Time to Renovate Your Turf

If you manage a commercial landscape, you know already know that spring is the time to renovate your turf.

You’ll soon see Plantscapes’ crews at work, aerating, reseeding, and fertilizing the grass around Puget Sound. (If you’d like a bid for your property, just contact Landscape Division Manager John Higgen at 206-623-7100)

However, many people do not realize that your home’s lawn will benefit from the same treatment – and you don’t need heavy equipment to do it.

As grass gets walked on, the soil underneath becomes compact. This makes it more difficult for the roots to take up nutrients and for water to soak deeply into the soil. Instead of burrowing down deeply, the grass’ roots stay shallow. Water runs off or evaporates.

Grass in this condition is more easily damaged and is more susceptible to disease. Fortunately, anyone can renovate their lawn over the course of a weekend.

aerating a lawn
A tool like this pulls plugs and aerates the lawn

You can buy a small, manual aerator for smaller lawns or rent a larger aerator for larger area.

The aerator will pull plugs from the soil, breaking up the compact, dense mass. You can leave the plugs on top of the lawn, where they will decompose and add organic matter back to your topsoil.

When the grass has been aerated, apply a good, organic fertilizer. You want to encourage root growth in the spring, so you don’t need a fertilizer high in nitrogen. Look for a well-balanced mix. If you have acidic soil (most people in Puget Sound do), add lime as well.

Overseed bare or thin patches with a good quality grass seed. Remeber, rye grass varieties do well in full sun. Fescues are better suited to shade. If your lawn doubles as a play area for kids, make sure your seed mix has grass that can stand up to foot traffic (i.e., more rye grass, less bluegrass).

Finally, add a topdressing of compost to your lawn to build the organic matter. Don’t lay this on so thickly that it smothers the grass. And do make sure that it is well rotted compost – you don’t want to burn tender shoots with a hot chicken manure!

If you follow this routine every spring and fall, you’ll have a lush green lawn that is thicker, requires less water, is resistant to disease – and yet requires less frequent mowing and watering.

They key is to always encourage strong root growth rather than to force weak top growth.