Mild days in February provide Kansas City homeowners with a chance to get the jump on spring over seeding projects.
Grass seed varieties sown now have a ten week head start on the weed and insect season, which begins in earnest in mid-May. Bugs and weeds prefer hot weather. Insect eggs hatch, weed seeds sprout, thicken and spread as soil and air temperatures rise.
Thin areas and bare spots will show up quickly as the rest of the lawn begins to turn green in March. Dead crabgrass and foxtail form brown patches and bare spots in the otherwise green turf. Heavily shaded areas look particularly forlorn and muddy. New construction around patios and driveways, as well as larger open areas are barren and in danger of erosion. All these areas need prompt attention if they are to be seeded and well-established before hot summer weather arrives.
Many Kansas City lawns are hybrid forms of bluegrass and fine leaf rye grass. These grass varieties prefer cool soil and air temperatures. During cold winter months their root systems continue to grow. As spring comes, these deep root systems help the grass thicken and send up new plants. Early spring fertilizer helps fill in bare spots before air temperatures increase and weeds become aggressive.
Varieties such as Stadium Special, Green Love, and Apple do particularly well in this region. These hybrids sprout quickly in cold soil and are able to survive hot summer weather. Bare spots may be raked and top dressed with PrimeraFC seed dressing or Canadian Sphagnum peat. Bu, if soil is too or weather does not permit, these seed varieties may be sown directly over the lawn without raking or sown over a light snow cover. The seed Itself is large and has a food reserve that allows the grass plant to sprout and survive without ideal soil contact.
Dormant seeded bluegrass requires more time to sprout than fine leaf rye. Dormant seeding exposes the seed to natural freezing and thawing cycle of early spring. This swelling and drying helps crack the outer shell of the seed. When soil temperatures become warm enough the bluegrass plant is ready to sprout. Seed sown in this fashion will come up two to three weeks sooner than bluegrass which is not sown until warm weather arrives.
Common bluegrass varieties should be avoided especially in the spring. Bluegrass hybrids such as Sapphire Blue, Raven, Bluemaster, or Rubicon will develop more quickly and are better able to survive summer heat. Turf-type fescue does not like cold weather. Fescue lawns often stay a muddy brown even after their bluegrass neighbors have started to show a bright spring green up.
It is recommended that dormant seeded fescue mixes such as Macho Mix grass seed include 5 percent fine leaf rye. Turf fescue seeded in this fashion sprouts one to two weeks sooner than fescue held until warm weather before sowing.
The biggest enemy of dormant seeded fescue is Brown Patch disease that comes in May and June. New seedlings are more susceptible to Brown Patch than older more mature grass plants. Turf-type tall fescues such as Cochise4, Falcon 4, and Scorpion 2 show resistance to Brown Patch. Granular Fungus Fighter may also be applied in mid-May to help young plants through this critical period.
A Golf Course Starter fertilizer applied to the new seed in March will help the seed mature more quickly. An April application of Tupersan or Siduron will help prevent crabgrass and foxtail in newly seeded areas as the grass plants mature. Broadleaf dandelion kills should be avoided until the new seed has been mowed two times.
The basic rule is simple. Homeowners who put on a sweater today and get their spring lawn projects started now will be months ahead of their neighbors who wait for short sleeve weather.