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Skaggs: Pep up tired lawn with some reseeding

POSTED: September 12, 2008 5:02 a.m.

If your fescue lawn is like mine, it's probably looking rather "tired" right now.

This summer's drought has taken a toll on the best fescue lawns. Even with ample irrigation, tall fescue lawns often thin out and need reseeding.

Additional problems include pests like crabgrass and white grubs, or disease problems like brown patch and gray leaf spot. Environmental conditions like compacted soil and shade also contribute to turf thinning. All of these factors, however, can be overcome with proper management.

Weeds often become a problem when turf thins. Large weedy areas can be spot treated with a nonselective herbicide such as glyphosate prior to reseeding. If pre-emergent herbicides have been used within the past four months, check to be sure the recommended period of time has passed before attempting to reseed.

The length of this period will depend on the product used and the rate at which it was applied. Generally, herbicides should not be used on newly reseeded turf until after three to four mowings. Always read and follow label instructions.

If the lawn needs reseeding, estimate the percentage of tall fescue loss and multiply that number by the establishment-seeding rate of 5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

For example, if 50 percent of the stand is dead, reseed with 50 percent times 5, which equals 2.5 pounds per 1,000 square feet.

Getting the seed in contact with the soil is necessary to ensure successful reseeding.

First, mow the lawn at a height of about 2 inches. Next, disturb the soil preferably by core aerating or vertical mowing before seeding. Equipment is often available at rental or garden centers.

Finally, try to keep the soil moist. While most municipalities are still under water restrictions, newly seeded or over-seeded lawns are considered "new installation" and as such fall under the Outdoor Water Use Registration Program.

Under the program, newly installed landscapes and lawns can be watered up to three times per week for 10 weeks.

To participate, residents must complete a brief online course at www.outdoorwateruse.com. If you do not have Internet access, contact your local county extension office to complete the course.

Of course, timing is also crucial. If you ask 10 different lawn experts when to over-seed your fescue lawn, you'll likely get five or so different answers. To be safe, I'll give you the standard county agent answer - it depends ...

In general, mid-September is considered a good time to seed fescue. However, waiting until late September or early October in the hopes of cooler temperatures is also acceptable.

As for which cultivar, this is often the most difficult question to answer as new fescue cultivars enter the market every year.

Here are a few turf-type fescue varieties known to have above average performance: rebel exeda, plantation, Southern gold, rebel sentry, titan, Rembrandt, wolfpack, millennium, dynasty and olympic gold. (This is not a complete list and, many other varieties are available.)

Billy Skaggs is an agricultural agent and Hall County extension coordinator. Phone: 770-531-6988. Fax: 770-531-3994.



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