Summer is rough on a lawn. Patchy dead spots can come from all sorts of directions, including fungal diseases such as brown patch and rust, animal digging, grub damage, dog urine and plain, old heat and drought. Whatever the cause, late summer through early fall is prime time to patch the patchiness.
Grass seed germinates well in those cooler, damper conditions. Then the young roots get off to a good start in soil that’s still reasonably warm for growth. Early spring is also a good time to patch, but you’ll need to pay more attention to watering as the weather turns hot and dry. Young grass plants are more vulnerable to heat and drought stress than established grass. Especially in hot areas, early-fall lawn-patching is best because that gives young grass 6 or 7 months of potential root growth before hitting its first test in the summer oven.
Here’s the process:
- Clear out any dead, matted turf and other debris. Grass will germinate and root best when it comes into contact with soil.
- Loosen the soil. At least scratch the surface, or better yet, dig and loosen the top 2 or 3 inches. If the soil is particularly poor, work in a little compost or similar organic matter. Don’t just toss seed on top of hard ground.
- Scatter grass seed over the loosened soil. Choose good-quality seed that’s geared for your climate, such as Greenview Fairway Formula Grass Seeds. Lightly scratch in the seed so that some of it is incorporated into the top quarter-inch of the soil and some is at or near the surface. Lightly tamp for good seed/soil contact.
- Fertilize. Get new growth off to a good start by scattering a small amount of lawn fertilizer specially formulated for new grass.
- Mulch and water. Top the patched area with a light layer of straw or chopped leaves – just enough to cover the ground. This helps slow evaporation, discourages seed washouts and improves germination. Water enough to wet the top 2 inches of soil.
Streamline the process by using products that take care of two or more of those steps in one. For example, GreenView Grass Seed Accelerator is a starter fertilizer incorporated into bits of paper mulch. It takes care of the fertilizer and mulching steps at the same time. Tthe paper mulch disintegrates on its own, also saving the step of raking off straw once the grass seed germinates.
No matter how you patch, it’s very important to keep the seed bed consistently damp until the seed is up. Dry seeds won’t germinate very well at all, and letting the soil go dry after a new grass plant has broken out of its seed coat may kill it before it has a chance to get going.
In hot, dry weather, you’ll probably need to dampen the surface once or twice a day. Once the grass grows to about 2 inches tall, reduce watering to once every few days. Begin mowing when the young grass reaches about 4 inches tall. After one full season, your patched area should be as established as the rest of the lawn. By then, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference… unless those grubs, dogs and fungi decide to pay another visit.