Hosting the family picnic seemed like a good idea months ago, but looking over the struggling lawn, are you wondering what possessed you to say “yes” to this event? With cousins bringing footballs and aunties croquet mallets, what should be a cause for celebration is now a source of panic.
If the date is looming while the yard is dying, get it in shape with coaching from an all-pro turf master. With no room for error before your relatives arrive, here are a few tips from one who knows how to handle the punishment a wild bunch delivers to a lawn.
“Give it four to six weeks and you can have a pretty good lawn,” says Ross Kurcab, Turf Manager for the Denver Broncos, who keeps Invesco Field at Mile High ready for play. “It won’t take a lot of traffic but it will get you through the event, after which you can plant for recovery of it.”
Kurcab shared tricks turf managers use to jump start fields for the big show. His quick fix suggestions aren’t for everyday lawn renovation; instead they’re designed to make you the hero without big league spending.
Identify areas needing to bulk up, making sure spots of bare soil, dead grass or weeds are prepped before over seeding. “Don’t plant into a patch of weeds. Dig them out, rototill them up, or use a weed killer before you seed.” If using a weed killer, check the label to make sure you can seed grass after it’s applied.
Under a time crunch, choose your grass wisely; not all germinate and establish quickly. Perennial rye is the go-to grass of choice for the pros, since it can be coaxed to germinate in a week if temperatures are ideal.
For fast results, pre-germinate the seed by soaking it in water for 24 hours. “We put a mesh bag of it into a big trash can of water, soaking it to pop the seed coat. It’ll give you a two day head start on getting the seed out of the ground,” he said. Once soaked the seed is perishable, so drain the seed after 24 hours, fluff it up and sow it within two days.
How you plant is the difference between rookie and pro, says Kurcab, so err on the side of aggression. “People think you just throw it on the ground and it grows, but grass seed needs planting. Get the seed into the soil by spreading it thickly – about five or six per square inch – then sprinkle a half-inch of soil over the top. Seed is cheap, don’t go too light with it; though this is three times the recommended rate for new lawns, we’re doing a quick fix to get you through the picnic.”
Once your seeds are in, water them thoroughly for the first two days, keeping the area slightly squishy. Then water the area three times daily for 5 minutes for two weeks to keep the top half-inch moist. After the seedlings are up, slowly wean the water away until you’re watering it along with the rest of the lawn.
Fertilize it when the seedlings get a half-inch tall with regular strength fertilizer. You’ll need to mow more often to keep fast-growing seedlings even with the mature grass, but no pain, no gain. And it’s a small price to pay for a winning picnic.