In Maryland, many homeowners and local retail businesses view the spring season as prime time for lawn repair. Yet, fall and early winter often provide better growing conditions, due to cooler temperatures, higher moisture and less competition from weeds. These factors can support healthy germination of grass seed and foster a more vigorous root system, which can grow most of the winter and provide nutrients the new grass plants will need to flourish and survive in the spring and summer.
Aeration, along with an environmentally-sound nutrient management program, also plays a key role in healthy grass. With aeration,
there are a few types to consider:
- Spike Aeration
- Core Aeration
These types of aeration address various issues, including soil compaction and seed to soil contact.
Spike aeration works well where compaction is not a significant issue, producing many shallow holes that are fairly close together, letting seeds germinate well. This type of aeration can help keep your lawn thick or thicken your thin lawn.
If your lawn has a moderate amount of thatch, core and verti-cutting tend to work best. Core helps to penetrate dense thatch by extracting soil and grass plugs from the ground and depositing them on the surface. However, it also produces holes that are several inches apart and a few inches deep, which is not optimal for seeding, unless the lawn is top-dressed with compost and/or aerated using the spike or verti-cutting methods.
Verti-cutting/slicing cuts through your thatch and soil to deliver seeds into the soil at the correct depth and proximities, allowing your seeds to germinate well.
Regarding your grass seed selection, there are an abundance to choose from and hundreds of which are tested by the National Turfgrass Evaluation Program (NTEP). The University of Maryland recommends Improved or Turf-Type Tall Fescues as the most effective varieties for Maryland the DC region. Improved Tall Fescues perform well in the sun and shade and far out-perform the Bluegrasses and Fine Fescues in insect, disease and drought tolerance.
A few words to the wise: when purchasing grass seed, always read the label. Maryland State Law requires all seed to clearly show its content of seed, germination rate, purity, weed seeds, noxious weeds and inert matter. Certified or blue tagged seeds do not insure the quality of seed, only that the contents of the package as stated on the label are true. Be sure to buy seed with a germination rate of at least 85% and never buy seed with weeds or noxious weed content. Also, beware of buying seed based on marketing claims or fancy packaging.
This fall, take care of your lawn to boost its health in the coming spring!
In our next post, read useful tips for winterizing your lawn.
To healthy lawns,