Replacing an Existing Lawn

how to care for your lawnQuestion: My lawn has become so infested with coarse grass that I am going to completely replace it. Is now a good time to kill the grass and replant? Can I replant with seed and avoid getting a lot of coarse grass coming up, or should I use sod?

Answer: Now is an excellent time to replace your lawn. Weed killer is very effective at this time of year because plants are sending food produced by the leaves down to underground roots and rhizomes. Weed killer will also be translocated more readily this time of year. Fall is an excellent time to plant grass seed because soil temperature is warm but air temperature is cooling to an ideal temperature for grass growth.

To effectively kill coarse grasses such as quack grass, you will need to spray 3 times. I would recommend the following schedule: Spray the existing lawn with Roundup or one of the other weed killers containing glyphosate. Wait about a week and then rototill with a heavy duty rototiller. You could remove the dead sod first with a sod cutter before tilling. However, tilling the dead grass into the soil adds organic matter. You could also add bark dust or compost to further increase organic matter before tilling. Both tillers and sod cutters work best if the soil is moist.

Irrigate to stimulate weed growth. After 2 weeks spray again to kill any newly sprouted coarse grass and other seedling weeds. Then make a third application of weed killer 2 weeks after the second. This puts you into mid September which is an ideal time to plant grass seed or sod.

The irrigation will help settle and firm the soil so you can rake it and get a level and uniform surface. Spread lawn fertilizer and grass seed and rake lightly so that most of the seed is buried but a little still shows on the surface. If some areas are shaded for more than half the day, use a shade grass seed mixture which contains fine fescue. Cover the soil with about a half inch of bark dust or peat moss to help retain moisture. You can skip this last step, but you will need to water more frequently.

The most important step of all is to irrigate at least twice a day to keep the soil surface moist at all times. You will need to water three or four times a day if you do not apply bark or peat. Irrigate just long enough to keep the soil moist on top. Avoid watering so long that water puddles or runs off. Continue frequent irrigation for about 3 to 4 weeks until all seed has sprouted.

If you decide to lay sod instead of seeding, do it right after applying fertilizer. Daily watering is needed for about 2 to 3 weeks until new roots have become established in the soil.

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