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Submitted by Becki deNeui-Lynch, Master Gardener

Because the Master Gardeners have received lots of questions about lawns and grass, and NOW is the time, this article is full of grass and lawn facts for repair and rejuvenation.  Here are the basics:

Repairing the Ground —

  1. Now (mid-September – early October) is the time to address both compacted soil from clean-up and reseeding grass.
  2. Check for compacted soil – should be a spring to the lawn area as you walk. Due to clean-up, over 80% of the lawns in Linn County have been compacted in areas.
  3. The first important step is to AERATE. Water the area for a couple of days prior if needed so the top 2-3 inches is moist.  Whether a home project or a landscape service, make sure to use a PLUG aerator, which lifts cork shaped dirt plugs to the surface.  Aerate in the same pattern as you mow and leave the plugs where they land.
  4. AFTER the aeration, if the area was extremely compacted, cover it with 1 – 2 inches of compost. The compost will add vital nutrients and speed up the process of revitalization.

Reseeding Grass —

  1. Kentucky Blue Grass is the common grass for Iowa’s lawns. It is a cool weather grass and is not native to Iowa.  If sparse, or non-existent due to traffic, a general reseeding/overseeding will be necessary.  Other grasses which are native to Iowa can be seeded into the present lawn area.  A native mix of fine fescue grasses which are low grow and no mow is now available on the online market.
  2. Grass should be seeded at least 4 weeks prior to the first frost for vigorous root growth. Follow the directions closely, and be sure to keep the area watered and the seeds moist until the first frost.
  3. A frost will kill the new grass above ground, but not the roots or any seeds which have not germinated.
  4. While fall is the preferred time to seed grass due to the warm soil, spring is also a possibility. In the spring, the seeds may take from 5 – 30 days to germinate because of the cool soil, and the seeds must be regularly watered for at least 2 months.
  5. A spring seeding will require a closer watch because annual weeds will be competing for the space in April/May.

For your consideration – from Doug Tallamy – Nature’s Best Hope

“What if each American landowner made it a goal to convert half of his or her lawn to productive native plant communities?  …. The idea is to think not only about beauty but how your landscaping can also benefit the environment.  It’s a brand new way for people to look at the role of their yards.”

Lawns are an ecological wasteland for our wildlife and pollinators, and even moderate success within Linn County in converting parts of lawns to native plants would add hundreds of acres to a Linn County Homegrown National Park.  NOW is the time.