Let's start with the basics. A blend of Kentucky bluegrass and
fine fescue (red or chewings, and not the tall fescue) is
normally used, and frequently there will also be perennial
ryegrass in a pre-mixed blend. The fine fescue is much better in
shade, and the perennial ryegrass will provide quicker cover.
The seeding rate is generally 4 pounds per 1,000 square feet in
bare dirt seeding. Use 2 pounds per 1,000 square feet in
overseeding thin lawns. Of course, this can run into some real
money when doing very large areas. Many rural seedings are done
more on the basis of a pound per 1,000 square feet. An acre is
almost 44,000 square feet, so you can do the math on this one.
Fertilizer is always an area of many questions. The place to
begin is a soil test. This will tell you what you are starting
from. Basic soil test levels for phosphorus, potassium and soil
pH should be in the neighborhood of 40, 350 and 6.1
respectively. Phosphorus and potassium are on a pound-per-acre
basis. This must be considered if you use labs that report in
parts per million, which will give numbers half as large. These
numbers will provide a great environment for grass. Grass will
grow in very poor conditions, but it certainly won't have that
"manicured" look many strive for with their lawns.
Lacking a soil test, or being at recommended fertility
levels, general maintenance applications provide a pound each of
nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium per 1,000 square feet of lawn
area in May and again in September. Really lush lawns will
usually have twice as much nitrogen applied in a season, but
split among four applications. Watering is frequently needed
during the summer applications. Fertilizer prices remain high.
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If you decide to try seeding this spring, remember a couple of
things related to weedkillers. First, you can't use crabgrass
preventer in the same season you put down seed. The crabgrass
preventer doesn't know the difference between grass seed and weed
seeds. The second rule is to mow the new seeding at least three
times before trying any broadleaf weedkiller. Generally this means
spring broadleaf control doesn't happen when you seed in the spring.
The end result is if you seed in the spring, you control weeds in
the fall. Seed in the fall, and you control weeds and crabgrass in
If you do plan to use a crabgrass preventer, time it so it is on
about the time the forsythia blooms. This would be the approximate
soil and air temperature needed for the crabgrass to germinate.
April 1 is a good guess, but this date can vary widely with the
weather. Many crabgrass preventers last only four to eight weeks, so
plan on repeating the application in June anyway.
Watch roses to determine when to start uncovering and pruning.
Many recommend doing your pruning chores when forsythia is in bloom.
Also, if you haven't uncovered strawberries, keep an eye on them.
They should be uncovered when you see green leaves under the straw,
and definitely when you see yellow material -- that means you are
just a little late. Keep the straw handy in case you need to
University of Illinois Extension]