Atlanta is as well known for its mild winters as it is for its humid summers. Because of these mild winters, many homeowners who have worked on perfecting their lawn the entire season, think that they can take a break in the off season, that their treasured lawn will take care of itself all winter and magically spring back to its previous splendor when the growing season begins. Sadly, this is not always how it goes.
A healthy lawn is much like a healthy wild animal. It needs to grow a thicker outer coat to survive the winter and thrive in the spring. To achieve this, fall over-seeding is a necessity. It builds a thicker lawn, like a coat, establishing a healthier root system to ensure the lawn gets through the winter.
The time to over-seed in Atlanta is in early September. This gives the seedlings enough time to become well established before the dormancy of winter sets in, and it should be done every year. The next step in keeping your lawn healthy is to determine what kind of lawn you have. Bermuda grass and tall fescue are both popular in the Atlanta area. It’s also recommended that you have your soil quality evaluated. Simply take a 2-3 cup sample of your soil to the local extension office. For a reasonable fee, a soil report will be mailed to you after only a few days, along with some suggestions on how to improve the quality of your soil.
To find the best quality of grass seed available there are a few things you’ll need to know. The first is how well a particular seed did in the turf trials at the University of Georgia Griffin Experiment Station. Ask about the seed’s sunlight sensitivity: Can it be exposed to direct light for long periods, or can it be partially shaded and still produce that lush green color we all strive for?
After buying your chosen seed, mow your lawn down to a height just below 2 inches to get the best results from over-seeding. It is important that a grass catcher is used while mowing, or the excess clipping are raked up. Leaving them on the lawn in this case will only do harm to the new seedlings.
Thoroughly aerate the lawn before seeding. Go over it in two or three directions. This will ensure the seeds and the water to be applied later will get into the top soil.
The application of the new batch of chosen grass seed depends on two major factors, how much is needed and what method is used to spread the seed.
Let’s take Tall Fescue, for example. For a 500 sq. foot lawn, use 1-2 pounds spread evenly across the yard. For a 1,000 sq. foot front or back yard, use 3-4 pounds of Tall Fescue seed. Do not use too much seed! Remember, each seed will develop into a clump grass the size of a man’s fist.
The two most common methods for applying the seed are using a rotary seed spreader and spreading by hand. The rotary seed spreader is preferable because of better control in applying the seeds evenly across the lawn. If using the simple hand tossed method, be prepared: The resulting lawn may not have that desired even flowing look
After the seed application, spray a light dose of fertilizer, such as Rapid Gro, and, of course, water. For grass seed to be successful, it needs to be watered often, up to 4 times daily. Light watering done often is the best bet for new seed.
About 5 weeks, apply another light dose of Rapid Gro. In roughly six more weeks apply another healthy dose of granular fertilizer; remember to use a slow release nitrogen fertilizer when dealing with fresh seed! When the new seedlings grow to over 3 inches, mow the lawn down to 3 inches.