For The Answer
Express News Weekly Article
Saturday, April 30, 2005
By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, SAWS, and Horticulturist
Lawn Care and Planting Grass Seed
It is time to fertilize the lawn. The hot weather grasses such as St. Augustine, Bermuda, buffalo, and zoysia grass are not capable of pulling the nutrients from the soil until the top is actively growing so it is most efficient to wait until about May 1, to apply fertilizer. Use a slow release lawn fertilizer such as 19-5-9, and apply one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 sq. feet of grass. The bag will usually tell you which setting to use on the spreader. If it does not, use the lowest setting. Organic fertilizers are also slow release and work well. They usually have lower nutrient ratios. It would take three (3) times as much 6-2-2 fertilizer to provide the one pound of nitrogen as it does to obtain the nitrogen from 19-5-9, the first number is the percentage of nitrogen in the bag.
The winter weeds are declining from the heat. It does not make sense to apply a herbicide now. The weeds will die just as quickly from the heat as the herbicide. It does make sense to keep the weeds cut or pulled to prevent seed from forming.
If you were waiting until the right time to plant Bermuda grass seed, now is the time. It is warm enough in May for the seed to germinate, but not so hot that it is impossible to apply adequate water. If you follow the recommended practices, the Bermuda seeded lawn can be well established before the end of May.
Bermuda grass is an excellent choice for lawns in full sun. The grass is drought tolerant, relatively pest free and can be beautiful. Golf courses and ballparks in our area use Bermuda grass. They mow them low and frequently for a surface that looks like a carpet.
There are several Bermuda grass seeds from which to choose. Common Bermuda is the least expensive. Cheyenne and Sahara are selections of common Bermuda that are supposed to have better color and are more dwarfed. They also cost twice as much.
If there are weeds on the site of the new lawn to be seeded, they must be identified to determine what you must do to control them. If they are just winter annual weeds such as rescue grass, dandelions and henbit, they can be tilled into the ground. Perennial weeds like dallis and Johnson grass, and hot weather weeds like crabgrass and sand burs must be killed with glyphosate or Finale before they are tilled. Next September, apply a pre-emergent herbicide like Amaze to prevent the crop of winter weeds from germinating.
Lawn grass requires at least 4 inches of soil to prosper. Two inches of compost should be spread over the surface and tilled in. Apply 5 pounds of lawn fertilizer per 1,000 sq. feet and rake the surface smooth. Apply the seed at the rate of 2 – 3 pounds per 1,000 sq. feet. Rolling the seed helps make soil to seed contact, but never attempt to cover it. Your seed supplier or rental store will have a roller that you can rent or borrow.
After you spread the seed, water twice per day for the first week. Water before 10:00 a.m., in the morning and after 8:00 p.m., in the evening so you do not break the water conservation rules. Irrigate to a shallow depth, five to ten minutes on most irrigation systems. For the second week, water every day and then water every three (3) days in the 3rd week. By the fourth week your lawn will prosper on one deep watering per week and you will be mowing the new lawn.
Mow Bermuda grass at 1.5 inch or less. A rotary mower works but the most beautiful lawns are mowed at 1 inch with a reel mower.
This weekend there are two big water related events. Watershed Fest at the SBC Center is a free family event that has lots of youth activities. It is open until 5:00 p.m., visit the SAWS website for more information. On Sunday, the 10th Annual Garden Jazz Party from 10:00 a.m., until 2:00 p.m. Visit the gardens free, listen to some good music by Second Nature and get all your xeriscape landscaping questions answered.
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