Are you considering seeding your lawn this spring? Spring seeding can be a tricky proposition. The one guarantee with spring seeding is that most of your newly planted grass won’t make it through the summer. There are a few reasons why you may want to consider doing things a bit differently.
TLDR: Don’t seed in the spring. Maximize what you have, re-purpose hard-to-grow-grass areas into shade gardens or other landscaped areas and install sod when bare areas are too big to stomach waiting until fall to seed.
Why Seed in the Spring?
Bare areas: If you are dealing with large patches of bare lawn, you may be tempted to seed in the spring. Getting full coverage of your bare spots with spring seeded grass can be a fleeting victory. You may plant the seed at the first sign of warm weather, working for hours to get the proper seed to soil contact, covering the seed with a great mulch product (never straw!), only to have your beautiful new grass die soon after the first 80 degree day in April or May.
The reason this happens is that while the leaf of your grass plant looks beautiful, the roots are still under-developed. The roots are simply not capable of feeding the beautiful leaf of your grass plant. We hate to see when people work so hard on their lawn in the spring, have a massive failure in their lawn, leaving them frustrated from the futility of it all.
Shade: If you have shady areas in the lawn where growing grass is a challenge, you might feel like considering spring seeding. These areas struggle to get enough sun-light when the trees are leafed out. Grass plants love sun, and need a lot of it to thrive. The grass under trees are like the little baby brother, they get hand-me-downs and left-overs when it comes to sun, nutrients and even water. Seeding in the spring, before the trees leaf out may result in a beautiful flush of growth. The grass is getting sun, water and nutrients before big-brother-tree has woken up for the spring. Again, this is a short-lived victory. As soon as the trees leaf out, the tree will begin taking the much needed water, nutrients and most importantly, the sunlight and the grass will begin to struggle once again.
High traffic: If you have dogs or kids at home, you know what I’m talking about. When you turn dogs and kids loose on grass that isn’t growing, you get mud. There are only a couple of solutions to mud in a lawn and covering it with seed makes you feel like you have accomplished something. The problem with that is if you select the wrong grass type, the grass will not be any better at sustaining the traffic and you will end up back in the same boat you were in to begin with. We recommend avoiding applying seed to high traffic areas in the lawn at any time unless it’s done with a plan to divert the traffic at least temporarily to allow the baby grass to develop.
So What Should I do?
The pro’s all know that early fall (as early as Mid-August) is prime time for seeding your Kansas City area lawn. That’s fine if you were reading this in July, but it’s spring now and you want to do SOMETHING about the bare areas in your lawn. There are solutions!
Wait: The most simple solution is to wait. It’s not gratifying at all, but trust me, it’s better than working for hours and spending hundreds of dollars on seed and fertilizer to get results that don’t last. We can often improve bare areas by adding fertilizer and preventing weeds. It’s amazing what a little nutrition and added care can do to an otherwise healthy lawn with a few bare spots.
Sod: Bare areas that are too large to get covered up by merely maximizing the health of your existing lawn should be sodded in the spring. If most of your lawn is in great shape, just treat it the best you can and sod those areas where you are having problems. In the Kansas City area, we recommend using Turf Type Tall Fescue sod on home lawns with very few exceptions. Sod can be a bit more expensive than seeding, but it is instant and the grass plants have healthy mature roots that, with proper watering and fertilization, will remain vibrant through the worst summers. Remember to water any sod that you put down, at any time of year, at least daily, more when it’s hot.
Aerate: If your lawn is a victim of high traffic and compaction, aeration can help! Aeration is often accompanied by seeding, but it can be done as a stand-alone cultural practice. In the spring, aerating opens up those high traffic areas so air and water can be incorporated into the soil at the correct ratio. There are many times we have seen a lawn aerated in the spring, without seeding, and the lawn is recovered and looking great in just a few short weeks. One thing to be careful of when aerating is that when we open up the soil in the spring, weeds can find a great place to throw down roots. Be careful to apply any pre-emergent herbicide after you aerate and be ready to treat for broad-leaf weeds according to your local laws and any product labeling. Aerating can be labor-intensive, so give us a call to check our prices before you tackle that one on your own!
Trim Trees: We are still in a good window for trimming trees through March. If you don’t address the overgrowth of trees that are causing the shade, it will be next to impossible to get grass to develop in your overly-shady areas. Now is the time to do some major selective limb removal to ensure your trees are healthy and to help make sure your grass has enough sunlight to thrive. Use the energy you want to spend on planting grass seed on trimming up your trees in your lawn.
Landscape Enhancements: Do you have areas that you want to be grass that shouldn’t be grass? Examples might include very high traffic areas, very shady areas, or areas of your lawn that simply don’t get enough sunlight because there’s a house in the way! Solutions like adding shade gardens, mulch beds, dry river-bed type landscaping or adding patio area are great. There are many species of plants (Hosta, Impatiens) that love the shade and look great. Consider re-purposing those areas that have always been a struggle to get a great lawn going, to be more sustainable and maintainable.
Bare areas in a lawn are tough to look at. Seeding them seems like a pro-active solution. Spring seeding can be a disaster. In most circumstances, we won’t recommend spring seeding because it feels dishonest to us here at Custom Lawn. The vast majority of spring seeding we do has to be re-seeded in the fall, and we inform our customers so. We have alternative solutions.