Recent rain and snow has given lawns a phenomenal boost, but not enough to overcome the effects of last year's drought.
Even with the green up, lawns are thinner than normal, said John Fech, an extension educator for University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Douglas and Sarpy Counties.
“That's a direct consequence of last year's drought,” he said.
As a result, most lawns will benefit from overseeding, he said.
UNL turf grass professor Zac Reicher said the clock is ticking on seeding lawns. Roots need to get established before summer's heat arrives.
“Seed ASAP,” he said.
After mid-May, it's too late. Cool season grasses such as Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue struggle in the heat, and seedlings won't be able to put down deep roots until this fall, he said.
“Spring seedlings will require tender loving care in terms of irrigation, mowing, fertilization, etc., all summer,” Reicher said.
The better time to seed is in August so roots can get established, or in the winter to take advantage of dormancy and early season germination, he said.
Here are UNL's recommendations for planting grass seed:
• Power rake, hand rake or aerate lawn.
• Scatter seed evenly.
• With a leaf rake, lightly mix soil and seed.
• Lightly tamp down to improve contact.
• Water lightly and often to keep moist.
• If desired, mulch thinly to conserve water. At least 30 percent to 40 percent of soil should be visible through the mulch.
Because lawns are thin, weeds will have an advantage, which puts homeowners in a bind, Reicher said.
While controlling weeds is essential, Reicher warns that herbicides can harm grass seedlings: “Be careful with any applications.”
Fech said homeowners should audit their sprinkler systems each spring to correct problems. UNL extension provides instructions, or homeowners can hire out the work. Either way, the effort will pay off, he said.
Homeowners tend to run sprinklers long enough so that the entire lawn is green. As a result, some areas receive too much water and others, too little.
“(An audit) will allow you to put out less water but get more of it where it's needed,” Fech said.
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