Most of us already know, whether you’re a turf specialist or an enthusiastic gardener, that renovating and growing sustainable grass can be tricky… and even downright frustrating. James Rafferty, horticulturalist and owner of Lawn Wranglers of Belleville, Illinois says using compost and a natural water conservation agent like H2OExcel while seeding, sodding and growing lawns this fall is the key to a positive end result.
Rafferty says it’s all about making the soil healthier, to aid in the growing process of the lawn. Adding organic products to the soil will help the lawn better sustain itself over the long term.
“No matter what type of soil you have, whether it’s full of clay or rock, I recommend using a natural compost, along with a natural water conservation agent such as H2OExcel from Brookside Agra, when seeding or sodding in the fall. The compost is a super seed germinator and will make the turf more sustainable over the long-term, instead of using a starter fertilizer, which is only a short-term solution,” he said. “The pH of my compost is typically within the optimal range for turfgrass growth, so it isn’t always necessary for me to test the pH of the soil, knowing that if there are any variations between the soil and the compost, over time, the compost will help bring out a more desirable pH.”
Although still a relatively new science, the use of a natural water conservation agent when seeding or sodding a lawn can help to significantly reduce the amount of water, energy and fertilizer needed to grow a healthy turf, he said. Formulated from a blend of desert plant extracts, H2OExcel acts to naturally reduce soil surface tension to allow soils to absorb water three to five times faster. Use of the product also alters the soil profile to allow fertilizers, nutrients and oxygen a more efficient path to the root zone.
“H20Excel adds a much-needed food source for the recently introduced microorganisms and moves nutrients from the compost, through the soil to the plant roots. I was excited to find a natural water conservation agent in H2OExcel that improved our organic processes,” he said.
When is the right time to sod or seed a lawn?
Rafferty recommends planting grass seed or installing sod in the fall when the ground is warm and the air is cool. Optimal air temperature is 75 degrees and above during the day and below 70 degrees at night. Preferably begin the process before the leaves have begun falling from the trees and just after a good rain, when the soil is soft.
How do you prepare the soil?
Aeration, power raking, tilling and slit seeding are all good techniques for disturbing the soil and removing debris and dead grass. Rafferty recommends incorporating compost to the prepared areas at this time, to provide much needed nutrients to the soil and prepare it for germinating seed and growing grass.
How do you know which type of grass to grow?
When selecting the appropriate grass seed or sod, Rafferty recommends answering a few qualifying questions first:
- What will the turf be used for (athletic games, beauty, filling bare patches, standing up to high traffic)?
- How much sun or shade does the area get?
- Do you want the grass to thrive in a cool climate (Kentucky Blue Grass, Tall Fescue Blend) or a warm climate (Zoysia, Bermuda)?
- What is my budget? Sod, rolls, seed and plugs have different price points.
What do I do after the seed or sod is laid down?
Rafferty recommends using compost instead of straw to cover the seed after it has been distributed. Compost can hold six times its own weight in water, provides nutrients to the soil, breaks down thatch buildup and is weed free, unlike straw.
Rafferty recommends using a natural water conservation agent like H2OExcel, which is diluted with water, on new sod and seed at the time of installation. H2OExcel will help germinate the seed and root the sod more effectively with less water, he said.
“The use of H2OExcel this summer on stressed, newly sodded lawns improved the areas significantly. We thought we were going to lose some installed turf this summer from a late drought. It didn’t seem like the homeowners could apply enough water. We applied H2OExcel and saw a significant improvement in growth and color,” he said.
New sod and seed should be watered once or twice a day. Rafferty recommends watering enough to keep the sod and soil wet, being careful not to cause pooling of the water. Watering too much can be more detrimental than not watering enough, he said. Watering in the morning is optimal, but hotter days may require additional frequency.
Removing falling leaves from newly seeded or sodded areas will protect the new growth from being smothered and give it a better chance to grow.