neighbors will envy. Both literally and symbolically, spring is a time of renewal and fresh growth, and you are feeling the spirit. This year, you are going to have that lawn that you vowed you would every previous year. It’s finally time.
And it’s the perfect time, right? Temperatures are warming, and a long growing season lies ahead. It’s time to get out there and reseed all those bare spots and shore up the healthy-looking areas.
Well, maybe not. Yes to the warming temperatures and the long growing season, but no to the perfect time. Actually, two key factors make spring a very difficult time for seeding. More accurately, spring is not a difficult time to seed, but it is difficult for spring-seeded grass to survive. All that time and money you put into the lawn could very well go to waste.
Cool-weather grasses like those we have in the Sioux City and Sioux Falls metro areas are happiest and grow best with warm days, cool nights, and regular rainfall. If that sounds just like spring, it is! Spring and fall are, truthfully, the best times for grass to grow because the conditions tend to be so good and consistent for it.
So then what is the problem?
The problem is that time of year when the days are long, friends and family gather to barbecue and socialize, and people lounge out back to admire the night sky: summer.
Sure, summer is a great time for kids and for families with vacation time, but it’s a pretty terrible time for grass to grow. This is because it’s just too hot.
Once temperatures approach 80 degrees F, most plant growth, including that of cool-weather grass, slows, though not to the point of threatening its survival. However, as temperatures near and exceed 90, which happens much of the summer, growth dramatically slows.
When that happens, a process called photorespiration begins. Put simply, a plant is consuming more energy than it is producing. Older, well-established grass with deeper root systems can endure, but this becomes too much for newer grass. Even new grass that looks strong and healthy is weaker than it appears. The combination of the heat and the reduced food (because photosynthesis slows as growth does) often causes spring-seeded grass to die. This results in the brown and bare patches you frequently see by late summer.
The other significant impediment to the survival of spring-seeded grass is weed growth, and this is a problem in both spring and summer.
Spring may be the perfect time for grass to grow, but it is also the perfect time for weeds such as crabgrass to grow. Crabgrass loves to grow in bare spots and where the grass is damaged or dying, so those spots you want to reseed as spring begins are the very places crabgrass is likely to grow.
No problem, you might think; I’ll just do some preventive weed control. Although pre-emergent herbicide applications are great ways to prevent crabgrass from growing, they present a couple of problems where growing new grass is concerned.
Early spring is the prime time for applying pre-emergents, but these herbicides are not species-specific. In other words, the pre-emergents will keep crabgrass away, but they also keep new grass seeds from growing.
The solution, then, might seem to be waiting a few weeks before planting new grass, but that has a catch, a serious one. Putting down a pre-emergent will prevent that grass seed from germinating for up to 90 days. That puts you into early or mid-summer, which means a loss of critical growing time, and now your grass faces the dual assault of heat and the lack of water for the seed to grow. That newly planted grass will have little chance of surviving.
Now let’s go back to what we said about the summer heat and bare or discolored patches in the lawn.
When that new grass dies, those spots are ripe for a takeover by crabgrass and other weeds, which can then start to spread to other areas. Yes, you can battle them with post-emergent herbicides, and you probably should, but that dead grass is still dead and not coming back.
And all of that time and money you spent since the start of spring turns out to be all for naught.
What to Do?
By this point, you may be thinking of just giving up. Maybe a “wild” lawn will have to do until next year (the neighbors are really going to love that). You might even start half-wondering if artificial turf or turning the lawn into a rock garden might be better. After all that effort and the results you got for them, no one could really blame you.
The good news is that there are some solutions and that you can have a healthy, beautiful lawn.
If your lawn isn’t extremely thin, and if it isn’t mostly bare, then seeding in the fall is the best option. Like in spring, conditions are typically excellent for plants to grow. Cool-weather grass can take around 9 months to establish itself. Planting in the early fall leaves ample time for grass to grow, and then growth resumes in the spring. This allows the grass more time to become strong enough to withstand the onslaught of summer.
Planting in the spring can still be an option, too. Although spring is not the ideal time to seed a lawn, that doesn’t mean you can’t seed a lawn then and see it thrive. But it’s going to take more work and more expertise. In that case, it’s probably best to consult a professional lawn-care service. The experts there will inspect your lawn, determine the right approach, and then commence doing what they do best.
The Sharp Solution
At Sharp Lawn Care, we are attuned to the Sioux City region’s climate and growth season, and we know exactly what works best here. There are two basic options.
If you decide to seed in the spring, it will be necessary to forgo a pre-emergent weed treatment and the first broadleaf weed-control application (a post-emergent treatment) because they occur in April and May, the times your grass is growing best.
You are still going to have the heat- and drought-related troubles come summer, there almost certainly will be an abundance of weeds as well. For the rest of the summer, then, we will focus on getting rid of the weeds, and then we will reseed in the fall.
What we think is the better option, as long as the lawn isn’t extremely thin, is to utilize a fertilization and weed-control program and include aeration in both spring and fall. Strengthening the grass already there is the goal of the fertilization, and the weed control provides not just aesthetic value but also creates bare spots where new grass seeds can germinate.
We have found that thorough cleanups in spring and in fall to remove grass-killing debris, spring and fall aeration, a well-inclusive fertilization/weed control program, and annual fall seeding result in thick, healthy grass. After the lawn is nice and thick, continue each service every year, although, fall seeding only needs to happen every subsequent two or three years.
Either option, if you need a hand, Sharp Lawn Care will get it right and will get your lawn into great shape. Get a free quote from our professional lawn care company today!
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Breaking the Spring Seeding Cycle
Loading player for /content/dam/ext_vt_edu/topics/lawn-garden/turfgrass/turfandgardentips/tips/Breakspringseedcycle.mp3.
Break the Spring Seeding Cycle:
As winter breaks and temperatures warm up, many spend some time outdoors, working in the lawn and garden areas, enjoying the sun and making a list of things to get done this year. As we look at the lawn, we often see thin or bare areas, weedy areas, and parts of the lawn we just wish looked better. We get excited as the days get warmer, and we decide, this year, I am going to fix this lawn up. A trip to the store follows, bringing home grass seed, fertilizer, maybe lime, and perhaps even straw for the more ambitious of us. That spring, we work so hard, getting the areas worked up, seeded, fertilized, and maybe even applying lime, and then covering our newly planted seeds with straw. We drag hoses, followed by watering, watering, and more watering, and watch with satisfaction as our new grass comes up, looking great, and all spring our level of satisfaction is high.
However, all good things must come to an end, and as summer gets closer, the day and night time temperatures continue to climb. Our beautiful grass isn’t looking so good, even though we are watering it regularly. It is getting lighter green, not growing, and just isn’t doing well. Finally, in the heat of summer, that beautiful grass gets thin, turns yellow, brown, and then just dies. Unfortunately, that’s not the end of the season. By working the area up, watering it and fertilizing it, we also made a great place for weeds to grow, and soon, without the new grass growing in the area, crabgrass and weed seeds germinate and grow. They move right into the area where our beautiful grass was only a few short weeks ago. These terrible looking weeds grow and grow, getting nice and thick. Finally, as fall arrives we get the first frost, the weeds and crabgrass turn brown, leaving the same unsightly area that we had when we started all the way back in March. Frustrated and tired by this time, we vow to either attack that area again next spring, or maybe, after trying several times, to just throw in the towel and let the weeds and crabgrass have that area.
Does any of this sound familiar?
This sequence of events is all too common, and leaves the homeowner feeling frustrated; having spent time, energy, and money only to have no improvement at the end of the season. However, not only do we have an explanation for why this happens, we also have a solution! It is time to break the spring seeding cycle.
The Problems with Spring Seeding:
Although spring seeding is very common for garden crops and other plants, spring seeding of grass is very difficult due to conditions that are often beyond our control. During spring, temperature and rainfall is perfect for grass seed germination and growth. However, when temperatures climb in the summer problems begin to occur. To understand what happens, we have to back up and give some background on grass and plants in general.
The majority of lawns in our area are comprised of turf type tall fescues and bluegrass, all of which are cool season grasses. These grasses are called cool season grasses because they grow well in cooler weather, like we have in the spring and fall. Their optimum temperate for growing and manufacturing food (photosynthesis) is between 68 to 77⁰F. Above 77⁰F, grasses are able to still manufacture food, but at a lower rate. However, once air temperatures rise above 87 ⁰F (which happens every summer), photosynthesis becomes very limited. This happens for several reasons, but the major issue is that the plants try to utilize oxygen instead of carbon dioxide to manufacture food, and a process called photorespiration begins. During photorespiration, a grass plant actually uses more energy than it manufactures. So, during periods of high temperatures, plants have limited food production by photosynthesis and the plant is utilizing energy in photorespiration. Without enough energy to produce new growth, we see a significant reduction in growth, both of the shoots and roots. During this time, grass plants tend to stop growing, roots often die back, and then crowns, or tops, of the grass plants thin out. Have you ever seen this during the summer, thin and slow growing turf in your lawn?
While this happens every year to cool season turf, it usually doesn’t kill the grass. Older grass plants are well established and have carbohydrate reserves. They suffer through the summer, and then resume growth when fall temperatures arrive. However, the problem is with the spring seeded turf. These grass plants are very young, tender, and have limited roots and food reserves. With only limited food and root reserves when summer temperatures get high, these plants are unable to tolerate the stresses of summer and often die. This sets the stage for weeds and crabgrass to move in.
So what does all this mean?
Grass planted in the spring comes up great, but it lacks the root development and food reserves to deal with the high summer temperatures we have every year. It thins out, and many of the young seedlings don’t make it to the fall. There are also two other major problems with spring seeding. First, when managing cool season grasses, pre-emergent products are typically applied in the spring to control crabgrass, the number one weed in lawns. Pre-emergent products work by preventing seed germination and they cannot be utilized with new seeding because they will also prevent the new desirable seed from coming up. Second, young turf benefits from fertilization. The young turf has a limited root system and to improve the density, color and growth of young turf, moderate fertilization is recommended. However, this type of fertilization is not recommended in the spring.
So what should I do you ask? The answer is, FALL SEEDING. The best chance for grass plants to survive the stress associated with summer is for them to develop as many roots as possible and to be as mature as possible before summer arrives. To accomplish this, fall is the time to plant. Warmer soil temperatures mean faster seed germination. Typically, our rainfall patterns are more consistent in the fall, and by seeding in the fall, we allow grass plants to become established before winter sets in. They are able to grow roots well into the late fall and early winter. As spring comes, these plants develop more, get thicker, and grow deeper roots. When summer arrives, their food reserves and root development are much better, and they are able to endure the summer stress without dying like the spring seeded grass.
The New Strategy:
So, I should to wait until the fall to seed my lawn? Yes, in order to have the best results possible, waiting until fall is advised, unless you have bare areas or a limited time frame. Even in these cases, we still recommend returning in the fall to overseed again. However, don’t despair, there are a number of things you can do prior to the fall seeding event! During the spring, look over your lawn and decide which areas need improvement. Have a soil analysis performed for the area of interest, so if lime or nutrient adjustments need to be made, they can be made during the growing season. Apply a spring pre-emergent if crabgrass has been an issue, and plan ahead for broadleaf weed control. A month or more before seeding, get rid of the broadleaf weeds and crabgrass with a liquid weed control application, because the young cool season grass seedlings that we are going to plant have a tough time competing with weeds that have been growing all season. Once seeding time arrives, aerate plant, fertilize, and water and wait till next year to see how much better your lawn looks!