In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
September, 2012
Regional Report

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Out, out, darned spots!

Help for Summer-Stressed Lawns

Our summer weather was slow to arrive, but when it did, it really made its presence known! Many areas of our landscape suffered from the hot sunshine and lack of rainfall, but the damage is especially noticeable all over our once emerald-green turfgrass. We primarily plant cool-season grasses here in the Pacific Northwest, and the summer sun can really stress them out. I've found the best time to renovate a tired-looking lawn is between late September and mid-November, when reliably cooler air temperatures and abundant rainfall are the norm. Renovating in early fall allows time for good root establishment before winter weather arrives, resulting in a strong and healthy lawn throughout the winter months. When spring arrives, it's ready to grow.

Start by Patching Dead Areas
Whether your lawn is drought-stressed and thin, or simply has a few weedy, dead, or damaged sections, if you renew and repair it now you'll have a lush and healthy lawn by next spring. I repair doggie damaged spots using this same method and find it especially effective if I remember to remove about an inch of soil from the damaged area and replace it with fresh soil from another part of the landscape.

For areas in need of repair, begin by vigorously raking out dead or damaged sections and digging out the weeds. Then use a heavy-duty rake to make grooves in the soil surface. Once that's done, sprinkle a handful of all-purpose, granular fertilizer, such as 5-10-5, over the area and add a 1/2-inch layer of compost. Rake it in and smooth the surface.

Select the Right Seed
When you've finished with all the preliminaries, you're ready to spread the seed. Purchase good quality fescue or perennial rye, or a custom blend for the amount of shade or sun your site receives. Local nurseries can offer advice if you need help selecting the right varieties for your growing conditions.

You can broadcast the seed by hand, or use a small, hand-held spreader set for grass seed. After the patch has been seeded, gently rake the area, then tamp the soil lightly with the back of the rake to ensure that the seed makes good contact with the soil. Keep the area moist (water daily) until the seeds begin to germinate. Once the new grass has sprouted you can water less frequently, but be sure to water deeply to encourage a strong root system.

Your renewed turf will benefit from an early-winter application of low-nitrogen fertilizer to help it maintain a healthy root system. I use 5-10-10, feeding the first or second week of December, to encourage stem and root development.

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