Spring Is The Time To Plant A New Lawn

You've tried everything to bring your once lush green lawn back to life. Fertilizing, seeding, even renovating, but nothing has worked. There's no time like spring to plant a new lawn.

But, before you begin, consider the following points:

*If your present lawn consists of weeds and crabgrass, consider spraying a herbicide to kill the grass before you remove the old sod.

*Don't add new topsoil unless you want to raise the level of your lawn. Make sure that you mix about half of the topsoil into the ground before adding the rest. A sharp difference in soil quality will create a barrier against water penetration and root growth.

Begin by removing the old turf. You can rent a power sod cutter to mechanically remove the old sod by cutting it into strips, or you can use a flat spade to manually scrape it off. Then roll up the sod strips and discard them. Whatever you do, don't dig in any old sod remnants; they'll spoil your new lawn.

Add soil amendments and fertilizers to improve texture, drainage and supply nutrients to the existing soil base. Add the necessary materials to correct acidity and alkalinity problems.

Rent a rotary tiller to till the soil for a thorough and even mix of soil and additives. When using a rotary tiller, water the area the day before to make it moist, but not wet. Start tilling in an area away from the house, driveway or trees. Move closer when you become familiar with the action of the tiller. Adjust the blades to till to a depth of 6-9 inches. Cross several times at right angles to mix soil and additives evenly.

If you plan to install or adjust your sprinkler system, this is the time to do it. (Rent a trencher to speed up the digging process.) Use temporary long risers for heads until the lawn surface has settled and the grass is well established.

Next, drag the surface of your lawn's soil base with a weighted scraper board, or screen, to level the high spots and fill in the depressions.

Rent a lawn roller and fill it 1/3 to 1/2 full of water. The soil should be dry, otherwise rolling will compact the soil, preventing seeds from sprouting. Roll area from one direction, and then at a right angle (rolling makes high and low spots more obvious). Rake area smooth, then roll it again with the roller empty of water.

At this point, decide if you want seed, sod, sprigs, stolons, or plugs. Though sod is the most expensive, it's usually less time-consuming, most popular, and provides an instant lawn.

For sod, keep the surface 3/4 to 1-1/2 inches lower than the surrounding grade. Lay the sod strips parallel, with each end staggered, pressing each strip snugly against the previous one. Be careful not to overlap the edges. Trim the excess sod with a sharp knife, followed by rolling with a 1/2 filled roller. Soak thoroughly for approximately 2 weeks.

Grasses, such as hybrid Bermuda grass, are established by planting sprigs, or stolons. Presoak the soil so it's damp and of good working condition. There are two common methods to plant sprigs or stolons. First, plant in a series of parallel trenches 3 inches deep, 10 inches apart, and cover the soil. Second, scatter stolons evenly at the rate of 3-5 bushels per 1,000 sq. ft. Roll with a half-filled roller, then mulch with 1/2 inch of top-grade soil, peat moss, saw dust, or ground bark. Roll again and water thoroughly.

Plugs are a method primarily used for planting dichondra. Turn a flat of dichondra upside down and using a sharp knife, cut into 1-2 inch squares. Plant squares in an offset pattern, 6-15 inches apart.

Lastly, sow grass seed by hand, or with a mechanical seeder. A mechanical seeder evenly distributes the grass seeds. For best results, a second application should be made at 45 degrees to the first pass. After germination, grass sprouts will evenly cover the seeded area. By hand, rake surface lightly to even seed, then again at a right angle to dispense any concentration of seeds. Scatter organic mulch, about a 1/8 inch layer, over seeds and water lightly, but thoroughly.

By following planting directions carefully, and by using the right equipment, you'll have less trouble keeping your new lawn healthy and trouble-free.