Too late to plant grass?
I'm in the middle of a complete overhaul of my yard. I'm ready to have 8 yards of topsoil delivered to plant grass. Is it too late in the year to plant grass? Does anyone have any suggestions on what type of grass seed to use and seed starter?
I never grew grass before so any and all tips are welcome. I am in Pittsburgh, PA, so it is not extremely hot up here as it is in the south.
I don't know how large of an area your spreading this over, but you want to have the top 4 to 6 inches of soil worked up. It is a very good idea to work in peat moss. You should aim to use about 2" of peat moss.
Depending on the size of the area, that might be cost prohibitive for you. Around here a 2.2 cuft bale of peat moss can be found for $6 or less. At 2" coverage, a 2.2 cu ft bale covers 25 sq ft, double that if you go to 1 inch. e.g. if you have 2,500 sq ft of lawn, then to cover at 2" you would be looking at 100 bales. If this is particle for you, it will enhance your soil significantly and make digging / planting in the yard in the future much easier. This cost may sound high, but having someone professionally come in and plant or lay sod will very likely be in the thousands and they will not do nearly as nice of a job as you can do with mixing in all the peat.
You should spread about 3 pounds of seed per 1,000 sq ft. Wet the seeds with a fine spray. You can use a starter fertilizer at this point, but it is often not necessary (there are normally enough nutrients in the soil for the grass to grow, if it is available to you, you could work in about 1" of compost with the dirt and the peat as well for nutrients). Next, immediately top dress with about 1/4" to 1/2" of peat moss.
Then water, but do not flood.
Do: Keep moist at all times
Do: Rope off the area so kids and mail delivery don't walk on it.
Do Not:Use any fertilizers with weed killers in them until at least 2 months
Do Not: Over water
Do Not: Allow it to dry out
Do Not: Walk on your new lawn at all until it is established (for the first few weeks)
Do NOT: Rush to mow it, wait until it has all filled in nicely, even if this means some of your grass gets higher.
Do Not: Let others walk on the grass
For the seed. Kentucky Blue grass is one of the nicest seeds that will grow in your area. It is NOT shade tolerant, so if you have any amount of shade you will need to move to a perennial ryegrass blend. You do not need to buy the brand name. It is far more important to determine that the seed is fresh and has been stored properly. A local farm / feed store may be a good place to look, do check on dates, older seeds tend to have poor germination rates in my experience.
Proper ground preparation is far and away the most important factor to having a very nice looking lawn.
A densely planted grass will crowd out many weeds, and you will often not have to use weed killers at all on your lawn. The other very important factor once your lawn is established: go move your mower to the highest setting and leave it there. Do not cut your grass any shorter than that.
Thanks for the ton of information you provided. I just called to have 7 yards of topsoil delivered, so hopefully this works out.
I would have the soil amendments delivered in bulk also.
As for the seed blend, I would go with a blend of perennial ryes, bluegrass, and fescue. And as mentioned, get fresh seed (this could be a problem this late in the season). And note the differing germination times. Perennial ryes will germinate in 7-10 day but bluegrasses and fescues may take 14-to almost a month.
You must keep the seeds moist during this period. A top dress will help although I personally do not care for peat for this purpose as it sponges up the moisture unto itself and doesn't let go of it easily.
When the seed has germinated start watering longer, more deeply and earlier in the day. And if you let the new turfgrass dry out you will probably have killed it as mentioned.
Prep is going to be key in making a summer planted seed lawn take.
One thing you might look into is how much it would cost to hydroseed your lawn. A hydroseeder will come out and spray a layer of seed, fertilizer and mulch in one in an even layer over your well prepped soil. Lawns planted in such manner establish themselves rapidly. It is a fraction the cost of sod but more than seeding yourself.
I'm also big on adding peat moss on top of the grass seed so that it keeps the birds from getting the seed and retains moisture. Good luck!
The landscape supply company that delivered my topsoil suggested using Penn State Mixture grass seed. I am not too sure what it consists of, but they said it is one of the bests for the area. I had the topsoil delivered yesterday (7 yards) and started spreading it out. I dont plan on seeding the yard until I have all the topsoil laid out. It rained last night and rain is in the forecast over the next 3 days off and on. Should I continue to spread out the topsoil with rain in the forecast, or should I wait until I get a few dry days? I have the pile of topsoil covered with tarps, but would like to know if spreading it with rain on the way is a bad idea.
I thought about hydroseeding, but would like to test my skills with the grass seed first. Also, will straw do the same as peat moss on top of the seed?
You can keep spreading the topsoil so long as you do not end up working with mud or compacting it more than you have to.
I would tend to give fair consideration to the turfgrass blend recommendation from the landscape supplier. They probably see a lot of what does and does not work. Do they sell the seed? Might be fresher than the Scotts stuff. Personally, I would still want to know what was in the blend.
As mentioned I don't like peat moss as a top dress because it absorbs and holds moisture unto itself and isn't great about releasing it. No problem if you keep the topsoil and peat most moist from day one but don't let either dry out. This is your goal anyhow of course. Most of my turfgrass experience is from Northern California and we had redwood and things we could use instead.
Straw, hay and so forth has the risk of weed seed in it but conceptually it is a good top dress alternative. You can purchase matting to go over seed too.
Do remember that any organic top dress is going to draw nitrogen as part of its natural decomposition process.
A long as you can work as it doesn't turn into a big mess, then your okay. Remember you want to be able to work in some peat and or some other organic matter into the soil.
Straw can work, but it can contain a lot of weeds and you will have to remove it when your grass has grown. The peat just works in as part of your lawn. Peat also holds more moisture and dries out more slowly then straw.
Peat breaks down quite slowly, thus I've never seen a problem with it tying up nitrogen.
I'm not in as warm of an area, here in WI, but I've never had a problem with peat used in lawns drying out once the lawn is established -- as long as it is kept moist during the initial growing process.
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