5 Best Options for Fall Lawn Renovation

1st July 2017
Natural Stone Walls and your Landscaping
20th September 2017

When is the ideal time for lawn renovation and seeding? If you answered Fall, you are correct! Although we may get more excited than most about this topic, getting your lawn in tip-top shape for next season starts in the fall. Proper seeding and a soil test now will pay dividends next year. Without further ado, here are 5 options and proper expectations for Fall Lawn Renovations:

1. Aeration & Seeding

aerationOne of the most popular services in the fall is aeration and over seeding for your lawn. Aeration alone is a beneficial practice that can be done every year but adding newer and stronger seed to the project can only benefit your lawn. While there is no grass type resistant to every insect or disease, many lawn and landscape companies have started to introduce varieties of turf type tall fescue that can better withstand our harsh PA summers. Other grass types that are still popular in the area for fall seeding are perennial ryegrass and kentucky bluegrass.

Aeration involves pulling small cores of soil out of the lawn to help relieve compaction and allow more oxygen to the root zone of the plant. Lawns become compacted with normal traffic and if less air space is available in the plants root system, more stress is put on the lawn. A healthy root system requires oxygen for respiration to support the plant above. Aeration helps create more air space in the soil and in return promotes deeper rooting.

Aeration & Seeding Expectations

We often get the question, “What should I expect to see after you aerate and seed my lawn?” If the lawn is properly irrigated, you can expect about 30% seed germination with an aeration/over-seeding project. Seed germination cannot be guaranteed so watering is an essential part of a successful lawn. Aeration and seeding is for fairly established lawns that need minor improvement. Don’t expect those softball size or larger bare areas to fill in completely; if your lawn is in need of more help than aeration and over-seeding can provide, slice seeding might be the next best option.

2. Slice Seeding

slice seedingSlice seeding is often recommended to improve areas of the lawn that are damaged or have many bare areas. Often times we spray to kill a very weak lawn and start over by slice seeding it entirely. A slice seeder machine cuts grooves into the soil while inserting seed below the surface. At Tomlinson Bomberger, a double pass slice seeding is completed to help increase germination in the lawn (more grooves + more seedlings = more germination)! Slice seeding, unlike aeration and seeding, is a very good option for lawns that have a lot of bare areas or have cultivars of grass that are not doing well. Many times, slice seeding is combined with aeration for better results.

Slice Seeding Expectations

With proper irrigation, slice seeding will warrant much better results than aeration and seeding but again, no seeding can be guaranteed. If slice seeding is not for you, or you are impatient like me, maybe one of the next two options will suffice.

3. Sodding

soddingInstalling sod will warrant immediate results for a lawn. Unlike aeration and slice seeding, new sod allows for a new lawn right from the start. However, installing it will always be more costly than any other option you choose. Preparation is needed before a sod job such as proper grading of the lawn area, tilling of the existing soil and potential addition of new soil. The best thing about sod is it can be installed anytime during the year especially in early to late winter which is not necessarily the best time for seeding.

Sodding Expectations

The best benefit of sodding is you can enjoy an immediate lawn! Because the lawn is fully mature from the start, it does not mean less irrigation is needed. In fact, sod will need more watering efforts to keep it alive. Often times watering between 2-4 hours, twice a day about 4-5 times per week is the recommendation. Remember, the water must not only keep the sod wet, but needs to soak into the soil about 2 inches below. Lastly, aeration is a good practice about a year after sod is installed.

4. Grading & Seeding

seedingIf a lawn needs a complete overhaul and sod installation is too costly, grading & seeding is the best option. Usually the cost of grading & seeding is less than sod installation, but if a lot of soil needs to be added, it could be just as costly. This method of lawn renovation usually includes a non-selective herbicide treatment to the entire lawn or lawn area to kill the existing grass before work can begin. A mini-excavator is typically used to break up the lawn areas and rake off the debris. Then soil is added to the lawn — which can range from a few yards to several truck loads depending on the situation — and the property is regraded. A seed mixture and starter fertilizer are then applied, along with a limestone application. Finally, straw, penn-mulch, or futerra matting are installed to cover areas to reduce erosion and promote better germination.

Grading & Seeding Expectations

With this method of lawn renovation, watering the new seed is of utmost importance. This will keep the top ½” – 1” of soil moist. Two key things to remember about seeding and watering:

  • Before Germination = Less Water/Lots of Time (approximately 25 minutes, twice a day). The goal is to keep the top ½” – 1” of soil moist.
  • After Germination = Lots of Water/Less Time (approximately 60 minutes, 3 times a week), and getting the moisture down 2”-3” is the goal.

With any seeding job, there is no guarantee of growth but with proper irrigation, you will typically see 80% or more germination. Finally, expect to need spot seeding after a total lawn renovation, which can run from $300 and up. Or simply ask for seed at the time of the job and your service technician will gladly leave some behind for you to spot seed at a later date.

5. Topdressing

topdressingTopdressing has been a staple for athletic fields and golf courses for decades; it’s one of the secrets to their year-round success. This process involves applying a soil and compost mixture to the surface of the lawn to help improve soil conditions and lawn health.

Here are our top 4 reasons to have topdressing done to your lawn:

  • Improve soil conditions – an ideal lawn will have between 6”-12” of soil rich in organic matter. Topdressing for multiple years will accomplish this.
  • Increasing Microbial Activity – these micro-organisms help with nutrient uptake and to break down thatch layers in the lawn.
  • Improving Lawn Color – organic matter in the soil and compost mix will add nitrogen to the lawn and allow for a better green up.
  • Enhancing Seed Germination – add topdressing following a core aeration and over seeding and you will help germination be enhanced. It helps to retain moisture in the soil and provides great soil to seed contact for the new grass seedlings to root.


Topdressing Expectations

Topdressing will initially cause the lawn to appear “dirty” as you will see the thin layer of soil and compost over the lawn. Eventually it will settle into the lawn with irrigation. Although you may not see immediate results, topdressing over a few years will drastically improve the soil condition and allow for a healthier lawn for years to come.

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