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Now is the best time to seed lawns

It is important to seed cool season fescue lawns in September and October.
Gradual cooling promotes root growth and development during the fall and early winter months. The optimum soil temperature for root growth for fescue lawns is 60 degrees, yet fescue roots actively grow when the soil temperature is 34 degrees.
Planting now gives the turf optimum growth before the arrival of cold weather. It is important to seed in early fall because seed germination slows in cold weather, producing weak stands.
Grass seed selection is somewhat of a dilemma for many homeowners. More than 50 cultivars of turf-type fescues are available, providing ample selections for the homeowner. However, due to storage restraints and availability, most retail outlets and garden centers narrow the decision to supply four or five turf grass cultivars.
Most seed companies are now selling fescue blends or fescue/bluegrass mixtures. Many local garden centers will custom-blend turf seed to homeowner’s needs.
It’s best to apply a blend of turf-type fescue. Turf type fescues are often sold as blends such as Carolina Blend, Diamond Blend and Pennington Signature Series. These blends of three or more different fescue types prevent the spread of the summer fungal disease brown patch, so avoid planting single cultivars if possible.
Shady areas should be seeded with blends that contain shade-tolerant fescue and/or bluegrass. Bluegrass does well in shady locations, spreading by stolons. Turf-type fescue blends and bluegrass coexist to form a dense, well-matted cool season lawn. Some of the newer bluegrass cultivars are also heat and drought tolerant.
Avoid blends that contain ryegrass. Annual and perennial ryegrass is an aggressive competitor weakening fescue stands. Retail outlets often sell these as quick start lawn seeds. Check the contents or label carefully before purchase.Apply fescue seed on new lawns or bare areas at 5-7 pounds per 1,000 square feet or 220 pounds per acre. Apply half the seed to a given area; apply the remainder at a right angle to the previous application.Use half the normal seeding rate (3-4 pounds/1,000 square feet) when over-seeding thin or bare areas in existing turf. Core-aerating before over-seeding is beneficial, allowing the seed to make contact with the soil improving germination.
Apply clean wheat straw as a mulch to cover bare ground areas. Wheat straw mulch holds moisture, allowing seed to germinate quickly. Shake out one to two bales of straw per 1,000 square feet, being careful not to apply too much straw. Bare ground should be visible after mulching with straw. Thick areas of straw produce thin, weak stands of turf.Keep the soil moist for adequate germination. Deep irrigation prevents sparse root development. Irrigation may be needed two or three times per week for establishment during dry weather. Gradually reduce irrigation as the turf becomes established. Fescue normally germinates in 14 days, however, when cooler temperatures arrive, germination slows considerably.
Fescue germinates slowly in late October. Seeding within the next few weeks is essential for maximum turf growth. Complete information about lawns can be found in this newly revised publication: http://www.turffiles.ncsu.edu/PDFFiles/004175/ CarolinaLawns2008.pdf
Darrell Blackwelder is with the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service; call 704-216-8970.Web sites:
http://rowan.ces.ncsu.edu
http://www.rowanmastergardener.com
http://www.rowanhorticulture.com.

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